Have you ever considered putting a funky retro tile in your bathroom? Or, maybe you’ve been wanting to add a farmhouse sink to your kitchen thinking it will make doing the dishes enjoyable. Or, maybe you’ve been dying in the Texas heat and you’ve been dappling with the idea of installing a pool in your backyard?
Each of these upgrades is going to affect the resale value of your home differently. While the pool may provide an immediate value in your quality of life, the return on investment when you go to sell usually doesn’t add up. Even if you’re not planning to sell your home anytime soon, you should consider which home improvement projects will give you the most bang for your buck when you eventually decide to sell your home.
My top tips for prioritizing home upgrades are as follows:
1. If there are any major systems or parts of your home that are in need of repair, you should address these issues first. I know you’ve been fantasizing about wallpapering the powder room with a trendy print, but you should really fix that leaky faucet before you get all fancy. Look at the major home systems and components, things like the HVAC, plumbing, and roof. If there are any known issues, get them fixed now. Not only will buyers pay attention to these items when you eventually sell, but also, if you wait to fix these items they may lead to more costly repairs down the line.
2. If you are ready to invest some money in updates, consider upgrading your kitchen and baths. Spending money in these locations pays off. Both of these home improvement projects usually rank fairly highly on reports of popular home renovations that increase your home’s value. The kitchen remodel usually has a higher ROI, but be careful not to overdue it here. You don’t have to spend and arm and a leg to get the effect you and future buyers are looking for in a kitchen. If you have Formica countertops that have seen better days, consider replacing them with quartz, a natural stone, or even butcher box countertops. I’ve even seen concrete countertops done quite inexpensively, yet they can make a serious WOW factor when paired with a fun backsplash. Consider painting your cabinets instead of replacing them entirely, add a fun backsplash, and replace your hardware to get a new look without breaking the bank.
3. The expenditure with the best payoff when you decide to sell your home is probably something exterior. When you have killer curb appeal, it attracts buyers, and attracting buyers leads to a high sales price. The exterior of the home is like your home’s headshot, and it needs to look amazing! The first photo you usually see of a home online is the exterior, and if it doesn’t look amazing, buyers probably won’t want to come inside. There are a few easy ways to boost your curb appeal without spending a ton of money. You may want to paint the entire facade, or maybe just add a pop of color with a fun front door paint selection. One of my favorite ways to boost curb appeal is by adding sleek address numbers. I find these on amazon for mere dollars! Lastly, consider boosting your landscaping- pretty flowers always make me swoon over a home.
4. Focus on flooring, to maximize your return on investment. Worn out carpet or a combination of four different flooring types on one floor can seriously mess with the vibes of a house. If possible, try to keep the flooring the same throughout the entire main living spaces and choose anything besides carpet! Life happens, you may have pets or enjoy wine, and honestly neither of these things go well with carpet in the long run. In general, buyers prefer something else too. If you’re on a budget, consider replacing your outdated flooring with a laminate or even a vinyl wood look flooring (trust me they have come along way in recent years).
Finally, if you want to make some upgrades to your home, do yourself a favor and think carefully about which ones will enhance your life and pay off in the long run. Getting quotes from multiple contractors to find the most qualified and economical contractor is always a good idea. Ask a friend or contact me for specific recommendations in the Austin area. You may even want to consider DIYing some parts of your remodel. It’s amazing what you can teach yourself to do with the power of youtube at your fingertips. Also, don’t forget to shop around for materials! You can find great deals online, and I’ve found some serious bargains on brand new materials such as flooring and tiles at the Habitat for Humanity RE-Store.
Want more personalized tips on the best upgrades for your Austin area home? Give me a call today, I’ll give you my two cents and I won’t pressure you to sell.
Are you thinking about selling your home? Maybe, you feel like the REALTOR commission fees seem awfully high, and you could save a ton of money by listing your home for sale by owner (FSBO). Possibly, you were ok with paying a listing agent fee, but then you found out the buyer’s agent fee would come out of your home sale proceeds, and that left you scratching your head.
Well, if you really want to sell your home by yourself, i’m going to walk you through all the steps to do it! First, you need to evaluate your home. Is it ready to go on the market? Are there little things that drive you crazy, like peeling paint, or a dead lawn, that you think may turn off buyers too? If so, and you have the resources to fix them, do it. If you were working with a competent real estate agent, he or she may call multiple contractors, provide you with quotes, and advise you on which actions will have the biggest payoff. But, you’re not, so just do whatever is easiest and feels right.
