HomeSavvi: Top 10 Improvements To Help Sell Your House

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Planning to sell your home in 2011? As everyone knows, the real estate market is more competitive now than ever, and making the right home improvements will help you sell faster, and at a better price.  So, which improvements should you focus on? HomeSavvi interviewed several real estate and remodeling experts to bring you this important list.

Start from the outside and work in

A prospective buyer starts by looking at the outside of the house. You’ve heard the term “curb appeal”, so let’s get really specific about it. Bob Edwardsen, 30 year real estate veteran with Windermere Real Estate, states “I’ve had buyers decide not to even view the home at all based on a poorly maintained exterior. They simply say “keep driving” and we move on to the next house.”

What exactly does that mean? According to Edwardsen, “First impressions are everything. The general condition of the exterior of the house which includes fresh paint, an attractive front door, walkways in good repair, and well maintained yard, all make the first impression.”

So what are the most important items for strong curb appeal?

1.    Your front door and entryway. Edwardsen suggests,  “Add potted plants, install a bright porch light in an attractive fixture, and ensure the doorbell or knocker works. Paint or stain the door if needed. If the walkway or steps are cracked, broken or otherwise in bad shape, get them fixed.”

2.    Roof and siding. On roofing and siding, Edwardsen says, “Don’t forget to clean the roof and gutters of debris. If your roof is old, get it inspected and repaired or replaced; otherwise you can expect to reduce the price of the home by the price of a new roof.”

Chuck Reiling, broker and owner at Veritus Realty located on Mercer Island, agrees, “When roofing or siding obviously needs replacement, the buyer will typically lower their offer because of it, and then expect you to fix it anyway after inspection. And, the lender may require it too.  Why pay for it twice?”

3.    Garage door. Often overlooked, the garage door actually is one improvement that will return more money than you spend on it. If yours is not working properly, or beat up from years of use, a new garage door is a must.

4.    Landscaping. You don’t need to hire an expensive landscape designer to install a waterfall and pool. You DO need to ensure that your yard looks neat and well maintained. “Mow the lawn, water the plants, prune the trees and add fresh mulch or bark. If you have trees or shrubs that have grown up around the windows, cut them back to add more light,” says Edwardsen.

5.    Windows. Depending upon the type you have, windows can cost anywhere from $500 per window to $1,500 or more per window, installed.  Broken windows are an immediate deal killer and must be replaced before trying to sell a home. 

What about replacing older, single pane windows? “Buyers in Puget Sound are often environmentally sensitive, so energy efficient windows are very desirable vs. single pane older windows. If you plan on moving 5 years from now, put in the windows now so you can enjoy the warmth and benefit yourself,” advises Edwardsen.

Ok, the exterior is in great shape, and you’ve got the buyer into the house. Now what?

6 and 7.
According to Reiling, the kitchen and bathrooms are the most important.   “The most prominent dis-satisfiers inside the house are unattractive or disgusting kitchen and bath situations – cracked and discolored tile and grout, cracked or curled floors, and mold-stained seams and caulking. 

“If your house has a good floor plan and good setting – but the kitchen or bathrooms, are badly outdated, especially the master bath, then it may be worthwhile to do a remodel of both, ” says Reiling. “The cost can be modest, and the buyer rejection or low-balling they prevent is worth far more than the cost,” he adds. 

We asked Craig Haveson, owner of STS Remodeling in Seattle what he suggests for kitchen or bath remodeling before a sale. “In either room, a new countertop, flooring and fresh paint will do wonders. If you do just that, you’ve improved every surface in the room without spending a bundle.” 

8. Don’t forget the floors! If you have hardwood floors in good shape, a quick refinishing may be all you need. If you have peeling linoleum, or cracked tile, plan to replace it before selling, or plan to reduce the price of the house by the amount it will cost to get that done.

9. Where does a fresh coat of paint fit in?

According to Reiling, “Paint is cheap and does wonders for helping create a consistent look and feel to the house. Attractive means no weird colors, inside or out”   Haveson agrees, “Fresh paint is what is most important. Color makes less of a difference.” Edwardsen suggests, “Because of our many cloudy days, choose lighter colors which reflect light better.”

The hidden stuff

10. Finally, what about the non-cosmetic items such as water heaters, insulation, and plumbing? “Old infrastructure items such as water heaters, furnaces and plumbing systems can be a deterrent to a sale. Get your furnace serviced and hang an inspection sticker on it,” says Edwardson. 

Final advice from the professionals?

Realistically assess the time horizon you’ll stay in the house, and make appropriate changes to fit your budget, lifestyle and selling objectives.

“Don’t assume that the house in “as is” condition will be acceptable to buyers – and that the buyer won’t mind making the improvements. There is less tolerance in the market for product deficiencies,” says Edwardsen.

Haveson advises, “In today’s environment, you should renovate either to enjoy the way you live in the house more, or to repair obvious defects that will hinder a home sale. The days of renovating a house to sell it for more than the cost of the improvements are over.”

Finally, says Reiling, “If you are thinking ahead about selling in a few years, why not do the remodel now and enjoy it?  One of the most common comments we get from sellers who have recently remodeled to get ready for the sale is “I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner.  Now we almost don’t want to leave.”   Do yourself a favor, and do it now.”


  1. This is a great list. Very complete. If you don't have hardwood, what do you think about updating with laminate?


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