Okay, so you're planning to move. And you hope for a big return on your biggest investment. While we'd normally suggest spring as the optimum time to sell, we're feeling very 'on board the current market' having just shifted (with no fuss whatsoever) a property in the UK. Sometimes, we suppose, it's less about season and more about reason. And, if you've a good reason to be popping a sale board out front, it'll do you no harm to consider 'optimization'.
Come on: why shouldn’t you squeeze every last cent of potential from your des' res'? You’ve lavished it with sweat and tears and if someone else wants it, damn it, then they’re gonna have to pay for it. Right? But it’s not always that simple. Just because Canadian real estate hasn’t been undermined in the same way as other parts of North America, it doesn’t mean you can sit back and max out for minimum effort.
OK, so even the trickiest properties will eventually sell, but it’s the margin between optimum sales price and achieved sales price that interests us. While other commentators will “evaluate” that which each change might effect, we prefer to be a little more cautious. While paint is obviously a wonderfully freshening medium, to suggest that a $1,000 investment in latex and satin will tempt a $6,000 return is unrealistic. As is to promise that $5,000 spent on a new kitchen will attract a 500 per cent return. As far as we’re concerned, “counsel” such as this is misleading. The work required to effect a rapid sale in one property can be entirely different to that which is needed next door, which means that maxing up is not an exacting science.
In a nutshell, achieving top dollar isn’t always about whole new kitchens and bathrooms. This in mind, we’ve put together a hit list: some jobs involve a little work, others require no tools whatsoever. We like to think that, with correct planning, even the trickiest homes can become eminently more valuable, or at least saleable. Here’s a roundup of simple ideas that should get you moving. Literally.
• If your kitchen is old and dated, at least make sure it’s a clean old and dated kitchen. Buyers (whether you like it or not) will make decisions about the rest of your home based on what they see here, so reach for that cloth, God damn it, and go wild. Deep clean your fridge and freezer and don’t forget the oven; most folk will have a peek inside. It’s human nature.
• Remove fridge fancies; these magnetic menaces clutter eye lines. We’re not saying ditch them forever - just stash ’em out of sight when potential buyers are near.
• Get rid of soiled carpets. OK, so this job may involve spend, but it’s worth it. Kitchen Berbers (along with bathroom carpets, Satan’s own floor coverings) are harbingers of grease and bodily ooze and should be discarded with vigour. Roll out the lino or polish floorboards for a buyer friendly look.
• We’ve viewed and spewed over kitchens housing caged rats, gerbils and ferrets and, as fervid animal lovers, even we were freaked out. If you don’t mind mixing your rabbit stew with rabbit droppings then that’s your business, but buyers (we guarantee) will get the yucky poo particle panicking willies.
• Update cabinets (without the expense of a complete refit) by taking doors to the auto spray shop. Alternatively, for those with ample DIY skills, try a foam roller and satinwood paint. But be realistic; if your kitchen is so bad that buyers will almost certainly rip it out when they move in, don’t bother; revert to our previous tip — simply clean everything to create a better impression.
• If tiling is needy, it could make sense to start afresh. However, if your budget doesn’t allow it, consider new grouting or painting with quality tile paint. But remember: a few light coats are better than one sloppy dippy gloomy house of wax application.
• If planning new appliances for your next house, buy them ahead of time and “dress” into your current kitchen; their sparkle will help appeal, though you must make it clear they’re not be included in the deal.
• Pay attention to detail — the addition of chrome light switches or new taps may help distract from other issues.
Fact: bathrooms are zones within which many buyers make decisions. Consequently, if yours is in poor condition, you may be battled down in price. Just like kitchens, these rooms are sold “fully furnished,” so lather up to load up on extra dollars.
• Soap scum, lime scale and mildew are abject turn offs (particular areas of concern are shower curtains, bath sealant and plug holes) so, without further ado, get scrubbing. Nobody dreams of buying somebody else's ooze or slime. Fact.
