Let me tell you about one of the more uncomfortable Realtor/Client conversations that has to take place from time to time.
I receive a call from someone who wants to sell their home. The house was built in the 60’s or 70’s and the person on the phone has lived there for many years. I know the neighbourhood. It’s lovely. Large mature trees, well tended yards. It’s the perfect place for a young family. I proceed to visit the client to discuss listing the home. I knock on the door, am invited in … and ….
It’s 1985! Or 1975. Old wallpaper, old kitchen cabinets, old lighting, old carpet, wood paneling, lots of knick knacks …. the works. It’s clean but cluttered and kind of reminiscent of home decor from my childhood. Very Brady Bunch.
This is where the uncomfortable conversation kicks in. I gently tell the client that their home is dated and unfortunately, dated is costly.
It’s funny how we adapt our personal style. We change our hair and our fashion but when it comes to our home we often get comfortable. Too comfortable perhaps. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with any style you enjoy living with, but if you’re planning to sell your home, a more modern looking home will sell more quickly and for far more money than a home that is really dated. When a buyer moves in to your home it may very well end up looking dated again, but when they’re shopping they’re looking for the modern picture they see in the decorating magazines. It’s easy to feel insulted at the thought that people will be turning up their noses at the home you’ve lived in and loved for years, but shopping for a home is like dating. You’re more likely to want to date the person who takes good care of themself.
The thing is, personal fashion is easy to change. New clothes, new hairstyle. It’s not terribly expensive and we can make changes easily, day by day. Updating a home is a much bigger job but it can be done on a budget. If you’re thinking of selling your home sometime in the not-too-distant future and you fear it may fall into the dated category, here’s an exercise I have people do.
Starting this weekend, look for open houses in neighbourhoods that are approximately the same age as your neighbourhood. The reason I suggest this is that you’ll see what people have done with the architecture of the era. Make a plan to go and see a few houses. Target homes that are the same size or type as yours (bungalow, backsplit, 2-storey). Go in to the open house with and open mind. Go as a shopper. Take a feature sheet and take a really close and critical look. When you return to your car, flip over the feature sheet and make some notes. Make two columns, one for what you liked, what updates they made, one for what you didn’t like. What would prevent you from buying the house — or, if you liked the house anyway, how much would you take off the asking price to make up for the negatives. Do this for a few houses, then head back to your home.
Now, before you go into your home, think about the homes you saw, what you liked, what you didn’t like. Review your notes then go into your home with the same mindset you had on your open house journey. Be the shopper. You may see things from a new perspective. You may suddenly feel overwhelmed by the amount of work and the cost of the work you suddenly want to do to your home. Relax, there are many updates you can do that don’t cost a lot of money.
Paint is the quickest and most inexpensive thing you can do to update your home. If you’re painting with the thought of selling your home, choose neutral, light colours. I know that the really strong accent wall colours can be very beautiful, but keep in mind that you want your home to appeal to a wide variety of people. Oh, and just say no to sponge painting and faux finishes. (Ugh, I remember sponge painting a wall once — and loving it! Hey, it was the 80’s!) Remember, styles change. If you love sponge painted walls it could come back, but for now, let it go!
Wallpaper has made a comeback in recent years, but old, faded, peeling, yellowed wallpaper is never a good thing. I know that when I see wallpaper all I can think of is how much work it is to remove the wallpaper. In the grand scheme of things outdated wallpaper is not really a huge deal, but it can cost you thousands when a buyer is making an offer.
The furniture in a house can really date the setting. The good news is that you don’t really have to discard your furniture. If you really like it and it’s your personal style, no problem, but be prepared for your Realtor to suggest having a home stager swap out the furniture during the selling process.
Old, outdated light fixtures are unappealing on two levels. First, from an aesthetic perspective they can really stand out as being old and worn, which leads a buyer to ask themselves, “what else in the house is old and not in good repair”. Second, a new light fixture that gives off lots of light makes a room appear bigger and brighter. There are some older fixtures that are truly beautiful. Just make sure they are clean and dust-free. Let them shine!
This is a more expensive fix, but if you have time you can wait for sales at home reno stores. While hardwood, ceramic tile and high-end carpet are desirable, there are amazing, high quality laminates, vinyls and tiles that can give a similar look at a fraction of the price. Clean carpet is fine but if the carpet is old, worn, stained, or even a very strong colour, expect a buyer to ask for a significant reduction in price to offset what they consider to be a costly expense.
Kitchens and Bathrooms
It’s true what they say, kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. A kitchen renovation or bathroom update can be very expensive and time consuming exercises, but there are some more budget-friendly ways to do an update which will help in the selling process. Check out professional cabinet painters. I’ve done full cabinet renovations in two kitchens using refinishers. Check out the photos. I kept the original cabinets and had them professionally refinished. They even refinished the old table and chairs I was going to sell in a yard sale. The results were amazing! For bathrooms look for sales at big box retailers or even consider shopping for fixtures at resale outlets like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
The other thing I want to mention is that there are some fixes that are more worth doing than others. Rather than just throwing money at your house, ask your Realtor. We are happy to come and take a look at your home and give you advice as to where your money is best spent. Even if you’re not planning to move for a while, give me a call. I can come by and help you make a plan. Reach out anytime by phone, email or social media. The best place to find all of my contact information is at www.sharoncaddy.com
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