Easy upgrades sellers often overlook

April 8

(Andrea Bruce Woodall/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Jon Coile, chairman of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, writes commentary on the Washington-area housing market.

Even though the Washington metro is a sellers market right now with continued increase in buyer demand, we don’t think the market will be as tight as it was in 2013. But no matter who the market favors, home sellers should always think about what can be done prior to listing their house to increase its sales potential.

Spending a few weekends upgrading the appearance of your home can not only increase the sales price, but can help your home sell faster. We have all heard the tips about de-cluttering and cleaning a house from top to bottom, but here are a few extra tips that some of our D.C. metro area real estate professionals say many homeowners overlook:

• Make the most of the first impression. Curb appeal is particularly important. This is an area where real estate agents can provide an expert eye since they have seen thousands of homes from the perspective of a buyer pulling up outside a house for the first time.

Frequently agents will point out problems such as house numbers not being clearly visible from the street, stair railings with chipped paint, exterior lights that need new bulbs, or a garage that is too full of stuff to fit a car. All of these can be addressed without too much effort so they are worth the time before a seller puts a “for sale” sign out front.

• Focus where it matters most. A new paint job can work wonders for the inside and outside of a house but that can be time-consuming and expensive. Instead, choose the rooms people will focus on the most: the kitchen, living room and possibly the master bedroom.

The better those three rooms look the faster the house will sell for the highest price. Keep the color neutral though; pale greens and grays are the taupe of 2014. When it comes to the exterior, if you can’t afford a complete paint job then rent a power washer for a day and use it to get the grime and moss out of all the cracks.

•  Let the sun shine in. Windows are another major blind spot for sellers. They may have lived with the grimy windows for so long that they have forgotten what a difference extra sunlight can make on the interior appearance.

Tackle the outdoor sides of the windows with a power washer and clean the indoor sides all the way from top to bottom to bring a dramatic — and practically free — improvement to the whole house. And once they are clean, show them off by keeping the blinds and drapes wide open when showing the house. The more light inside the better.

• Be smart in the kitchen. A place that is easy to spend too much money on is the kitchen. Yes, this is one of the most common deal breakers for buyers, but in most situations buying new appliances and cabinets won’t earn back much more than their sticker price.

Instead, invest a few hundred dollars by changing the drawer pulls and hardware throughout, giving it a fresh coat of paint or adding a backsplash and cleaning it well so that it looks as good as possible. Tired kitchen cabinets can even be painted to give a new look to an old kitchen.

• Don’t forget about the basement bathroom. One of the biggest payoffs by far can come from sprucing up an outdated bathroom in the basement. So many homes have a half bathroom on the lowest level that hasn’t been used in years and consequently has become one of the least desirable places in the house.

A thorough cleaning is a good start, but a weekend spent repainting the walls, replacing the toilet and/or faucet and filling in the missing caulk around the tub will turn it into a usable bathroom that can substantially add to the asking price. This is even more important if the basement has the potential to be an in-law suite.

This year is one of the best times to be a seller since demand has increased exponentially over the past few years. But buyers are still savvy enough to wait for a property that won’t take too much effort to meet their needs. Spend a few afternoons on some easy upgrades so your home won’t be one of the few that gets left behind.

Previously from Jon Coile:

Short sale sellers need a sense of urgency

Tips for boomerangers who want to move from their parents’ basement to their own home

 Despite rising rates, now is the time to buy. But maybe not for everyone.

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