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Preparing house for sale
Old 02-25-2011, 03:03 PM   #1
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Preparing house for sale

We are starting to prepare our house for sale. It's in Northern Virginia where the market is starting to recover. Most homes in our development are selling within 2-3 months. The one exception is a house that's clearly overpriced.

The place was built in the 80s and is in generally good shape. There are, however, a number of things we need to do. Here's where your advice would be most appreciated. We want to spend money on things that will help the house sell as quickly as possible and at the best price.

I believe these things are no-brainers:
- New paint in attractive, neutral shades.
- New carpet in the finished basement and upstairs 4 bedrooms. The main floor is hard wood in the living/family/dining room and nice ceramic tile in the kitchen.
- Spruce up the landscaping.

Here are some things I'm considering:
- New air conditioning unit. The current unit is over 20 years old and just didn't seem to work well during last year's heat wave even though we had it serviced. The heating system is fine. This would be expensive - I'm thinking several thousand $. The current AC system might limp along and I'm wondering if it's worth replacing.
- New kitchen countertops. Currently have old laminate that's worn out looking. I'm thinking a mid priced surface. Just don't think the place is fancy enough for granite.
- New refrigerator and stove. Both are old. Dishwasher is fairly new. Wondering the best kind to get.

DH and I think mid range improvements will be best. Decent carpet, appliances and countertops, but nothing super high end. Even though the market is doing a little better here, it's still a buyer's market. Plus, my research shows more modest homes are selling better than the McMansions in these parts.

Here's a picture of the place.

Thanks
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:08 PM   #2
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Very pretty!
Your ideas sound good, but I'd probably ask a trusted realtor to do a walk-through with you and make suggestions/establish priorities.

When we sold our house at the beach, an experienced realtor gave us very specific instructions on what needed doing, including a new roof, some new landscaping, refinishing the floors, and fresh paint inside/power washing outside. We spent about $10k on the improvements and I think it added up to both a quick sale and a much better price on our 1939 beach cottage than we would have gotten otherwise.

I would go with a really plain laminate like you suggested for the kitchen--unless granite is a must-have in your 'hood.
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:16 PM   #3
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We put our old home on the market last September, it is still for sale. But the market here isn't that strong yet. But I feel it will sell this spring.

We put a new roof on the house, had it repainted on the interior. Which really makes the house look nice. We had the exterior painted and new carpet put in about 2 years ago and it still looks good. The kitchen/bath and appliances are all good shape. The yard of course looks fantastic because my wife is a gardener. In fact sometimes I wonder if that is a hindrance since the garden might be a bit intimidating to a non-gardnener.

The house we bought we also painted the interior before we moved in, put new counters in, new wood floor downstairs and new carpet upstairs. We liked the bare bones of this house and the price was right, so I didn't mind paying for the upgrades. So those issues weren't a problem for us when we bought this house, but that was us, and other buyers might not like what you currently have, especially if it is worn.

As for your house - I don't know about the air conditioning. I doubt you will get any actual value from it, other then perhaps the house selling quicker. But it won't increase the value of the house. Might be better off setting a good price and then if it becomes an issue, offering $x amount back to the buyer to replace it.

As for the appliances. Hmm..again not sure if you will get the value of replacing them. Unless the old one are ancient looking I wouldn't do this.
The laminate is a fairly easy fix, and shouldn't cost too much. If the appliances are ancient looking or broken, then I might say replace the laminate and appliances.

just my two cents--good luck!
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:56 PM   #4
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I think you have a sensible plan. I would just reinforce your thoughts on A/C. Although it might not increase value of home, it increases "saleability" value. Buyers who can afford homes like yours are very conscious of future expenses they may incur soon. A/C, heater units, water heaters, past there prime are negatives for prospective buyers if most of their cash will already be tied up into buying the home. Good luck!
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:02 PM   #5
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I love traditional colonials! I could move in tomorrow. I'd ask the realtor for his/her opinion on any upgrades versus pricing the house a bit lower and letting the new owner choose their own stuff. Good luck on the sale. I hope you find a buyer quickly.
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
Very pretty!
Your ideas sound good, but I'd probably ask a trusted realtor to do a walk-through with you and make suggestions/establish priorities.
+1

If you haven't already decided on a realtor, this could be a key part of your selection process.
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:11 PM   #7
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Congratulations on getting started in the process of selling your home!

Be sure to have your realtor over to tell you what changes buyers want to see.

