One aspect that largely remains in the back of most homeowner’s minds, surfacing when decisions are made here and there, is making sure that features of their home are attractive to buyers when it is time to sell. Resell remodeling may not be as fun as remodeling a home you intend to live in and enjoy for years to come, but it is still important for a variety of reasons—mainly to facilitate the sale of your home, because often times the quicker the better!
In fact, homes that have been properly maintained and updated are currently selling at a brisk pace. “The idea is to sell your house as quickly as possible at the highest possible price, and the point is to make a profit so you have more to put down on the new home,” says Mike Barrett, Vice President and Manager of Mortgage Lending at Cornhusker Bank. “If you can’t recoup your remodeling costs, you’ve missed the opportunity to make money on your home. In general, it’s a bad idea to go into significant debt to remodel, especially if you’re about to buy another home. If you take out a large loan to remodel it may hurt your credit rating and your ability to borrow for your new home. Some remodels may be necessary just to make your house competitive in your market, especially if you own an older home that has not been updated.
If you do any remodeling at all, make it modest, and stylistically neutral. Select standard white porcelain toilets and sinks, and stick with faucets and towel racks that are nicely designed but not flashy. And of course, paint the room off-white. Remember, you want to appeal to as many people as possible who tour your home. A good starting point is to fix the obvious deferred maintenance items such as wall or flooring issues and dated fixtures. Updating appliances also can be a good idea. Buyers hate the thought of having to paint, install carpet or buy new appliances for their new home. In my experience, the items that seem to matter the most to home buyers are related to kitchen and bathroom updating. Likewise, improvement ideas that have the best return are siding repairs and modest updating of older bathrooms.”
Barrett further advises, “With a strong seller’s market and low inventory, a common challenge sellers have is in how to make a non-contingent offer that requires them to sell their house prior to buying a new one. Those sellers with plenty of equity in their existing home may be eligible for a bridge loan so they are able to buy a new home prior to selling their existing home. This doesn’t work for everyone but for those with plenty of equity it can be a big advantage in getting their new home.”
Derek J. Kats, Realtor and owner of Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, LLC, agrees that the current market for sellers is very strong here in Lincoln. He offers the following advice on remodeling in order to sell:
“Having been ranked among the TOP-10 Agents for Properties Sold in 2013*, I have a good amount of experience when it comes to providing the most beneficial tips to get a home sold. These tips are very basic, yet are the most beneficial tips when it comes to selling a home. Many Realtors focus on obvious but high dollar items that will help your home sell such as updating a kitchen or bathroom, replacing flooring throughout the house, or finishing a basement. That is great if the seller can afford to pour thousands of dollars into the home before it is listed, but most sellers should focus on more attainable, easier on the budget projects such as the following examples:
—Declutter the house and remove all personal pictures and excess personal property as to help the new buyers picture the home with their own possessions inside instead of seeing the life that the previous owners have lived in the home.
—Fix any wear and tear or deferred maintenance in and around the home. Common repairs would be fixing holes, touch up paint, replacing carpet in high traffic areas, or other minor problems that have been getting put off. The closer the home looks to “move-in ready” the higher chance of the home selling faster and at a higher price in today’s market.
—Clean the home as if the sale depended on it, because many times it does. One would be amazed by the amount of transactions that never come together simply because the home is not clean enough. In most cases as the Realtor I would be able to suggest requesting a cleaning allowance to put the deal together, but others may not have the experience to get past that hurdle.
—Avoid falling victim to the hot market by not performing your due diligence when selecting a Realtor to represent you and the sale of your home. The marketing exposure of your home still plays a pivotal role in expediting the sales process. Even in a strong market, a weak marketing plan will be detrimental to the sale of your home. When interviewing Realtors to list your home with, always request to see how encompassing their marketing plan is, after all that is what the majority of your commission fees should be going towards, so make sure they are being allocated appropriately.
*Ranked in the top 10 Agents for number of detached residential transactions sold in the city of Lincoln, including both Listing and Selling Agent transactions, as reported by the MidlandsMLS, period 01/01/2013 through 12/31/2013.
