Sometimes You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

Before you spend one dollar on home improvements, engage a reputable real estate agent who knows what cosmetic changes, maintenance or renovations give you the best return for your money. While you’re going through the vetting process of hiring a real estate agent, do what you can do; de-clutter. Give unneeded furniture, appliances and clothing to family, friends and charities. If they don’t want your stuff, try holding a garage sale or selling it on Craigslist, as rooms stuffed to capacity look small and unappealing. By creating room in your closets and garages, you are selling “spaciousness,” and thus allowing potential buyers to imagine how they would fill the space.

Don’t scrimp on paint. A neutral color of paint provides the best bang for the buck and enhances your home’s overall look. You can clean your home yourself, but a better idea is to have a cleaning crew come through your home and do a thorough job. It’s a time saver for you, and the professional cleaners generally do a better job. Additionally, one of the most cost-effective cosmetic items you can do, just short of putting in new flooring, is to hire professional cleaners for carpeting, tile and hard wood floors as well as a professional home stager, who may rearrange your furnishings and put pictures on the walls to increase your home’s sales appeal. Professionals are professionals for a reason and are worth every dollar.

Don’t put off maintenance items. The home inspection will discover them and the buyers will want it corrected. In fact, some realtors will encourage their sellers to have a home inspection up front. Some home warranty companies will even do a thorough “mechanicals” inspection up front for a nominal fee if you decide to provide a home warranty for the buyer. If the inspection yields too many corrective measures, the buyers may feel the house has not been kept up. The pride of ownership has real upsell to a buyer; but neglect is a big turn off. Fixing mechanical items and fixing obvious repairs before the inspection will pay off in the buyer’s offer. Strategic renovations can add significantly to the price tag of your home, but they need to not out price the neighborhood. Depending upon the area of the country, the home appraisal should fall in line with neighbor comps. This can be a problem if you’re the most expensive home in your neighborhood or a godsend if your home is at the lower end of the price spectrum. That’s why a professional and experienced realtor will help you price your home to reflect the probable sales price. Over pricing your home at the onset will only set you up for two to three price reductions and too much time on the market. It’s better to be realistic about the sales price, than too optimistic about making a windfall. One last thought: there are optimum times in the year to sell. If your moving plans are flexible, your real estate agent may suggest the best time to put it on the market.

So here’s the end result: Check it. Fix it. Thin it. Spruce it. Sell it!

Nationally syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews top residential real estate Mike Bodeen, Accredited Buyer Representative, Certified Residential Specialist & Senior Real Estate Specialist. Right on the Money is a weekly video talk show for consumers featuring special guests in their area of expertise.