Selling In a Hyper-Hot Real Estate Market (Spend Just Enough, And Not Too Much)

If you’ve been watching our real estate market over the past several years, you’ll know that it’s been a wild ride.

More buyers than available homes.

Rumors of buyers lined up outside homes, waiting for their turn to view.

Bidding wars.

And crazy price escalations.

While some of this is true, it’s important not to lose sight of another truth: if you want to maximize your profits when you sell, savvy sellers are ensuring their homes are in great condition before going on the market.

As experts in the Covington, Kent, Maple Valley, and Renton real estate markets, we have a keen understanding of what buyers want (and expect!) when purchasing homes. Not surprisingly, the things that sellers are obsessing over are not necessarily the things that buyers are focusing on.

Let’s look at those improvements which will yield the biggest results for you as a seller.

PROJECT: Interior paint

With a 36% rate of return, it’s not surprising most homeowners opt to paint their homes – and painting is one of the least expensive projects to tackle. Consider getting color recommendations from a professional though; paint colors can be challenging as they depend not only on the features of your home such as flooring and cabinets, but also on the natural and artificial light in your home.

Best interior colors? Grey has been hugely popular in recent years; both crisp and warm whites, after being out of favor for many years, are seeing a resurgence in popularity.

What you’ll pay:

Painting costs range significantly depending on the time of year and your local market. On average, having a 2,500 home professionally painted will range between $2,000 and $4,500. You’ll pay more if you have vaulted ceilings, or a lot of fancy trim work.

If that’s out of your budget, think about:

If you’re handy, paint your home yourself.

PROJECT: Landscaping

We all know first impressions are everything. And yet many sellers spend all their prep budget on interior items.  As an agent who often works with buyers, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve pulled up to a house that isn’t great on the outside, only to have the buyer say “I don’t even want to go in.”

You’ll want any grass looking green and healthy. Edging is important, as is fresh mulch or beauty bark.

Finally, buyers and their agent spend quite a few minutes at your front door, waiting for the electronic keys to transmit before they can enter. Make sure your front door is freshly painted and include flowering plants at your entrance for maximum impact.

What you’ll pay:

You’ll invest anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on the current condition of your yard. If you need trees removed, your budget will go up from there.

If that’s out of your budget, think about:

Much of the basic yardwork you’ll need to complete can be done yourself. This is the perfect opportunity for sweat equity if you have more time and energy than you have money!

PROJECT: Flooring

According to a recent Zillow report, over 25% of all homeowners replace or repair their flooring. If you are replacing flooring, you’ll want to keep your new choices neutral – whether you elect to put in carpet, tile, hardwoods, or the very popular vinyl plank options which mimic “real” hardwood floors but wear much better.

What you’ll pay:

Costs per square foot will vary depending on whether you select carpet ($7-$14), faux wood ($9 – $15), or genuine wood ($25+). If you go the carpet route you may be able to spend less on the actual carpet if upgrade the carpet pad.

If that’s out of your budget, think about:

Check out discount and outlet flooring stores, which often run amazing specials. And if you simply don’t have the budget to replace your flooring, perhaps you can have them professionally cleaned – you’ll really notice a difference.

PROJECT: Bathroom

You’ll likely maximize your return on investment in the bathroom by having a mid-range remodel. This might mean bypassing new pricey quartz countertops and sinks and instead going with natural stone, and reusing your existing sinks if possible.

With buyers seeking turn-key bathrooms, your best updates could include new counters, new tile, new cabinets, new fixtures for sinks, showers, and tubs. Eliminating brass or metal shower doors and replacing them with frameless glass doors can be a high-impact choice that will wow potential buyers.

What you’ll pay:

A mid-range bathroom update/refresh can run between $3,000 and $18,000.

If that’s out of your budget, think about:

Cleanliness is your friend. If your tile is dated and less than sparkling clean, invest in getting that taken care of. You can hire this out to a professional, or pick up a DIY kit that includes everything you need.

New cabinets can be one of the spendiest items in a bathroom remodel; if you’re trying to stretch your budget you might think about having the existing cabinetry painted in a color that’s currently on the “wish list” for buyers. New bathroom fixtures and hardware can really help this room sparkle.

PROJECT: Lighting upgrades

Few buyers ask for homes which are poorly lit; in fact when we work with buyers most of them mention wanting “light and bright” homes. If yours is not, you’ll want to do your best to change that.

What you’ll pay:

Lighting elements vary hugely in terms of cost. For example, you might spend a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars for lighting in your dining room. Don’t miss big-box stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, IKEA, or online merchants such as Wayfair. You can often find fixtures for under $100 that will work well.

If that’s out of your budget, think about:

If replacing that ugly chandelier is too expensive, you might want to consider simply removing the eyesore and installing a plate to cover the spot it was hanging. This allows buyers to imagine something in its place that is entirely to their taste – and you don’t have to spend a penny! If you’re worried about objections from buyers on this issue you could always indicate you’re willing to provide a credit at closing to allow the buyer to add lighting back in at the spot you removed it.

Your home is likely your single largest asset. While putting money into a home may sound unappealing, it’s a far better strategy than hoping you’ll stumble across a buyer who is willing to overlook any challenges your home presents.

Instead, invest a little time, money, and energy into smart repairs that help get your home ready to outshine the competition.

Still not convinced? The 2018 Zillow Consumer Report, which was prepared in a more balanced market than the one we have at present, showed that nearly 25% of sellers who invest in home improvements sell their homes above list price. That compares to just under 16% who made no improvements.

We are experts at helping our sellers determine which projects will yield the biggest return. Thinking about selling? Call us today! We would love to help you identify opportunities and put together a project list that will have you sitting pretty when it’s time to sell.

Marti Reeder, Realtor, Managing Broker