It’s Great To Be Home . . .

a homebody’s guide to home renovation and more

Pump Up Your Home’s Value February 23, 2009

With the housing market like it is these days, lots of people are opting to spruce up their home to make it better suit their lifestyle rather than moving into a new place.  While there are an endless number of improvements you can make to a home, what are some investments you can make that will actually increase your home’s value and make it more attractive when you ultimately decide to sell it?  Real Simple magazine suggests making these changes:

  1. Spiff it up with paint.  Painting is one of those few things in life that provides instant gratification and can make a huge impact on the appearance of your home.  DIY painting is super cheap but pretty time intensive, while professionals can charge a pretty penny (about $3,600 to $6,000 for around 2,400 square feet, accordingly to Real Simple) but the job will be finished before you know it. If you paint the exterior of your home, it can cost between $8,000 to $11,000 for a professional job.  Not cheap, but painting the exterior can take your home from shabby to super in no time.
  2.  Add an outdoor deck.  Who doesn’t love outdoor living?  While exterior living space can’t technically be included in the square footage of your home, a buyer will definitely consider it to be a valuable extension of your home.  Real Simple found that in 2007 homeowners recouped about 85% of the cost of installing a wooden deck when they sold their homes.  


    Outdoor Deck

  3. Spice up your kitchen.  You’ve heard it time and again – kitchens sell homes.  So go ahead and make yours fabulous!!  But keep in mind the potential buyer pool when you’re renovating your kitchen so that you don’t price yourself out of the neighborhood.  While some neighborhoods demand high end appliances and granite countertops, in other neighborhoods a home with freshly painted kitchen cabinets and stainless appliances is all you really need.  Real Simple estimates that homeowners will see 83% of their kitchen investment back upon the sale of their home.
  4. Boost your bath.  Other than kitchens, bathrooms are the other rooms that can sell a house.  But “avoid anything too trendy,” says designer Vern Yip. “Choose classic features, like off-white subway tiles, that will appeal to people with both traditional and contemporary tastes.” There’s no need to splurge on fancy fixtures, either. “A tub is a tub. A Jacuzzi will never make or break a sale,” says designer Steven D. Bullock. If a major bathroom overhaul isn’t in your budget, consider reglazing the tile or tub for a fresh, updated look.  
  5. Switch out your old windows.  Real Simple says that homeowners received a return of 81% last year when replacing windows.  Not only are new windows attractive, but the lower energy bills will be attractive as well.  
  6. Pump up the curb appeal.  This is an improvement that I can’t wait to make in my own home!!  Right now the lawn is in great shape but the landscaping is pretty frightening – think hedges pruned into the shape of beach balls, for starters.  “Landscaping” the front of your house doesn’t have to involve hiring professionals.  If the basic bones of your yard are pretty solid, you can spruce things up with a few colorful potted plants.  However, sprinkler systems and trees are big ticket items that will really pay off in the long run.  The bottom line – make your yard both pretty and functional.  “Buyers make their decisions in exactly eight seconds,” says Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, a Manhattan real estate firm. “After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.”

    Front Lawn
    Not only will improvements to your home make buyers drool when you go to sell, but you get to enjoy all of the goodies while you’re living there!!  What improvements are you considering making to your home?    



Flaunt Your Assets February 19, 2009

In the current housing market, the reality is that you have to shamelessly flaunt your assets to get your house sold.  You’ll be glad you did.

You care about selling your home more than anyone else.  It’s important to keep that fact in mind when you are contemplating putting your home on the market.  While your real estate agent will get buyers in and out the door, it’s up to you to make the buyers fall in love with your house.  Aside from the tried and true tactics of de-cluttering, cleaning and staging your home to make it attractive to the buyer, there are some simple, cheapo steps that you can take to make your house stand out in the (really huge) crowd:

1.   Make sure the pictures that will be used in the listing are great – really great.   Chances are, the buyer’s agent has shown him or her pictures of your house before the showing.  Sometimes a buyer will decide whether or not to see your house based solely on the pictures submitted with the listing.  So, do not miss this opportunity to grab the buyer’s eye before they even walk in the door.  Get your house in picture perfect shape before your realtor takes the pictures – make sure all the beds are made, the lights are on, the curtains are open, there are fresh flowers . . . you get the idea.  It will totally pay off.

If you are selling your own home, like we did, then go ahead and play photographer!  When we sold our townhouse, my mom acted as the stager and lighting expert while I climbed up on countertops and tables to get the best angles while taking pictures.  It was fun and led to some really great pics. 

2.   Create a brag sheet.  This is not the time to be shy – trust me, modesty will get you nowhere in real estate.  Make tons of color copies of a handout that you can leave on your kitchen counter during showings that gives the prospective buyer even more insight into the awesomeness of your home (of course, only leave one or two copies out during actual showings – less is more in this case).  The buyer’s real estate agent will only have limited information about your home from the real estate listing, so take this opportunity to point out special things about your home that the buyer otherwise might not have known or noticed.  Does your home have really high ceilings, great natural light, and a custom backsplash?  Point that out!!  Does your house have off-street parking or a garage in a city where parking spots are at a premium?  Do not let these selling features go unnoticed.  If you’re having a little trouble thinking of the features that a buyer might care about, think back to when you bought your house and remember why you fell in love with it.  Take a look at the brag sheet that we created when we sold our townhouse for some ideas that you can use to create your own brag sheet:

townhouse-handoutsSome quick pointers – include color pictures and limit the handout to 1 sheet of paper.  Don’t just list your home’s features – you’ll have an opportunity to do that in the amenities sheet.  With the brag sheet, you’re selling the lifestyle that your home offers, so describe your home (in paragraph form, preferably) from the buyer’s point of view – what will they enjoy about your home, why is your house special?  Remember, you want the buyer to be able to read your description and look at the pictures and know in one glance why your house is “the one.”  You’re not just trying to get a buyer to love your house – you’re trying to get a buyer to love your house more than all the other houses.  So, go ahead and do a little bragging!!

3.   Point out your home’s amenities.  Now, this may sound the same as a brag sheet, but it’s not.  The amenities sheet gives the “down and dirty” about your house.  Have low monthly utility bills?  This is the place to say it.  You will probably point out a lot of the same features that are described in the brag sheet, but you should also list everything else that a buyer might care about.  Essentially, an amenities sheet is a bullet-point, 1 page sheet giving a buyer the nitty gritty details about the property.  Here is the amenities sheet that we used to sell the townhouse:


Feel free to include special tidbits about your neighborhood along with your amenties sheet.  For example, our townhouse was located in an area with lots of shops and restaurants, so we got lots of brochures from the neighborhood’s property management office to include along with our amenities sheet.  Worked like a charm – the brochures were always gone after every showing.  Keep in mind that you can also ask your realtor to attach the amenities sheet and the brag sheet to your listing – this may give buyers that are on the fence just the push that they need to come see your house.

What special tactics did you take to sell your home?  Don’t be shy – it’s time to brag!