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7 Must-Do Updates for Sellers

This might be a seller’s market, but even with inventory at historic lows, buyers are being selective about what they sign on the dotted line for these days, particularly in the luxury real estate market. While realtors say just before going to market is not the time to gut your kitchen, it is prime time to make some key updates that will lead to a quick and lucrative sale.

Hardwood Floors and Paint

“Paint is your friend—paint and hardwood floors,” says Angela Swift, real estate salesperson with Compass in Greenwich, CT.  No matter at what price point you are selling, she tells clients to expect to make 25 cents on every dollar they spend on new flooring and a fresh coat of paint in their home. Last spring, she renovated a Greenwich condo that she bought for $740,000. Post-renovation she said the home is valued above $1.2 million if she were to put it on the market this spring. One of the major renovation decisions she made was to paint white walls and white oak floors if you are renovating to sell. “Whatever you pick, try to stay in that 80% of what everyone’s looking for,” she advises. “Choose finishes that will be appealing for the next 10 years.”

Maximize Your Square Footage

Don’t pass up the opportunity to renovate unused unfinished space to capitalize on its potential. If you haven’t finished that space, it will be worth the money to do it now, says Fred Danback, real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenwich, CT. He recently advised clients, who were renovating their home to sell and created a finished office/guest space on their third floor. “It was an extra 1,000 square feet with nine-foot ceilings that wasn’t being taken advantage of,” adds Danback. It was accessible only by a hatch but by adding a staircase and finishing the room they were able to add 1,000 square feet to the listing. Even when all your square footage is being used, sometimes, giving the appearance of more square footage is all you need. Swift says by opening a wall in her condo between the kitchen and dining room, she was able to add an island to the kitchen making all the rooms feel bigger. 

Creating Useable Acreage 

Likewise, outside the house, square feet matter, too. Danback says that same client created more usable yard by clearing an old shed and concrete slab from the property and removing a broken down stone wall, bringing in dirt and sod and opening up the backyard by about 20,000 square feet. “Now you walk in, and the property feels like a park,” he says. “In the town of Greenwich, an acre of land can be valued at as much as $1 million to $2 million and sometimes more. Look for ways to unlock the value of the land by clearing overgrowth and by creating as much usable property as possible.”

Add Curb Appeal

If you have old, dated brick or worn siding, putting a fresh coat of paint on the exterior will up the value of your home and draw interested buyers, says Danback. “How do you take a classic home and make it feel fresh?” asks Danback, “ Put white paint and a black roof and black gutters on it and it feels like a new home while still maintaining the traditional characteristics of a colonial.”

Refresh The Details

Realtors advise against completely renovating kitchens and baths if you are going to sell because of the high cost of materials in those rooms and the very personal nature of them. The next homeowner may want completely different features. However, some cosmetic changes are a good idea. 

“Even small updates can go a long way,” advises Alison Farn Leigh, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties. “I worked with a seller on a house in Glenville who was open minded, and it paid off!” she says. “Multiple offers in one weekend on the market and they were able to accept the deal that suited their needs on all levels.” Most of their updates were small: new stainless steel appliances and a stainless steel sink in the kitchen, painting and updating light fixtures throughout the house to those with more modern appeal. “As much as a seller is willing to do to make the house and property move in ready will pay off,” says Leigh. “Buyers are paying high prices for houses that feel updated, renovated and current.”

 Give Your Home a Wow Factor

If your home doesn’t already have it, update one thing to give your home a wow factor when potential buyers walk in. Danback’s recent client had a custom island made for the kitchen with a large piece of statement marble for his $6.7 million listing. “One of the things I think is really important is the first impression,” he says. “Within 20 to 30 seconds you’ve made up your mind and created an impression in your mind [answering the question] “Is this what I want? You are going to support the negative impression or the positive one.” Another wow update might be replacing parquet or herringbone floors in the front hall with large rectangular tiles at least 24 inches long, and putting in new lighting to make the space feel bigger, brighter and more modern. 

Stage It

If your house isn’t too far out of date, stage it, says Danback. It’s another way to support a positive first impression. Put old art and furniture in storage and bring in more contemporary pieces. “Create a visual, a vibe of having a zen moment: clean, crisp, open,” says Swift. 

“Without renovation costs,” with professional staging, adds Danback, “you’ve updated your home immensely.”

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