Selling your home in the spring doesn’t mean you have to actually wait until spring to prepare your home for a sale. After the holiday whirlwind of festivities and guests, it’s time to get your house in order this winter for a successful spring sale.
I asked two pros, Mary Cook, president of interior design firm Mary Cook Associates in Chicago, and Judy Dutton, deputy editor of realtor.com, for advice on what you can do now to get ready for spring showings and open houses. Here’s what they had to say.
Let natural light flood the rooms. “The best way to prepare your home for a spring sale is to open it up, lighten it up and brighten it up,” says Cook. For instance, she recommends raising shades and opening curtains to let in natural light. If your decorative valances have seen better days, remove them.
“There was a period of time when people were doing a lot of decorative valances,” says Cook. “They are not operable window treatments, and they are just hanging there. After six years, they become faded by the sun, and they are dust collectors, so take them down.”
Renovate what’s outdated. “If your kitchen or bathroom screams 1980s and may give buyers flashbacks, they should be updated before you sell,” says Dutton.
“Just know that on most renovations, you won’t recoup all of your costs dollar for dollar,” Dutton says. “For instance, a major kitchen remodel will cost an average of $66,000 but will only add about $41,000 to your home’s value with a 62% return on investment.”
Think small with renovations. “Rather than replace the kitchen cabinets, just replace the doors or repaint the cabinets instead,” says Dutton. “Rather than replacing the whole tub, reglaze it to make it look as good as new. If you’re going to spend serious money on anything, focus on the exterior of your home, since this is the very first impression buyers get of your home and it counts.”
For instance, she says one renovation that pays for itself and boosts curb appeal is a garage door replacement, which will cost around $3,600 but net a 97% return on investment.
“Stone veneer outside the home is yet another upgrade that has a 95% return on investment,” says Dutton.
Cook says make sure all your lightbulbs are operable to show your home in its best light.
“There might be a chandelier where one or two bulbs are out, and you don’t really notice it,” she says. “Go around and check all your lamps and light fixtures and make sure that all your bulbs are working.”
Paint with whites and neutrals. A new coat of paint is a relatively cheap and easy way to give an instant facelift to your house.
“If the colors currently on your walls aren’t all that flattering—for instance, yellow bathroom walls, what were you thinking?—now’s your chance to make it right,” says Dutton. “Generally, the best paint colors to pick are neutrals, whites and grays. Anything more vivid might appeal to a few buyers but not a wide range.”
Fix anything broken. Cook and Dutton recommend getting your home pre-inspected so you know everything that’s wrong upfront and repair accordingly.
“You’d be amazed how tiny flaws you’ve ceased to notice in your own home like a loose doorknob or creaky window can stick out in buyers’ minds and make them think, ‘What else is broken here?’ ” says Dutton, adding: “Be sure to make any repairs, particularly to things buyers will notice, but also other things you just know must be done. After all, any home buyer who makes an offer will likely get your home inspected, and home inspectors scrutinize about 1,600 features from the foundation to electrical and beyond. So if there are any issues, they will come to light eventually, and you’ll have to fix them anyway. So you may as well get a jump on that, rather than give buyers any wiggle room to negotiate.”
“Another bonus to tackling these repairs now is that many repairmen are cheaper in the winter—particularly for summery things like HVAC maintenance, roof repairs, gutter cleanings and window replacement,” says Dutton.
Pay attention to odors. The smell of pets, cooked food and tobacco can kill a home sale. Textiles such as carpet and throw rugs hold odors, says Cook. She recommends having your carpet professionally cleaned before putting your home up for sale. In the spring, the scent of fresh cut flowers can add a natural fragrance to your home.