Research has shown time and time again that the areas that you can improve in a home which are most attractive to potential buyers are the kitchen and bath areas. In today’s market you can achieve a good return on your investment if you have the ability to spend a few thousand dollars in the kitchen and bath areas, but how many sellers have the ability to put $5,000 – $20,000+ back into their home just before selling it? Not many, so at Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, we like to focus on realistic remodeling expectations that provide the highest return on investment, not just the highest sale price:
—Light fixtures can be updated at a very low material cost and are fairly basic to install. With the right style and finish color, light fixtures are definitely a high return on investment and can help a home with outdated fixtures have a newly updated look, in many cases for only a few hundred dollars.
—Curb appeal, whether that pertains to upgrades to the front landscaping or to the front of the home itself, can easily be a top return on your investment. Curb appeal can also be an easy sweat equity one-weekend project to really add value to the front “gallery” picture that most websites use to first display your home.
—Interior paint is the final improvement suggestion that provides for the highest return on investment because it is low in material cost but high on labor costs, with the benefit being that most home-owners are capable of providing painting labor rather than having to hire a specialized contractor such as one would typically do when updating counter-tops, etc. Overall, painting is one of the most cost effective ways to add that fresh feeling to a home just before it hits the market.
From a financial standpoint, there are some major things that sellers should be aware of when making the decision to invest in remodeling their home specifically to sell it.
—Sellers should take into consideration the return on investment (ROI) on the updates done to the home. Many homeowners and first time home renovators run into trouble spending too much money on the wrong updates to a point where they can’t recoup the cost of those updates when the property sells… and at times it prevents the sale completely. At Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, we feel that it is important to get in contact with a good Realtor who understands what areas would be the best return on investment and are worth doing to the home for the buyer to appreciate, as well as being the most profitable to the seller when the sale is closed.
—Our straightforward ROI remodeling approach to getting a seller’s home ready to sell in today’s market has been one of our most repetitious positive feedbacks that we receive from past sellers. At Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage we are up front with sellers to inform them on what buyers are looking for in a home and what can be a reasonable remodeling expectation and budget to get their home ready to sell. It’s easy to say that upgrading a kitchen or bathroom would help the home sell faster, but would that help the seller truly net a higher dollar amount out of the sale, or will it simply help sell the house in the first week. In most cases, the seller would rather maximize their sale amount (profit) rather than settle for a quick sale at a lower profit. Therefore, we focus on realistic remodeling expectations that will maximize the seller’s return on their remodeling investment. We also have a list of qualified contractors in various fields to call upon for nearly all types of repairs/updates a home will need before putting it on the market.
—Major concerns for most buyers are the big ticket items such as the roof, siding, windows, furnace/air, and foundation walls. If it looks like one of these big-ticket items could be a problem it might be worth looking into what it would cost to get it fixed. Then either have that estimate ready for the potential buyers when they tour your home or go ahead and have the repairs/updates done so it will be one less worry for the potential buyer and one less hurdle to overcome when it comes to the whole house inspection.
—Our Marketing Plan and overall marketing exposure is the top service we can provide our Sellers, and is by far the most popular aspect of our sales package. We focus on a modern professional’s approach to real estate sales that puts emphasis and added attention on an incredible online and social media presence but still has belief in and marketing dollars towards traditional forms of marketing that most others who do not want to spend the proper amount on marketing say are ‘dying’ markets such as the newspaper, print magazines, and other publications. Though it is true that those marketing mediums are not as effective as our online or social media marketing plans, it is only proper that an ‘all inclusive’ marketing plan display your home on all reasonable marketing mediums available.
We would love to have a top sales agent tour your home, provide you with a suggested sales price based on a comparative market analysis along with a resell remodeling consultation, explain our exhaustive marketing plan that we would apply to advertising your home, and answer any other questions you may have.”