Also have a good handyman go over the house looking for things to be repaired that you might not have noticed. And obviously, repair anything that needs repair.

Regarding the changes you asked about, my answers below are in blue:

Quote:
Here are some things I'm considering:
- New air conditioning unit. The current unit is over 20 years old and just didn't seem to work well during last year's heat wave even though we had it serviced. The heating system is fine. This would be expensive - I'm thinking several thousand $. The current AC system might limp along and I'm wondering if it's worth replacing.

Have your HVAC repairman come out and go over the air conditioning and heater. At the very least these need to work well. If the A/C doesn't work well, you definitely need to replace it IMO. If you don't get it taken care of now, it could possibly show up in the housing inspection and cause problems with a potential sale.

- New kitchen countertops. Currently have old laminate that's worn out looking. I'm thinking a mid priced surface. Just don't think the place is fancy enough for granite.

My countertops were granite already. I'd suggest asking your realtor about this one, because he knows what sells.

- New refrigerator and stove. Both are old. Dishwasher is fairly new. Wondering the best kind to get.

Again, ask your realtor what he thinks. He knows what buyers want to see, and what will sell a house. Maybe your idea of "old" isn't that old to buyers (or maybe it is).
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:17 PM   #8
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When preparing our home for sale we replaced plastic laminate with synthetic granite. It can be applied to your existing countertop. It wasn't very expensive, looked like the real thing. Here is a discussion I found on the internet: Online Kitchen Design

Really the only difference is that you don't want to clean it with nail polish remover.
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:20 PM   #9
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I will also reinforce to get a high quality agent who will be honest with you and knows the market well. Setting the proper market price and getting it properly ready to sell should be part of what the agents commission is for. A good one can be a huge benefit. There are many who are not, so get a good one!
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:38 PM   #10
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Thanks for the suggestions so far! Great stuff. Particularly about talking to a good realtor for suggestions. I have another question about window treatments.

Should we leave the window treatments in place? Frankly, we've got old, inexpensive curtains that don't look that great. My idea is to remove all curtains during the repainting process and put some decent looking shades in the windows. It's a "curb appeal" thing. Nice, clean shades in the windows so any prospective buyer doing a drive by will think the place looks pretty from the outside. Plus, makes the place looked loved and lived in. We're only moving about 10 miles away, so security isn't a huge issue.

Thanks again for the ideas folks!
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:13 PM   #11
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I like the idea of new window treatments. I think something classic like shades or plantation shutters or new simple neutral draperies would be very appealing. When I have moved into re-sale homes over the years, I was always very grateful for things that did not have to be done immediately. And window treatments are things I would want immediately in place. If they were nice and traditional, I would be tempted not to replace them at all. IMHO things like appliances are easy to do. One could have a new stove and fridge delivered the next day with little fuss and bother so I would prefer to pick my own appliances. I am on the fence about replacing the A/C. If it did not work, I would replace it, but if it was just old someone might prefer the lower price just to get into the house and choose to replace it at a later date when the budget permits. Again, the advice of a savvy realtor would be the deciding factor.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:14 PM   #12
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Having watched endless episode of house hunting on HGTV it seems like no matter what the price level all buyers expect granite benchtops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.

I probably wouldn't bother changing the window dressings as the place has curb appeal to draw then in.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:23 PM   #13
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Thanks for the suggestions so far! Great stuff. Particularly about talking to a good realtor for suggestions. I have another question about window treatments.

Should we leave the window treatments in place? Frankly, we've got old, inexpensive curtains that don't look that great. My idea is to remove all curtains during the repainting process and put some decent looking shades in the windows. It's a "curb appeal" thing. Nice, clean shades in the windows so any prospective buyer doing a drive by will think the place looks pretty from the outside. Plus, makes the place looked loved and lived in. We're only moving about 10 miles away, so security isn't a huge issue.

Thanks again for the ideas folks!
Just remember that whatever is up for window treatments when the house is shown, is considered part of the house and they go to the buyer. Or at least that is the convention here in Louisiana.