• Keep personal items like diarrhea tablets, hemorrhoid treatments or athlete foot powders behind closed doors. Would you want to buy into a bathroom that smacked of the trots, piles and toe rot? Thought not. You wanna sell a happy home, not the prospect of a sick house.
• A co-ordinated look will suffuse your smallest space with style. Towels and shower curtains can be tailored to match floor rugs, while big jars of bath oil and delicious soaps will set an altogether gorgeous tone.
• Minimize clutter to make way for an attractive vase or statement object. Creating focal points is just as important in here as it is in any other room.
• Viewings should never take place when washing is draped over your radiators. Knickers and bras will distract buyers, who’ll spend more time looking at your smalls than eying up your home’s potential.
• Edit over-stuffed rooms to allow ample circulation; weed out that which you don’t need so your space breathes better.
• Remove all traces of cigarettes, including brimming ashtrays. Keep rooms properly aired rather than trying to disguise smoky smells with equally pungent artificial air fresheners. That dodgy 'olfactory hell in a tin' is SOOOOO unforgiving and may even suggest that you're trying to hide something...
• Surprising as it may seem, buyers are often more inclined to look at your furniture — and its condition — than the room within which it sits. Consequently, an old fashioned sofa will make your space feel similarly dated. Maybe now is as good a time as any to consider an Ikea run. And besides, new selections (just like kitchen appliances) can be taken to your next home.
• Dirt, here, is a no no. Imagine your potential buyer as a one-night stand, lured back to the boudoir for some hot action. Are worn, grubby sheets likely to elicit a romantic feel? In the selling situation, your home should seduce, so dash into Homesense and bag some new bedding to brush up on seduction techniques.
• We prefer doors to open against the wall so they don’t restrict sightlines upon entering. As such, wielding your screwdriver — and changing the location of hinges — will make your square footage appear larger. Every little helps, right?
• Successful storage is like a balancing act; too much and there’ll be no room to live, too little and you’ll soon breed clutter issues. We advise weeding out closets and dispensing with boxes and bags that scar the scene. And here’s more good news; packing up now — or donating to charity — will make life easier at the other end.
Hallway Quick Fixes
• Hallways are a natural dumping ground for newspapers, boxes and bicycles, but this detritus should be removed immediately before viewings commence. Do we really have to explain that you only get one chance to make a first impression?
• With the addition of a chair, if space permits, and a floor lamp, your hall will feel more like valuable living space rather than simply a passageway to other rooms.
• If you’ve space for a console, get cracking. Flanked either side with lamps — and dressed above with an attractive mirror — your entranceway will come to life as light bounces around. Even a simple floating shelf from Ikea, dressed with interesting accessories, may be enough to give proceedings a lift.
Never underestimate the importance of curb appeal. When we conducted a survey for one of our British TV shows, a whopping 22 per cent of 200 potential buyers said they’d drive by without stopping if the exterior of the prospect house looked neglected.
• Don’t clutter the landscape; too many pergolas, gnomes, bridges and fountains may transform your sad lawn into Disneyland … but the practise may render it niche market.
• Keep bins stored out of sight and ensure your approach is immaculate at all times.
• Mow grass, tend flower beds and keep windows, gates and doors clean and freshly painted.
Finally, before booking your first appointment, brush your hair. While filming the aforementioned show, and dealing with a property that our realtor suggested was “stubborn,” we eventually realized that the problem was not the house, but its owner. Beset with, ahem, certain hygiene issues and looking for all the world like one of The Beverley Hillbillies, our chap made initially interested parties wince as he answered the door. Pigpen didn't have a look in with our chap. So we groomed him, tweezed him, plucked him and squeezed him... into an eminently sharper vision. And thereafter he created a better impression...
Obviously you, dear readers, are eminently more fastidious than our tricky punter, but it’s a scenario that’s worth thinking about, n’est pas? A little auspicious “theatricality” could well prove vital. So go on; have a final whiz round with the Dyson, reach for your glamorous garb, cue the classical music and prepare for those competitive offers.
Now if only everything in life were that simple.