As far as the financial aspects related to remodeling in order to sell a home, Travis Gunderson, a Mortgage Loan Officer at Midwest Bank, explains, “When remodeling a home specifically to sell it, sellers should only make improvements that will increase the value of the home. Money invested into changes that are specific to the sellers wants might not be money well spent in the eyes of a potential borrower. Furthermore, it is important that sellers price their house for sale appropriately and competitively. Overpricing your house will discourage buyers. In my experience the most important updates to a house are the ones that add the most value. This would include updating old carpet to new hardwood or replacing outdated countertops with new solid stone. These are the types of updates that a buyer is looking for. Making improvements to ensure everything in the house is in working order is also important. If you decide to remodel your house before selling, be sure to pick finishes that will appeal to a wide variety of buyers. It is best to keep things clean and neutral. This will ensure that the house will go with any buyers taste and belongings.”
Stephanie Boyes with Peoples Mortgage, also known as “The Mortgage Genie,” suggests remaining conservative when making upgrades as well, especially in the resell market. She explains, “The main reason to remain fairly conservative is you just never know what people actually want or need in specific terms. For example, while you may want to have an in-ground pool for your family, another may look at that as a high maintenance item. It is also important to keep colors and decorations more neutral. Bright pink may work for an 8 year old child but would not translate well to someone using the room as their business office. It is also important to stay realistic. Homes that are in a certain neighborhood still have to be compared to other homes in that area. There may be one buyer in a hundred that would pay thousands of dollars extra for a whirlpool tub while another may just want the basic model. If you get the ‘best’ of everything, understand that the monetary amount you put in for those luxury items may not quantify into your home’s resell value as much as you would like.” She adds, “My best advice is to consult several professionals on your choices. Just like consulting a second opinion at the doctor, hearing several different views on a particular subject can be just the right perspective you need.”
Around The House: Improving and Staging Your Home to Sell
When you are in the process of staging your home, less is more. At the same time you are preparing your home to place on the market for sale, you can also be sorting through your belongings to decide what you will take with you to your new home and what must go. This is also a great time to explore new decorative elements, and to change your furniture or design aesthetic altogether to match your new surroundings. When downsizing or making room for new items, you should definitely consider taking your old, gently used home furnishings and décor to a local consignment boutique. These local resources for both selling and buying items are great places to take your business–and along with fabulous finds you can’t beat being kind to the environment at the same time!
A perfect example of this is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which just opened its new location in Lincoln. The ReStore, located at 47th & Y St., is a cost-effective outlet for home improvement projects that is open to the public. Quality used and surplus home improvement items, building materials and home goods are available at great discount prices to reuse, recycle and repurpose. The best part is that profits from the ReStore help to fund the mission of the local Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity affiliate which provides decent, safe and affordable housing for families in need in our community. Habitat ReStore manager Greg Olson adds, “We encourage anyone who is remodeling their home or downsizing before or after a move to consider donating their unwanted items instead of throwing them away. We accept just about anything you would find in a home store, and you’d be surprised how many items from a remodeling project can be reused and/or repurposed!” Whether making a donation (which is also tax-deductible!) or shopping for cost-effective supplies for remodeling and staging, this is definitely a place you want to check out!
As an alternative to purchasing new home décor items, you may also consider refinishing or repurposing furniture you already own to look better in your staged home or in transitioning your décor from your current home to your new space. Sometimes all you may need to make a room or space in your home look and feel appealing to buyers is a few updated design elements. The Coop, located in the newly re-developed Piedmont Shopping Center, is a fun small business that sells vintage décor, primitives, antiques, soy candles, and many other treasures. They have a great selection of vintage décor and painted furniture as well as a selection of repurposed items and burlap décor. They are also Lincoln’s only stockist of Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan and offer classes on many different techniques to do with Chalk Paint® for the do-it-yourselfers. Stacey Clark, owner of The Coop, says, “This paint was developed in the UK over 20 years ago for painting furniture with little to no prep or priming. It is definitely not your typical chalkboard paint as it adheres to wood, laminate, plastic, metal, glass, cement, concrete…and you can even paint fabric with it! This makes it perfect for painting kitchen cabinets, walls, furniture, frames, mirrors, various accessories, upholstery, and much more. We also offer classes which provide the opportunity for our customers to learn new techniques and get creative in jazzing up an old or outdated piece of furniture—and no artistic experience is necessary! Selling a home almost always requires staging it to some extent. Simple remodeling projects around the house can definitely save you money as well as give you a sense of pride in knowing that you did it yourself. Also, learning new decorative tips never hurts—especially for homeowners! However, if you don’t feel comfortable painting yourself, we do offer custom painting services for our customers.” She adds, “In addition to decorative items we offer in our store, we also offer staging services that will assist you in using your current décor, rearranging a room, and also in suggesting what new items to incorporate with your current items.”
