Regular Maintenance Pays Off
I had a client that was a rule follower. He followed the rules on home maintenance to a T. He changed his HVAC filters regularly and had annual equipment inspections. He replaced mechanical items near the end of their life span and before they failed. And the same was true for the structure of his home. He replaced the roof and siding and painted the trim regularly. Now that sounds like a house I would want to buy!
The drawback was that as meticulous as he was about following the rules of homeownership, he hadn’t made very many cosmetic updates to the interior of the house. He was a simple guy and keeping up with interior design trends just wasn’t important to him. As long as he had a roof over his head and knew that his mechanicals and structures were in good order, he was happy. He had replaced a few pieces of carpet when it needed it and replaced some wallpaper with more wallpaper when the first application started to peel.
He was pretty confident that his particular lot in the neighborhood, maintenance records and updated tile/carpet would make his house highly desirable to a young family. Unfortunately, this particular owner had not bought or sold a house in 20+ years and no clue to how influential HGTV and DIY Network was on home shoppers. I had a big task at hand to help him understand what today’s buyers are seeking in a new home.
Know Your Competition
I started by taking him to visit homes for sale in his area that were comparable to his and we also visited new construction model homes in his area so that he can see what his home was going to be competing against. It didn’t take long for him to agree to painting all of the wood doors and trim throughout the house. It was a big emotional and financial investment for the guy who wasn’t into interior design. He just couldn’t understand why today’s buyers don’t like stained wood trim.
After he conceded to the paint, I had to develop each room in the four bedroom house. This owner was an empty nester and a bachelor. He only used a few of the rooms in the house and had a hodge-podge of furniture leftover from a split marriage and kids that had moved out on their own. Hiring a stager was out of the budget, so I rearranged every room to give it a purpose, whether it fit his current lifestyle or not. We ended up with a baby nursery, a young girls room, a home office and a reading/entertainment room in addition to the master bedroom. The nursery furniture was on loan from a neighbor and the other rooms came together with remnants from his children’s rooms long ago. We deep cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, bought slip covers for his mismatched furniture and put new window treatments in every room. I think we spent about $500 on accessories and window treatments, but the paint was the biggest expense.
We also had a pre-listing inspection, per my standard seller’s protocol, but since he was so good at managing the mechanicals of the home, there was really nothing we had to do.
Recognize Market Changes
Things were moving along and we were about a week out from listing the house when one of his neighbors houses went on the market for much more than we were planning to list this house. That changed everything! We went into overdrive finishing up the interior of the house and got it on the market 24 hours later. I took the photos myself and they weren’t great quality (see below), but it was enough to show shoppers that this house was a better deal than the neighboring house for sale. I ran the market comparable data again just before we went live and because the neighbors house was priced so high, it gave us an opportunity to list for a higher price than we originally planned. We accepted an offer slightly under our list price just nine days after we put the house for sale. Timing is everything and being able to respond to changing market conditions is imperative!
[Photos below are my quickie photos; not the professional photos from the BLC listing.]
Design Trends Matter
The moral of this story is that taking care of your house is very important and will benefit you when it’s time to sell, but you also have to be cognizant of current design trends. The cable television shows have increased shoppers desires and aspirations. Most shoppers want a move-in ready house that looks like something off of a cable TV show. If your house does not represent the current trends, it will cost you at the closing table. Bite off those cosmetic renovations in small chunks to make it easier to swallow financially and you will even get to enjoy the fruits of your labor while you still live there.
For more information about preferred renovation contractors or a free home seller consultation, contact me directly.