Next, you need to figure out at what price you should list your home for sale. Be careful this is the most difficult part for all FSBOs. If you price too high, you will royally f*** yourself. Your home will sit on the market. Then, you may reduce the price, but buyers will wonder why it's been on the market for so long. Eventually, it may sell, but probably at a lower price than if you had just priced it correctly from the start. So, how do you determine the asking price? You could look at zillow, and realtor.com, and ask Suzie who lived across the street from you how much she sold her home for when she sold it last fall, but this probably isn’t the best method. You need access to the sales data for the most comparable homes in your neighborhood that sold the most recently. In a state like Texas, this info can be hard to find. Since we are a non-disclosure state, you will probably need to enlist a real estate professional at this stage.
First, set up a new email address, something realistic, but something you will only use for this process such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you have the new email set up, contact ten agents and tell them you’re curious what your home is worth. Some of them may just respond with a rough estimate. This is somewhat helpful, but they don’t know anything about the current condition of your home so it's probably not the best estimate. A handful of agents will send you what’s called a CMA. A CMA is a comparative market analysis. This is gold. It will show relevant home sales to base your list price off of. Most of the REALTORS will now start emailing you non-stop to list your home, so this is the part where you will be glad you created a new email. If a ballsy one stops by your house, just tell them you decided to list with someone else. DO NOT tell them that person is yourself, unless you are genuinely considering listing with a REALTOR.
Once, you have some relevant sales, you need to compare your home to the homes listed on the CMAs. Do you have a nicer kitchen than the house four doors down from yours that sold last month? List your home for more than that one. Is your house also half the size? Maybe your home should be listing for less. You really don’t know what you’re doing here, so just google “remodeled kitchen value”, and then determine an asking price that seems right to you.
Ok, now that you have a list price, and your peeling paint is fixed, you can just put a sign in the yard and call it a day! Not so fast; first, you want to make sure your home shows well. You’ve been looking at homes online to possibly move into when you sell, so you know what I am talking about here! Are you “hearting” any of those homes with zero pictures, or clutter all over the countertops? I didn’t think so. You need to make sure your home looks its best so buyers fall in love. If you had hired a listing agent they may have paid for a maid, a stager, and helped you with strategies to de-clutter. But, you didn’t. So, watch ten episodes of Marie Kondo on Netflix, and then decide this spark joy method isn’t really for you. Shove half your belongings into the garage, turn the Roomba on, and call it a day.
Now that your home is show ready, you need amazing photos to showcase it! A real estate agent would pay for amazing professional photos from a pro who specializes in real estate photography. They may even have videography or drone footage done to show buyers how special your home is. But, since you’re on your own, you will need to find these professionals by yourself. Google "real estate photographer" and choose the one that can get out to your home the fastest, or just take some iPhone photos, apply a filter and decide these images are just as a good as any a professional would take.
Ok, now you have a beautiful show ready home, great photos to showcase it, and a listing price. Time to put a sign in the yard. You go to Home Depot, get a sign and a sharpie to write your number across it. You grab the hammer, wonder why its so hard to put a stinking sign in the Texas dirt, and then decide to reward yourself with a cold beer on the porch while you take all of the phone calls that will be pouring in shortly. You finish one, then another, and wonder why no one is calling. Then you remember your home is in the back of the neighborhood and no one really sees the sign besides your neighbors who already know you are selling.
You must re-strategize. You realize that your home must be on the internet! You put it on Zillow, and you wait. Finally, you get a call. It’s an agent who may have a buyer that’s interested. She wants to stop by and take a look. She comes over, looks around, says the home isn’t for her buyer, but asks if you would like to list with her instead.
After 15 or so of these, you finally get a real buyer who comes to look at your home. You leave work early, rush home, and open the door for them. They think they can afford your home, but they haven’t talked to a lender so they don’t really know. If you were working with a REALTOR, they would vet potential buyers before they came to your home. You wouldn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of all of these phone calls and physically being at the home to show it to buyers, but you are not. So, you stress out, and your work and personal life suffers.
After the fiftieth real estate agent calls you to list your home, you finally cave. You are sick of wasting your time and energy trying to sell your home by yourself, and you realize that the fees may be worth it. The real estate agent tells you about all sorts of disclosures you didn’t even know you needed. She explains that while your attempts at marketing were ok, that in order to really market your home you needed to do a lot more. Lastly, she explains that in 2017, only 7% of homes were sold FSBO, and those that did sell for sale by owner sold for about $66,000 less than those sold with a real estate agent. She shows you how she will do the hard work for you, marketing the home, following up with buyers after showings, making sure buyers are qualified before seeing your home, and most importantly, that she is here to protect your best interests throughout the entire process. She is going to make sure you understand all the forms, are kept in the loop with all activities related to the home sale, and she is going to walk you through the pros and cons of every offer you receive. This way, you can make an informed decision on the best offer to accept when you sell your home, and you can get back to doing what you are good at.
Erika Rae Albert
Sharing my Austin real estate updates, home owner tips, & more.