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Preparing Your House for Sale: Botox or Face Lift?

Should Homeowners Renovate Before Listing Their House For Sale?

If I had to sell my house today, buyers would see a mishmash of updated baths and an old bath, lovely wood floors and much trafficked wall to wall carpet, freshly painted rooms and those in dire need, old window treatments and new.

Homeownership is really just fluid chaos.  What was new when we bought the house is now old while we renovated the parts that were dated 10 years ago.

Would I make the house Architectural Digest perfect before selling?  No.

First, I would radically clean out all the clutter.  Sift through the vast collection of children’s artwork in dusty bins housed in the basement.  Pare down all the treasures that moved in when my parents moved out of their house.  Throw out all the canned pumpkin I bought during a flourish of domesticity.

The only cost for meticulously, obsessively cleaning would be our own labor and, maybe, rent on a storage unit.   But I would ask myself, seriously, with each item “Do I really want to pay someone to move this?”

What I would spend money on:

Paint, Paint, Paint.  The wonders of paint.  After a thorough clean out, I would paint every room that had not been touched for a few years in light neutral colors, power wash and paint the outside trim and door.  Paint is truly a miraculous house freshener.

Clip and clean out the landscape, mow the yard and make sure the lighting, mailbox, driveway and garage look fresh.  Curb appeal counts.

Old, worn wall to wall carpet would be ripped out and the wood refinished.  Unless the carpet is affixed to plywood, it’s good to expose the floors.  Buyers get a better, cleaner picture of the house.

Make sure everything works.  Service the furnace, chimney, air-conditioning and pool.   Check appliances, toilets, lighting, water heater, generator, garage doors, sump pump, gutters, alarm system, and smoke detectors etc etc. 

Make sure the roof is in good shape.  Look for bug and critter invasions.  Dehumidify the basement.  If you don’t find it, the buyer’s home inspector probably will.

Close out all permits and get certificates of occupancy if not already done.  The lawyer or mortgage appraiser for the buyer will check to make sure the house is square with town hall.  Insurers will also investigate permits if a claim is made.

Getting the house ‘move in ready’ is not just a sales tool or a good courtesy to the buyer, deals can fall apart well into the process if major issues are discovered during the inspections and even in getting bank financing.

There is a difference between living in a home and selling a house

Part of the preparation process is not only to get the house ready for buyers to view, but it’s also to get you ready to move on.  So, if you are not willing to put away those delicate Hummel figurines, you’re not ready to sell.

‘Move in ready’ does not mean magazine quality, however.  Yes, vivid pictures of the yucky tile in the bathroom will be on every real estate website and YouTube for all to see. 

But for me, I would rather discount the offering price versus comparable homes than take the risk of not getting my money back on major renovations.  

If I’m going to go through the hassle and expense of redoing a kitchen or bath, I want to be the one enjoying the finished product.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Arlene Bubbico October 04, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Great points that all sellers should take notice and follow. The way we live in our house is so different than when we are selling our house. Arlene Bubbico, Realtor

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