If you've ever house-hunted, you probably noticed a wide variance in the quality of the homes available at similar price points. Oftentimes it's not the intrinsic quality that is so much different, it's the way some people make their houses look like something you'd actually want to live in, while others leave it up to you to have the "vision" of what a house could be.
I remember one house I visited that had every wall surface covered with family pictures. Every inch, with no space between the pictures. And they weren't all nicely framed, either. Many were montages of pictures taped to poster board, with the whole poster board then tacked to the wall. I would expect to see this in a local bar, chronicling the happy faces of the softball team the bar supports, but not in a home that would like me to be its future owner. The pictures were all over the living room, dining room, on the wall leading upstairs, on the wall leading to the basement. One bedroom had no pictures, as if there was one sane inhabitant who needed to escape the assault.
Another home appeared to have no idea anyone would actually look at its inside. It was filthy, messy and smelled bad. I tripped over a hand weight in one room, underwear sat on the floor in another room. Hey, I'm ready to make an offer!
I'm sure you would not do these things, but even the normal among us don't always have the vision to know how a house should be presented for sale. If you're putting a house up for sale this year, I'd recommend you shell out 10 bucks for Sid Davis' Home Makeovers That Sell. As the title suggests, the book offers a ton of advice on getting the most money from your home, and how to do it in the shortest time possible.
There are three big points I took from the book.
First, price your home right. Price it too low and you're obviously going to lose money. Price it too high and it's going to sit on the market. Find either an experienced appraiser or an experienced real estate agent who can give you a realistic assessment of your home's worth and can back up that assessment with evidence from recent home sales in your area.
Second, there is plenty you can do to spruce up your home without spending a lot of money. Cleaning for one. Decluttering for two — potential buyers don't need to see every picture in your scrapbook or every artwork you've ever bought. They want to envision themselves living there, not get to know you better. In addition, things like painting interiors and planting out front are cheap but can make a big difference. It's amazing how much more money a house can command simply by looking neat.
Third, cost does not necessarily equal value. If you paid $30,000 for top-of-the-line windows when buyers would have been happy with the $10,000 windows, don't expect them to pay you the difference. If your house needs to have work done to make it saleable, do it to a level of acceptability, not to a level where you'll have to price your house out of the market in order to get that money back. (Remember that if your house prices out of the market, you might find a willing buyer but not a willing lender who'll allow that buyer to make the deal.)
Even if you know these points, the book can be useful as a reference, showing you what fixes are likely to bring you back the most at resale, and offering you room-by-room checklists of things you should do to increase the attractiveness of your home. There's even a few ideas on how to dress up a drab room simply by rearranging furniture or adding a few well-placed items.
Selling a home is a big deal. Do it wrong and you could cost yourself thousands of dollars. Do it right and it could be your springboard to a step up the housing ladder or simply a way to put more money in your pocket. Which way would you rather go?