For those who want to make cost effective updates that will make their home more appealing to buyers without a complete renovation, simple improvements like a new coat of paint or repairing that broken tiling or fixture can completely transform your space. Local companies such as HandyMark or The Restoration Pros provide many services that come in handy for resell remodeling endeavors. The best part about these companies is they are generally able to accommodate your unique project specifications, and if they are unable to provide the service you need, they can refer you to someone in the specific industry who can. Moreover, you only have to hire one company to accomplish all of the “odds and ends” around your home. From replacing a porch light or shingle to refinishing a basement or updating a kitchen or bathroom, these companies can do it all!
Furthermore, some projects may not be your cup of tea or are better left to the professionals for a variety of reasons. For example, if you have ever painted a room before, you know how much work that can be. Moreover, painting larger areas or an entire home is a time and labor intensive project that you may not want to take on by yourself. Hiring a professional painting contractor such as Larsen Painting not only saves you time and effort, but it ensures that a high quality job is done by technicians who pay close attention to detail and know exactly what materials and techniques are required for a flawless finish.
However, do-it-yourself projects continue to be very popular among homeowners who are preparing to sell. When it comes to updates that buyers notice when touring homes for sale, Krista Rickman of True Value Hardware Store in Bishop Heights notes that quality plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, appliances, fresh paint, carpet and flooring are high on the list. If you choose to paint your home yourself as opposed to hiring someone to do it for you, Rickman recommends, “Make sure to prime and prep all surfaces correctly before you paint or stain them, and consider paying a little more for high quality paint, brushes and rollers. Also, choose the sheen of paint depending on the use and location of the surface being painted. The shinier the paint sheen, the more washability and durability it will have; however, the shinier it is the more it will show imperfections on a surface. For example, if you are painting a bathroom, kitchen, trim or a child’s room pick a satin or semi-gloss paint. If you are painting a living room, master bedroom or front hallway a flat or eggshell sheen will work just fine. Always use exterior paint if you are painting an outdoor surface because exterior paint is designed to expand and contract with changes in the weather. A local, neighborhood hardware store like Bishop Heights True Value can be a great resource for all your future home projects and repairs. Our True Value stores offer many products for sellers who are doing projects around their house to get it ready to put on the market, such as interior and exterior paint, all of the painting supplies you will need, cabinet hardware, door locks, kitchen and bath faucets, plumbing materials, tools, and all kinds of lawn and garden supplies. We welcome all current or future homeowners to visit our store—we would love to help you spruce your home up to get it sold!”
Flooring is one of the aspects of home that is subject to a lot of wear and tear, and is one of the most common things that needs replacing prior to selling. Whether you are replacing carpet, tile, wood, laminate or vinyl flooring, EMO Flooring has you covered. Jacque Lee of EMO Flooring advises, “When it comes to flooring, make sure to select materials and colors that will appeal to a majority of home buyers. This includes materials and colors that are suitable and practical for both aesthetic appeal and durability. In this particular instance, neutral colors are recommended as opposed to what is trending in the latest design magazine or TV show. There is, however, an exception to the rule as a current color trend in every flooring material is a grey toned palette that also works very well for remodeling specifically to sell the home. If you are in doubt on what will attract the most buyers or will work best in your home, we have Interior Designers on staff that can help with the selection of flooring materials as well as matching paint, countertops, etc. depending on the scope of the project. As selling a home is time sensitive in most cases, if you will be replacing flooring my best advice is to plan ahead and select materials well in advance of when you will be putting your home on the market. Due to lead times on ordering materials and scheduling installation, all decisions should be made and the necessary products should be ordered at least a month in advance.”
