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Adjust the price or bring in the professional cleaners and landscapers? Here's what some of my RE/MAX colleagues say about improvement and cleanliness.
From Max Perryman (ABR, ABRM, CRB, CRS), of RE/MAX House of Brokers, Springfield, Mo.:
Cleanliness is number one! Nothing is more important, even if the home is older, outdated and maintenance has been deferred - it must be clean! It must look clean and smell clean. (It's often harder to get buyers interested in a home that smells bad - smoke, pets, and teenage boys - than one that looks bad.) Most sellers are reluctant to spend money on improvements to a home they are about to sell. If they lived with a badly worn carpet, they aren't likely to replace it for someone else. However, they must fix those items that will be viewed as potentially bigger problems: for example, a stained ceiling may mean a major problem with the roof.
From Tupper Briggs (CRB, CRS, SRES), of RE/MAX Alliance Evergreen in Evergreen, Colo.:
Generally, we look at how the market is probably going to respond to the home and then ask ourselves which projects would yield at least $2 in a higher selling price for each $1 spent. This helps us to prioritize in our own minds, and it helps us justify the projects to our clients. Having a home clean and having everything working (doors opening smoothly, light switches actually turning lights on, stairway handrails secure, etc.) are the most important and least costly things our clients can do to enhance their homes' presentation. After that, we may suggest more expensive projects - but don't make these recommendations lightly.
From David Indermill, of RE/MAX Coastal Properties in San Diego, Calif.:
There are many factors to consider when advising sellers about improvements. The biggest concern is whether or not the sellers can recoup their expenses. If the seller decides to do improvements, I recommend only certain things. Most important are improvements that will enhance the curb appeal. Spend the extra money for a nice lawn and landscaping. Be sure to use neutral colors for carpets. Sellers should paint the interior and exterior if need be - also sticking to neutral colors. Make it look like a model home as much as possible and also very homey. The home should also be deep cleaned by a cleaning company.
From Barbara Hibnick, of RE/MAX Experts in Buffalo Grove, Ill.:
I always tell my sellers that the home should look as close to a model home as possible. I suggest they paint rooms that need it - usually a soft white shade. Clean all carpet and deodorize. Recaulking can improve the look of a bathroom enormously, and spending about $260 to have a bathtub repainted is important if it is a really distracting color. Look at the home from across the street and decide how it looks as a homebuyer looking at its curb appeal. Trimming bushes and shrubs is a good idea around any driveways, walkways, or decks. A professional cleaning crew is an incredible return on the dollars spent. And most importantly, declutter!
From Wayne "Shorty" Short (ABR, CRP, CRS), of RE/MAX Realty Professionals in Wichita, Kan.:
I tell sellers that in the first 18 seconds that a buyer drives up to, and walks into, the house, they have made up their mind whether or not the home is a "keeper" or not. They will either really look it over, or they will walk through hurriedly and move on to the next one. I explain to all my sellers how they live in the home and the condition in which they sell it are two different things. I will not list the home until it is in its best "SHOW" condition. You would be surprised how many of my homes get new carpet and paint.
From Jeff Bowers (ABR, CRS), of RE/MAX Professional Realty in Charleston, S.C.:
The kitchen is often the most important room in the house. A major overhaul usually won't make sense, but sellers should do all they can to make the kitchen look its best. Painting is an easy, inexpensive way to revive any room - but be sure to stick to neutral colors. If your countertop tile is old, grungy or outdated, think about some new tile. Get rid of old stainless steel faucets and update with a stylish replacement. Suggest replacing old knobs and pulls with new hardware. Get rid of the clutter, make sure blinds are open and that the room is well-lit - and be sure the kitchen is odor-free (other than the smell of cookies, of course).
In either of the following, follow your agent's advice about the purchase details. You should also get a CMA on both properties ti make sure you are right about the value spread. If you are planning to rehab the purchase yourself, work up your plans and materials list. If you are planning to contract out the work, get cost estimates.
Once you have all th enumbers together, you will be better able to decide whether what you have in mind is a good idea.