Pamela's right. A good Home Stager can be a real difference maker in the process. If you're looking for a great one, give Jennifer a call at 303.918.3723 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. She is fantastic! You can check out her work and find other Home Staging tips at http://www.stagedhomes.com/featured/featured_old.php?asp=22893.
This is a tough question to answer. Right now because of the number of homes available, it may be better if your home has some unique features that other homes don't have that will appeal to a select group. for example; extra low counters, door handles or extra tall that would appeal to especially short or tall buyers. what about the view? colors? price and condition relative to the neighborhood. In other words, what are the properties strengths and have you capitlaized on them as much as you can, emphasized them and marketing them? Other than that, what Leslie has suggested, kitchens and baths must be clean and excellent condition carpet and paint
If you know how much you may need to fix, you'll have a better idea of what you are willing to do price-wise to get the buyer to accept that they need to fix something if they can pay you a lower price.
I'm not as interested in what you improved as I am in finding a place that is safe and has had potential issues addressed. Provide me a place where I am sure my family is safe, and you'll make a sale. Don't, or refuse to work with me on getting the house to that place, and I won't buy.
I advise sellers to do no upgrades/improvements until an agent has an opportunity to view your home and look at your competition. Often times I will take sellers to preview their competition so they can see what the buyers will be seeing when they are comparing your home to the competition. Nothing is more frustrating for a seller than to do improvements and then see no return on investment in list or selling price.
Your best bet is to get a reality check with an agent, have them do a CMA on your home, preview the competition and then come up with a plan of action. You're very smart to recogonize it is a buyers market and buyers get to be picky right now.
Best of luck,
SOLI DEO GLORIA
You're saying up front that it's going to suck financially - so why not hold out a little while and see what you can do with it down the road. Right now you're guanteed the loss. couple years from now who knows.
Landscaping. Make the outside look nice and inviting. You'd be supprised at how far a nice yard goes to creating a favorable impression, and making the place just generally feel nicer. Can also be done cheap if you don't mind putting in your own work.
Flooring. Can be expensive - but doesn't have to be.
Kitchens and Bathrooms - can be expensive, but don't have to be. Instead of redoing the whole kitchen, some new counter tops, maybe some cabinet refinishing will go a long way. In the bathroom - there's a lot of things you can do without tearing the whole thing out and starting over. Tubs/sinks can be re-glazed pretty cheap, toilets can be replaced fairly easily.
Most simply - paint. Don't have to hire a professional - but do it right, make it nice - and again, goes to making your home more presentable, and creating a mental state for the buyer that is willing to open up the checkbook a little more.
Really though - none of these things will give you a 100% return on investment. If you're looking to make money out of it - you'll only get so far. May definately help the place move faster though.
It may be useful to consult with a local Realtor in your area before you make any upgrades or updates to your home. Today, buyers expect a home to be in move in condition. If you feel that you may not be able to get out of it what you paid for it two years ago, adding additional money in terms of upgrades or improvements to the property may not be a wise choice. However, a local Realtor can assist in letting you know what must be done in terms of cosmetics, prior to putting the house on the market.
Condition and location are essential assets in selling a home in today's market, however the #1 factor in many parts of the country is proper pricing.
The places where you make the most return is on kitchens and bathrooms. If you are thinking of updating I would start there. If the carpet needs to be replaced, I would suggest you do so. A fresh coat of paint wouldn't hurt either. Make sure your Realtor has your property staged so that the home is ready to be sold!
If you need any other information or have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!