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The process of selling a house can be stressful under the best of circumstances. But when you have a property that is a little rough around the edges — and you need to unload it fast — you might be feeling especially anxious.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to invest a lot of time and money into the sale of the house to both sell it quickly and get a fair offer.
“We’ve learned that in order to sell a fix-and-flip property fast, the key is to find the balance between doing too much — spending excessive money or time that we won’t get a return on — and still making the house attractive enough in order to sell fast,” says Richard Latimer, the owner of a home buying business in Huntsville, Alabama, where he helps people improve and sell unwanted or neglected properties.
Here are 10 expert tips that will help you put your home’s best foot forward — and get you on your way to a fast, fair closing.
1. Create a clean canvas
According to Eva Cedillo, an agent in San Joaquin County, California, a deep clean is by far the most important step in fast-tracking a fixer-upper sale. After all, nobody wants to walk into their future home and be greeted by clutter and grime. “Ninety percent of the time, the buyer is going to do a full rehab anyway, so they’re just looking for a clean slate.”
When going after the grime, focus on these key areas:
- Get rid of clutter: Go through every room in the house (including the attic, basement, and garage) and purge all unwanted items. Trash should be thrown away while anything that’s in good, usable condition can be donated or sold. If it’s making the move with you, pack it up in boxes and store them neatly in the basement or garage where they won’t be in the way.
- Depersonalize: As you work through the clutter, don’t forget to remove wall decorations and family photos. This will allow buyers to better envision themselves in the home.
- Follow the top to bottom, left to right rule: By methodically working your way through each room in the house, you’ll be less likely to miss anything. Start at the top by tackling corner cobwebs and light fixtures and work your way down to the floors. Don’t forget to scrub the walls and baseboards!
- Wash the windows: Don’t let dirt and window smudges interfere with the brightness of the house. Make sure each window shines by cleaning the inside and outside of each with a streak-free cleaner.
- Attack mold and mildew: Use household bleach or a specialized bathroom cleaner to remove mold and mildew from grout and tile in and around the shower area.
- Shampoo carpets: If there are stains or pet odors, rent a carpet shampooer to clean them up as much as possible.
2. Knock out the low-hanging repairs
Even if you’re selling the home as a fixer-upper, there are still some easy, inexpensive repairs you can (and should) make prior to putting your house on the market. The goal here is to make sure the house will be safe and comfortable for the new owners so they can live in the home immediately if they choose to.
Here are some key areas to look at:
- Freshen up the walls by removing old wallpaper, patching holes, and giving each room a fresh coat of paint. If you don’t have the time or money to do the entire house, focus on the kitchen and bathrooms, as buyers will put a lot of their emphasis on the condition of these rooms. Some of the most popular fixer-upper paint colors include Sherwin Williams Alabaster, Benjamin Moore Pale Oak, SW Repose Gray, Valspar Honeymilk, and SW Accessible Beige.
- Install higher wattage light bulbs to brighten up each room and make the home feel more inviting.
- Swap outdated switch plates and outlet covers. Wall plates are easy to install and typically very affordable.
- Replace old or leaky faucets in the kitchen and bathroom. (While you’re in the bathroom, don’t discount the difference a new toilet seat can make too.)
- Remove damaged shades and blinds. The goal is to remove any visual negatives. You can replace the blinds with low-end fixtures or use affordable curtains.
- Patch active roof leaks and then prime and paint any areas where water damage is visible.
Lastly, if you have wood floors hiding underneath grungy, wall-to-wall carpeting, consider ripping it up and refinishing the floors so they look shiny and new. Even if the house isn’t in perfect condition, the combination of fresh paint and gleaming floors will make a big impression.
3. Disclose any potential ‘deal-killers’
If you have a fixer-upper on your hands, then you’re fully aware that it needs some work. The question then becomes, “how much work does it need?”
The best way to answer this question, and put prospective buyers’ worries at ease, is to order a pre-listing home inspection. This will ensure you know exactly what you’re dealing with and prevent you from being faced with surprises when the buyer’s inspection uncovers potential pitfalls down the road.
“A pre-inspection report negates the ability for potential buyers to haggle over non-functional systems or degraded house parts that they see,” says seasoned real estate investor Andy Kolodgie. “We’ve also found that pre-inspection reports actually create a more competitive environment for bidding, as all sides understand exactly what is available.”
- A faulty HVAC system
- Electrical problems
- Plumbing issues
- A damaged or old roof
- Structural/foundation issues
- Insect/pest infestations
- Water damage
4. Boost the home’s curb appeal
When it comes to homebuyer “must haves,” outdoor space ranks high on the list. The condition of the yard can also make or break a prospective buyer’s first impression of the house before they even step through the front door.
For these reasons, it’s important to give your yard just as much attention as you do to the inside of your home before it hits the market.
Here are a few easy and inexpensive ways to improve your home’s curb appeal:
- Clean up the yard to remove any debris, old toys, or trash
- Trim trees and shrubs
- Cut the grass
- Weed garden beds and put down fresh mulch
- Plant flowers around the home’s entrance for a welcoming pop of color
- Clean the roof and gutters
- Have the house, deck, walkways, and driveway power washed
- Swap out an old, rusty mailbox and give the wooden post a fresh coat of paint
Just like you did on the inside of your home, take the time to declutter and depersonalize the outside space, as well. Even if they’re in good shape, for example, things like toys, garbage cans, and yard ornaments should be tucked away during house showings.
5. Partner with a fixer-upper friendly real estate agent
A great real estate agent is a valuable tool for any seller, but particularly for a seller looking to quickly unload a fixer-upper on a tight timeline. In many cases, they’ll have a network of investors they can reach out to about your property listing. They’ll also know how to spot an investor or wholesaler who may be trying to take advantage of your desire to sell quickly.