Curb appeal is really important to buyers. They'll never see the inside if they aren't lured in by great curb appeal. I had my shutters and front door painted to give it a good, fresh look from the curb. Some people like to boost their curb appeal by planting some colorful annuals near the front door in the spring. I would think that your realtor could confirm whether or not the new window treatments might add to curb appeal enough to be worth the expense.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:27 PM   #14
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The basic decorating ideas are good but I would consider more emphasis on the kitchen. Unless you have lots of counter space, granite won't cost that much more than other materials. If you are getting new frig and stove consider sinks - make the room stand out. Young couples want to live in the kitchen -- make sure you put a TV in there On the A/C, if it works OK why not leave it be but keep a cost figure in mind you could offer as an incentive to someone who makes an issue of it. That is most likely to arise after someone has already decided they like the house -- maybe even at the inspection stage. Use the extra cash now in the kitchen?
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:41 PM   #15
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We sold the house in the megacity in eight weeks when other houses were taking months. We took "Sell This House" lessons to heart and got rid of all unnecessary furniture and all the clutter. The house was described as "pristine". New paint inside and out. The AC / Gas Central heater was replaced a few years earlier and had a transferable warranty. That turned out to be a critical selling point.

Fresh cookies were baked prior to the open houses and the house was impeccably clean. The only furniture we had in the house were the washer/dryer, kitchen appliances, kitchen table and chairs, sofa, TV with stand, Master Bed, Master chest of drawers, one room had a child's table and chairs with a few toys on the table, the other bedroom had one desk with a computer on it. The house was absolutely stripped of anything not necessary to sell it. The cupboards were sparsely filled. The linen closet had a set of sheets and two sets of towels. The bathrooms were spic and span.

The sidewalk and driveway were steam cleaned. The yard was neat and tidy. The windows were cleaned inside and out every few days. The fridge, microwave, and oven were scrubbed. The American flag was proudly waving just off the garage.

I had a book on the house: house attributes such as size of each room, what made this house / neighborhood different than other houses on the market, 24 months of utility usage and costs including a graph, builder information (even though the house was almost 20 years old - I was the original owner), neighborhood and school information, central AC / Heater information and warranty, refrigerator documentation (bought a few years earlier), the house inspection I paid for - not just for the potential owners to know what the house needed; but, so I wouldn't have any surprises later on), a written market value appraisal I also paid for (still didn't want surprises).

We went through an attorney to sell the house. We used his yard sign and anyone who wanted to talk money went directly to him. All I needed to do was to keep the house in pristine condition, advertise, keep handouts in the yard sign, and hold open houses. I must admit I had a great time.

I paid the attorney $800 to handle all the paperwork. Then I had my share of closing costs. All-in-all, I think my total out of pocket costs were less than $2,000 and that included painting, inspections, appraisals, advertising, etc.

The other posters are absolutely correct in that potential buyers don't want any surprises. Having "the book" was my best selling point. OK.. the chocolate chip cookies and fresh flowers also helped.

Oh, and I got asking price which was the appraised market value.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:45 PM   #16
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Oh, and I got asking price which was the appraised market value.
And this was in East Texas? (real estate being so dependent upon location)
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:46 PM   #17
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+1 on the good Realtor.

Kitchen, bathrooms, front door redo are all good ways to make a place look cared for and appealing.

If you have nice woodwork around your windows, you might consider just repainting and leaving them bare or adding a simple valence. Window treatments are expensive and highly personal.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:59 PM   #18
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And this was in East Texas? (real estate being so dependent upon location)
San Antonio. There were about 50 houses for sale in the same geographical area. We went back several months later and the same houses in my neighborhood were still up for sale. I visited one of the neighbors to see if he had any offers (he didn't) and the house looked like a cyclone went through it and it smelled like a wet dog. He had no clue why he wasn't getting any interest....
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:10 PM   #19
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We sold our house last year in the Boston area and focused on the must haves: granite, stainless, hardwood, and neutrals. We got 6 offers in one day, with 3 over asking. Also, you should consider a professional stager who will tell you what to remove, and of course the house must be super clean.

I would not bother with the A/C unit, it will come up in the inspection anyway (this is tested) and you could end up only putting in 50% of the cost. I would do the counte rtops. Granite has really come down in price and it upgrades the kitchen.

In general I agree with having a realtor come in and tell you what to do to sell it.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:17 PM   #20
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I just accepted an offer for my house 2 days ago. The market here in Chicago has been really bad and it's lagging the rest of the country right now. People want a perfect move in condition house for very low or a short/foreclosure for almost free. I would talk to 3 or more realtors for opinions on things to change. Won't cost you anything but a little time. As long as the AC is working, I wouldn't replace it now, an inspection won't force you to get a new one, they check for condition and usable life expectancy of the unit.
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