Window treatments, such as shutters, blinds, draperies, shades, and even window films, are also an attractive feature of a home that buyers notice because it’s one less thing to invest in or worry about right away. Furthermore, it assures the new homeowner that once their belongings are moved in they will be protected from sun damage, as well as the new or existing floor coverings, in addition to improving a home’s energy efficiency which signals lower utility bills and less effort from the heating and cooling systems. Scott Thayer, owner of Budget Blinds in Lincoln, advises, “If you are purchasing new blinds in order to sell your home, something that’s fairly basic and neutral but effective is your best bet. Try to stay away from color or fancy patterns/features; perhaps you might like a Roman shade in a wild fabric, but if it screams ‘replace me now’ to the potential buyer then your investment in the home you are trying to sell is pointless. And since blinds and window coverings are specifically designed to fit a certain size and space in most cases, you likely won’t be able to take them with you to your new house! At Budget Blinds we offer a free in-home consultation, and we would be happy to make recommendations on window treatments that will work best for staging your home to sell.”
When you are showing your home you should already be in the process, to some extent, of moving. The less busy or cluttered your home is, the more comfortable and inviting your home will be to visitors and prospective buyers. In such a transitional time, this is the perfect opportunity to utilize a storage facility. For a small investment, your belongings will be out of your current home, safely located in a place where they will not be damaged, and ready to move right into your new home. Thomas Friedman, owner of Strong Box Storage, says, “We offer a variety of sizes of storage for those who need to move things around while they are in transition. Many times a seller will need to move out of their current residence prior to closing on their new home, and they need a place to store their belongings in the meantime. It is also common that sellers want to move some of their possessions out of crowded garages or basements to help their homes show better. We offer a range of sizes from 5×5 to 10×40, and we always try to find the right size that fits the customer’s needs. We also provide unique keypad codes so our customers have access to their unit 365 days a year. Our office, which is open six days a week, offers a dozen different sizes of moving boxes, packing peanuts, wrapping paper, tape, and many other items that help our customers during their transportation of their belongings. We are also an independent U-Haul dealer, and we can make reservations from wherever our customers are to wherever they are going. With over 15,000 independent dealers across the country, we have been awarded a TOP One Hundred award of achievement from U-Haul. We are committed to meeting and exceeding the needs of our new and returning customers, and will do whatever we can to help during the process of selling your current house and moving into your new home.”
During any remodeling project, as well as during the process of moving, there will be plenty of waste that needs to be removed and disposed of. Roll off containers are a very efficient way to get this job done smoothly. Scott Niederhaus, owner of Niederhaus Refuse, says, “Providing waste removal services for residential remodeling projects of any size and scope is right up our alley—we can supply containers ranging from 2 yards up to 40 yard roll off containers, which are very practical for large items. So if you’re getting rid of a lot of stuff or larger items, or doing jobs around the house or in the yard, our 20yd to 40yd roll offs are ideal. If you have the space for a roll off or will be responsible for your own waste removal during or as a result of the project, be sure to keep us in mind. However, if your space is limited we can also provide you with something a little smaller. Our 2 or 3yd containers are very popular, and even better, some are on wheels so you can easily move them around.”
