Tips that may make your house sell faster and for money

ABC News recently aired a story in its “Real Money” segment designed to give home sellers tips on how to sell their houses faster and for more money. The focus was on a house in Atlanta priced at $170,000 that had lingered on the market for four months without a bite. Two HGTV experts were brought in to figure out why the house hadn’t sold. Like a lot of houses that don’t sell quickly, there were reasons. Generally, when houses don’t sell with a couple of months, it’s because the house is priced too high for the location and/or the condition. In the case of the Atlanta house, the two HGTV brothers identified some common problems.

Here’s a link to the ABC clip, but, if you don’t want to go the extra click, I’ll paraphrase the tips – and add some of my own that are most relevant to the local Indianapolis-area real estate market: One. Remove the clutter. Clutter kills. When homebuyers see clutter, three things happen (this is my account, not from the news segment, which wasn’t quite as blunt):

  • They think you’re a bad housekeeper, and therefore, didn’t take care of the house, therefore the house isn’t in tip-top shape.
  • They get so distracted with all your stuff, they don’t see the benefits of your house.
  • They think your house is too small, afterall, you have stuff crammed in every cabinet and closet.

Please clear the clutter, fold and stack your towels neatly in the linen closet, get rid of stuff you don’t need. Stop stocking up on the 84 rolls of toilet paper at Costco, and show off the space. Open ever closet and drawer (buyers will), to make sure everything is neat and tidy. Buyers will marvel at your ability to be organized and will instantly feel more positive about the house.

Two. Don’t under-estimate the value of paint. A gallon of paint goes a long way to make a house feel updated and clean.

Here’s what I hear a lot from home sellers, who don’t want to paint: “Isn’t it best to let the new owners decide what color of paint?”

No, it’s not. That’s because you’re going to paint the walls a nice neutral color in tan (not yellow or pink tones) or gray (not purple tones), which match just about anything.

Here’s what I hear after someone agrees to paint a room where the paint was old, faded and ridden with nail holes from a decade’s worth of posters and pictures: “This looks like a totally different room, I wish I would have done this years ago.”

When your house is fresh, updated and clean, you’re more likely to get a higher offer quicker.

Three. Update fixtures, faucets and hardware. If you have brass faucets and fixtures, or those old-school, Hollywoodesque strip lights over your bathroom vanity, they really need to be updated. Change burned out light bulbs, too. While you’re at it, if you have brass hardware, or no hardware on your kitchen cabinets, consider an update there, too. Not sure which ones to choose? I am always happy to help make the right selections.

The two real estate brothers on HGTV recommended painting the kitchen cabinets, saying you can add thousands to the price of your house. I do not agree. In fact, most times, I’d rather you not paint your kitchen cabinets, unless they are so hideous not even new hardware will improve them. I do agree that you need to focus your energy on the kitchen, but that often doesn’t mean new cabinets. I recently listed and sold a house where the kitchen had basic, builder-grade cabinets. The sellers decided to add a simple glass tile backsplash they picked up on sale at a local hardware store. For less than $50, it changed the whole look of the kitchen. That’s a much better solution than trying to paint cabinets, which is tricky and time consuming.

The photo on the left is the kitchen in 2009. The photo on the right is of the kitchen in 2014, when it sold for $21,000 more than what they bought it for, which isn't bad for a $143,000 house. The owners also updated flooring (see next tip) and replaced dated white appliances for black ones, and we did some staging.

Galloway plain kitchen
Galloway plain kitchen
Galloway updated kitchen
Galloway updated kitchen

Four. Light up a room with brighter lights. You may want to conserve energy and use lower wattage bulbs, but when you’re selling your house, you want everything to look light and bright, so use higher wattage bulb (as high as recommended), and keep lamps and overhead lights on during showings. At the same time, throw up the blinds and curtains to let in as much light as possible. Your house will look brighter, fresher and cleaner (assuming you’ve rid it of clutter).

Five. Update floors and/or countertops. If there’s one big investment that may help you get more money for your house, go with new floors and countertops. The type of flooring and countertops will depend on the style of your house and your price range. Not all countertops need to be granite, and not all floors need to be real hardwood or tile. There are great laminates on the market that may suit your home style and budget just fine, while still generating a greater return on the investment.

Back in Atlanta, after the homeowners made the recommended updates, the house not only sold for higher than list price, but they got multiple offers.