A few weeks ago I wrote about deciding to sell my home and move. After that decision is made, all the decisions involved with getting your home ready to sell becomes a huge challenge involving decisions that can keep you up at night. Then there are easier decisions that cost very little but require attention to detail to keep your house looking it’s best. In this article we look at how to make these decisions and I illustrate how to make these decisions by looking at my own home.
Getting your home ready to sell: the decision process
What should you fix? What should you spruce up? Should you add anything new? Deciding what your priorities are to get your home ready to sell is a cost/ benefit analysis.
First, we look at how much money you will have to spend on a given project then we look at the amount of your time it will take you to make these improvements. The money and work you have to put into a project together make up what we will call the costs.
Next, you have to consider how much the project improves your home. Can you get more money from your house with this improvement? Would it be hard to get someone to buy your house without making this fix/improvement? How much easier it will be to sell your home or how much more your house could be sold for is what we will call the benefit.
Now compare the costs to the benefits. If the benefits outweigh the costs, then you should go ahead with the project. If the project will take a whole lot of time or money without a significant improvement to the value of your home then now is not the time to be a perfectionist, just let it go. Your home doesn’t have to be perfect, pretty good is normally good enough.
OK, so the benefits must outweigh the costs. Simple enough. To illustrate how this decision process works lets look at my home as I get ready to sell it and I will explain all the decisions I make by considering the costs and expenses.
The importance of a first impression is difficult to exaggerate so the first thing we want to look at is what the front of your home looks like to potential buyers, and do everything you can reasonably do to make your home look it’s best. Let’s take a look at my home and the decisions I made about curb appeal.
As you can see, my garage doors are pretty beat up. Because this is one of the first things a potential buyer will see, old beat up garage doors will ruin the first impression.
Costs: High. I don’t have the skill necessary to replace these myself so I got several quotes to replace them. All of the people I spoke too told me they could do it for $1,200. The cost is pretty high, but at least it won’t take any of my time since I am having somebody else do the work.
Benefits: High. Not only will this be a big boost to my curb appeal, but the garage doors are so beat up they sometimes don’t go up and down correctly. A house might be hard to sell with garage doors that don’t always work right.
Decision: Yes, I will be replacing the garage doors, because the benefit to my home’s curb appeal outweigh even the significant cash cost.
The drive way is several large cracks in it and has also settled to the point there is a 2 inch bump when a car drives into the garage.
Costs: High. I could pay somebody about $2,000 to fix this. I could also do it myself. Doing it myself would mean renting a jackhammer and spending a day tearing up the drive way, then buying cement and pouring it myself. Not only would the costs be high, but that is a large time investment I think would be better spent somewhere else.
Benefits: Medium. This isn’t near as big a deal as the garage doors, but the curb appeal would be helped somewhat.
Decision: No. I don’t know that the improvement to my home’s appearance is big enough to justify the cost so I am going to skip fixing the driveway.
The basketball backboard in my driveway is cracked.
Costs: Low. I’m sure I could replace this for less than $200 and an hour of my time.
Benefits: Low. Sure people might notice, but this is kind of a minor detail.
Decision: Low priority. I might get around to replacing the backboard, but I am going to do all the other projects both inside and outside first.
I know there are some people that take an endless amount of pride in having a great looking yard, but my feelings towards yard work are best summed up by this Marshawn Lynch meme:
OK, so I don’t pay as much attention to my lawn as I usually do. For the next few weeks I am changing my ways. My lawn is going to be the most frequently mowed lawn on my street. I am going to trim each and every time I mow. I will also go pick up a bottle of weed killer and see if I can’t kill my impressive collection of dandelions.
Costs: Medium. All that mowing, trimming, and weeding is going to take a lot of time. Luckily, it won’t take much money. Weed killer will be less than $20 and I won’t spend any money on lawnmower gas since I use a reel mower.
Benefit: High. My home will seem a lot nicer if I don’t have a front yard that looks trashy.
Decision: Yes, I definitely need to keep my front yard looking it’s nicest.
The paint isn’t in horrible shape, but it is a little faded. Maybe I should add a coat of paint to make things look nicer?
Costs: High. The point will cost less than a $1,000, but painting my whole home will take a lot of time. I am guessing it would take up several weekends, and I want to get my house on the market within 2 weeks.
Benefits: Medium. A new coat of paint would make my home look somewhat nicer, but as I said it really isn’t THAT bad.
Decision: No. At least not yet. If my house doesn’t sell for a while I will rethink this decision. Maybe I will tell potential buyers I will give them a $1,000 painting allowance so they can choose their own color.
Other curb appeal details
Now let’s take a wider look at my home and see if there are any other improvements that could be made. Hmmm.. the rock garden below my front window looks a little bare doesn’t it? I’ll grab a planter of of Craigslist and put a nice bush or something in it to make things look nicer.
Costs: Low. I can pick up a planter, some soil, and a plant for less than $50.
Benefits: Medium. It will make things look a little nicer I think.
The backyard may not be as important as the front since it doesn’t affect curb appeal, but potential buyers will get around there eventually. Let’s take a look
Replacing deck boards
In the picture above you can see that the top boards of my deck railing have started to rot away. Luckily, the rest of the deck seems pretty solid.
Costs: Medium. A few boards and some stain is all the money it will cost me. I plan on this taking me the better part of a Saturday to replace so that is quite a time investment.
Benefits: High. Rotting boards on the railing will make the whole deck look junky, so replacing those boards will make the deck look much nicer.
Decision: Yes. Looks like I know what I will be doing on Saturday.
Staining the deck
You can see in this picture that the stain on the deck boards is quite faded.
Costs: Low. Stain won’t cost that much and I should be able to get this redone with a few hours of work.
Benefits: High. The deck will look much nicer with a fresh stain.
Decision: Yes. Since I am replacing the railing boards, this is an easy decision. Since I am going to have to stain the railing boards I might as well re-stain the whole deck.
My back lawn is in really bad shape. Rock gardens in both corners of my lawn had become overgrown with weeds and I spent a good part of the winter, getting all those weeds pulled. Now I have two huge bare patches in my back yard. To make matters worse I am horrible at growing grass. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t grow grass. So, I have a few choices here. I could pay somebody to put in sod and get fairly nice looking back lawn immediately, or I could try to plant grass myself.
Costs- Sod: High. Looks like it will cost about $2,000 to sod the bare spots in my back lawn.
Benefits- Sod: Medium. Sure my back lawn will look nice, but I don’t think that will add $2,000 to the value of my home.
Costs- Planting grass myself: Medium. Grass seed and fertilizer doesn’t cost much. I will need to get a tiller because this area is far to large to rake and there are still way too many weeds to pull. There is also a pretty good time commitment to till, plant, and then water twice a day for several weeks.
Benefits- Planting grass myself: Low. I have never had any luck planting grass so no matter how much work I put into it the grass will be very patchy and look generally lousy.
Decision: Ugg. I’m going to plant the grass myself. It’s going to be a lot of work, and still look lousy, but I guess it is better than doing nothing. I know this will be the major weak spot in my home’s appearance and that is upsetting. But, I can’t afford to have everything be perfect so I will have to hope the rest of the house looks nice enough that people can overlook the back lawn.
The ABC’s complete guide to moving
This article is one of a series of articles about all the decisions involved in moving, selling a house, and buying a new one. The ABC’s complete guide to real estate and moving can be found here.