To effectively add value to your home you will need to know what buyers value and expect. Sellers should avoid "over improving" their property, too, because a buyer will not pay for it--especially if they are financing their purchase. When financing a purchase, the buyer's lending institution will require an appraisal and the appraisal will point out over improvements, which is relative to the neighborhood, and the lending institution will not loan the amount agreed to in the contract. A seller must then agree to lower the price or terminate the contract with the buyer. There is a high probability the same outcome will occur with the next contract as well. A cash buyer may pay for an over improvement, but that is doubtful.
Presumably, when you sell your house you will be looking to buy a new one. Ask yourself what will you be focusing on. I am a Realtor, and when working with buyers I find that first appearance and features attract buyers, but after the first visit to a property and entering into a contract the focus quickly turns to the condition of structure. I get all my buyers (except investors) to protect themselves with a home inspection. I explain that the home inspector they hire is their investigator who will provide them with an informed, objective evaluation of the major systems--plumbing, heating & air, electrical, sewer/septic, foundation, roof, walls/siding, sprinkler/irrigation, owned security, etc., relating to a property. It has been my experience that no matter how "in love" a buyer is with the look and features of a house, if an inspection turns up costly deferred maintenance and damage, the buyer looses that loving feeling and directs me to research another property they have an interest in or to find them another one.
Working with sellers, depending on how soon they want to put the house on the market, I advise them to make sure all of they have all the systems of their property serviced and in good working order. We discuss the age of the roof; the age of the heating, ventilation, & air conditioning (HVAC) system; the age of the water heater and appliances; and whether they have a termite bond. Cleaning the roof, gutters, driveway, and exterior surfaces of the house is a high-return investment. I strongly discourage large expenditures for cosmetic improvements unless they will have a couple of years to enjoy those improvements themselves. I caution them that what they consider an improvement--such as replacing old carpet with new carpet--the buyer may not appreciate at all and may plan to replace the carpet with laminate or tile flooring.
One last tip, de-clutter! Have a yard or garage sale to send off items that are no longer needed and wanted. Call Goodwill or the Salvation Army to come and pick up anything you don't sale or to clean out your garage--they will take off appliances, beds, tools,etc. at no charge to you. Get a POD or contact Browning Moving, http://www.browningmoving.com,
which offers free temporary storage if you use them to move you, so that you can keep items that you want but that are highly valued or make it difficult for a buyer to see the charms of the house they are considering buying. Forget about impressing buyers with your stuff--they have their own!
To conclude, to effectively increase the value of your home before selling, I recommend getting the systems of the house in good working order through maintenance servicing (including septic system inspection and pump out, when applicable) or replacement/updating of appliances and equipment. Buyers and lenders like when a termite bond is in place, too. If your time frame for selling is at least two years and your roof is 20 years or older, a roof replacement will add substantial value. Inside and outside, de-clutter.
Wanda Carter, Realtor, Keller Williams Town & Country Realty, 850-321-7280, email@example.com
Tallahassee Board Realtors 2011 Volunteer of the Year