It is also important to keep in mind that while you may not be selling your home in the next week or even the next year, all of the work that you do to improve your home for your own enjoyment while you are living in it is also considered an investment that may (or may not in some instances!) appeal to potential buyers in the future. A perfect example of this is a sunroom, which adds square feet and significant value to your home while being an extremely attractive feature to buyers when or if you choose to sell in the future. Headquartered in Gretna, NE, Malibu Sunrooms is the leading sunroom building company in Nebraska and Iowa. Malibu Sunrooms is an exclusive dealer for the largest manufacturer of sunrooms in the country, and has installed over 450 sunrooms in Lincoln. Terri Rediger, owner of Malibu Sunrooms, explains, “Aside from adding a classy look outside of your home, a sunroom adds class, sunshine and architectural appeal from the inside of your home as well as a space to enjoy year-round. If you have not been in a sunroom, I think it’s impossible to really understand what you are missing. People LOVE their sunroom. It’s everyone’s favorite room in the house. You ‘feel’ like you are outside, but can enjoy the comforts of being inside. And really, no matter what the weather is doing, the weather is always great in a Malibu Sunroom! This is perfect for Nebraskans as we are no strangers to inclement weather. As far as adding value to your home, there is no question that a sunroom fits the bill. On average, a new sunroom will be worth one and a half times what you paid for it when it is time to sell. But adding value to your LIFE and your lifestyle, well I don’t think there’s a price you can put on that. Our goal at Malibu Sunrooms is to provide the highest quality sunroom at the most affordable price. We will not compromise our building standards or our product quality for any reason. We want to ensure that your sunroom will not only give you years of relaxation, but also add maximum monetary value to your home.”
In line with other aspects that add aesthetic and functional value; an effective, durable and well-designed garage door system is essential. Whether you need your system checked, components fixed or replaced, or just want a whole new look or an up-to-date system, Raynor Doors of Nebraska offers a wide variety of garage doors and openers. Their staff will personally come out to your home and take a picture with an iPad, or upload a picture you provide, and show you the different looks, styles, windows and colors they have to offer on the spot. They also oil, service and adjust any garage door that simply needs a little bit of work. If you don’t know exactly what you need or are looking for, or what will add the most value and curb appeal to your home, their showroom is an excellent place to start. Jacob Hiatt, Residential Salesman at Raynor Doors of Nebraska, says, “We invite everyone to come visit our showroom. We pride ourselves with having the nicest one around, and it’s our way of encouraging visitors to see, touch and learn more about our garage doors, openers and services. We have two working garage doors with the newest openers for visitors to test out, and six other doors on display. We also offer actual metal color samples and literature that anyone can take with them. Our goal is to have addressed and answered all your garage door and opener questions by the time you leave our showroom. A new garage door adds a lot of extra value and curb appeal to a house, which is especially important because it is being used more and more as an entrance, or ‘front door,’ than ever before!”
When doing improvements that add value to your home, it is also important to be mindful of the materials you choose. Especially with items such as exterior or interior stone and brick, or items that may be more obscure than their more commonly found counterparts, in terms of remodeling it can be very difficult to match new materials to the old ones. For example, if you fell in love with a unique type of rock found in Arkansas, you may not be able to find the same rock again if it gets damaged or worn from the elements and needs to be replaced. Also, you may want to match new additions with the existing features, such as matching a new fire pit to your existing outdoor entertaining area, which would require using the same or similar materials. Larry Epp, General Manager of Yankee Hill Brick, further explains, “The most common struggle we see with our clients in remodeling projects is that they are unable to match the existing brick or stone. One of the best parts of working with an experienced contractor for home projects is that they have secured deals with vendors and can track down supplies used on previous projects. As a manufacturer of brick serving the Lincoln area since 1881, we take pride in the consistency as well as the quality of our products and our color blending ability is unsurpassed in the industry. When you are in the planning stages of a remodel for your home, one of the last things you might think of is matching the product if repair is needed further down the line—but it is so important! For those who will be selling their home, it is also nice for the new homeowners to be able to use the same professionals for touch-up work if they choose. And if you can’t match a product exactly, there are other options. In our case, one example would be to utilize a contrasting brick to give it a new look. Customer service is very important to us, and we do whatever is in our power to help our clients if they happen to be in this type of bind. However, I highly recommend choosing a solid product that is recommended by a contractor or offered by a reputable business that is established in the industry. This way, you always have a resource to utilize for future projects or if any issues arise.”
Getting your home ready to sell can be nerve racking and a lot of work, but it is well worth it to get the best price for the home you have already made a significant investment in. With a few improvements in moderation, and repairs as needed, you’d be surprised how much more attractive your home will be to potential buyers. For those projects that you can’t (or in some cases, really shouldn’t…) do yourself, make sure to consult one of our local industry professionals who would be happy to assist you in your endeavors!