An experienced real estate agent is also better equipped to:
- Help you calculate how much the required repairs will cost
- Set a realistic price that reflects the work that is required while still meeting your financial needs
- Recommend when it makes sense to list at market value and offer a credit
- Potentially assist with the cost of basic repairs (Cedillo says she usually fronts the money for paint and carpet before listing a fixer-upper)
- Target a network of investors and house flippers who are seeking properties to renovate
- Shift the emphasis away from the property’s flaws and highlight its selling points
6. Set a fair and realistic price
Although you undoubtedly want to sell your house for the highest price possible, it’s important to be realistic when considering two important factors: the condition of the property and your desire to sell quickly. You can (and should) look at the recent selling prices of similarly-sized homes in your neighborhood for comparison. But, you’ll need to consider the estimated cost of repairs the new owners will need to put into the house and factor that into the sales price.
Here are a few ways to get at the right amount:
A pre-listing inspection
Ordering a pre-listing inspection can be a very helpful part of this process, as it will provide a rundown of any and all repairs in the house. Keep in mind, however, that the inspection report will only account for issues that impact the integrity of the home, such as its roof, heating system, and electrical work. It won’t account for needed renovations such as an outdated kitchen or bathroom.
“Looking at comps to price a fixer-upper can be beneficial to help you figure out what price you should be under,” Kolodgie explains. “In faster-paced markets, starting with the comps and reducing the price by 110%-120% of the repair cost will typically lead to eager home buyers.”
Determine the home’s after-repair value
If you’re planning on selling to an investor, something you’ll want to consider is the home’s after-repair value (ARV), which is what the property would fetch on the open market after any necessary repairs and updates have been made. Most flippers prefer to keep their total investment at 70% of the ARV or less, which will ensure that they still earn a healthy profit after deducting any commissions, closing costs, and capital gains taxes.
65-85% of the ARV – the repair costs = maximum offer price
For example, if your fixer-upper’s ARV is $305,000 and it needs around $50,000 in repairs, the minimum price would be $148,250 and the maximum price would be $209,250. Pinpointing these numbers early on will help minimize negotiation delays and ultimately get you to closing faster.
7. Play up the home’s potential in the listing
You may not be able to boast about quartz countertops, brand-new hardwood floors, or professional landscaping, but even the roughest property will have some selling points for the right buyers. Emphasizing those features is key to attracting more interest — and more offers — early on.
When crafting your fixer-upper’s listing, your agent should highlight some of the key elements that investors are looking for:
- Potential resale value after repair. After all, investors are looking for a good deal. If they can’t make a profit, they won’t be interested.
- Any competitive differentiators. Does the property have any “sizzle features” that make it unique?
- Prime location and lot. Even if your property needs some serious TLC, if it’s situated in a desirable neighborhood or on a large, private lot, your agent should play up those selling points.
- Floor plan. A fixer-upper may need a serious facelift, but an appealing layout will be more likely to attract interested buyers.
8. Consider a ‘wholetailing’ strategy
Zach Kolman, a wholesale property investor in Tampa Bay, Florida, often uses the “wholetailing” strategy to unload fixer-uppers quickly. The idea is to fix up the house enough so that buyers are still able to get traditional financing — despite the property’s needed renovations.
“For example, you might make major repairs like electrical, mold remediation, septic, or plumbing issues, without updating the kitchens, floors, or bathrooms,” Kolman explains. “The house will no longer be in such rough shape that a bank wouldn’t lend on it, but not in such good shape it would demand top dollar for a buyer who wants a turnkey property.”
By using the wholetail method, you can widen the pool of potential buyers to include not only investors looking for a project but also people who are looking to renovate a home themselves.
9. Prioritize cash buyers
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that if you were seeking a cash buyer, you’d be marketing primarily to investors. But in the last few years, that has changed a lot, with 25 percent of buyers making all-cash purchases in February 2022. For sellers, these cash offers come with a few big perks — especially if you’re looking to sell your house quickly.
Unlike the current average of 48 days to close on a traditional mortgage, cash sales are often wrapped up in as little as two weeks. Cash offers also come without any inspection or appraisal contingencies, which could create problems on a fixer-upper sale.
Another option for sellers looking for a quick, cash sale is to utilize a solution such as HomeLight’s Simple Sale. The online Simple Sale platform connects sellers with a network of cash buyers — including those who purchase fixer-upper houses.
Sellers interested in using the Simple Sale platform can get a no-obligation cash quote in as few as 48 hours just by entering a few details about their property into the online platform. If you decide to accept the offer, you can look forward to closing in as little as 10 days.
10. Educate buyers on renovation loans
Buyers may not realize they’re eligible for a renovation loan, which estimates the total costs associated with fixing up a home and rolls it into the mortgage. For buyers who like the idea of purchasing an outdated home and making it their own, but don’t have the extra funds to make the needed renovations immediately, these loans can be an attractive option.
Your real estate agent can include language into your home’s listing that talks to the possibility of a renovation loan to ensure prospective buyers know that it’s an option to consider as they search for their new home.
Bottom line: You have options to sell a fixer-upper house fast
When you have a fixer-upper house that you want to sell fast, it does mean thinking carefully about picking and choosing which improvements to make, setting the right price, highlighting hidden selling points, and being open to cash buyers.
The key to this process is partnering with an experienced real estate agent who has a track record for selling homes that need a little TLC. At HomeLight, our Agent Match tool will connect you with qualified agents in your area who have the experience needed to help you sell your fixer-upper fast — without sacrificing profits.
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