The average person in the United States moves about 11 times in their lifetime, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. That’s roughly 1 move every 7 – 8 years. This means that you, like most Americans, will at some point pack up your bags, sell your house, and move on.
But selling your house is often more work than you expect. Between the listings, inspections, showings, cleanings, paintings, meetings, and all that comes with it, it’s easy to run out of time to work on the stuff that adds value to the property and dollars to the sale price.
If moving is inevitable, even if it’s a few years out, you should get a head start on the prep work and give yourself the best possible advantage when it comes time to sell. We did some digging and went to some of the best real estate agents in the country to find out what you should start doing now in order to sell your house later.
Turns out, there’s some simple (and some not so simple) Realtor tips for sellers you can start working on today, even if you aren’t planning to sell for at least a few years:
- Get your house ready for home inspections
- Make a few smart investments towards remodeling
- Don’t leave projects unfinished
- Work on the front yard
- Keep tabs on the housing market
- Go to your agent early and often for advice
Let’s dive in…
1. Prepare your House For Inspections
Recently, a joint study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) showed that about 4 out of 5 homes sold are first examined by a professional home inspector. That means, when you put your home up for sale you’re going to get inspected and if your house isn’t up to code it could blow the whole deal.
So, what’s in a home inspection and what can you do right now to get ready for one?
ASHI says that most home inspections focus on these 5 things:
Exterior and Interior Walls
Walk around the inside or outside of your home and look for cracks that are large enough that your fingers to fit inside of them. If you find any, call up a local contractor with predominantly positive reviews.
Air Conditioning and Heating
If your air conditioning or heating unit is broken, find a contractor with great reviews who can fix it. Prices will vary from area to area so you’ll have to do a little comparison shopping.
If you need to fix your AC/Heating units, we recommend getting at least 2 – 3 quotes before you commit to a vendor.
The most important structural beams of your home are found in the basement. However, the best way to tell that your house is having structural issues is to go across the street and look at it.
If your house is leaning noticeably to one side, you should find an architect with good reviews who can help fix it.
Electrical and Plumbing
Electrical and plumbing issues can sometimes be invisible and go years without being discovered. Don’t let the person who finds out be your inspector!
It doesn’t hurt to have your roof checked out. “Maintaining a sound roof tops the list of crucial home repairs,” says HomeAdvisor.com; “it keeps your home interior warm and dry and protects it from the elements.”
Call up a reputable roof inspector in your area and the maintenance will be easy.
Any of these repairs can cost in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but they might be worth it in the long run. Brian Wetzel, a licensed home inspector in the Carolinas, says that “there is no such thing as a perfect house,” and he’s right; chances are that some part of your house could use a little TLC.
Give the professionals a call and have these things looked at now, that way you can make an informed decision about taking the next steps and you won’t be surprised when the buyer’s inspection comes around.
2. Only Take on Remodeling Projects with Good ROI
Let’s look at some of the improvements you can make to your home in order to raise the value leading up to your eventual home sale. The smart moves are often the simplest and most superficial ones.
Before you start any major remodeling projects, get an idea of what your home is worth right now. Just plug your address into our Home Value Estimator and you’ll get up to 5 free estimates from leading providers like Zillow and Eppraisal.
No Budget? Start Small
George Graham, a veteran real-estate agent who ranks in the top 7% of Seattle seller’s agents, “recommend[s] people focus on carpet and paint” first. These two things are easy to manage, and they can produce a clean, fresh, and attractive look to your home.
Painting yourself is relatively cheap, and whether you want to change your carpet, install carpet, or remove it to replace with some other material, taking care of your floors is paramount to buyers who are looking at their future dream home.
Have More Money to Throw Around?
According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value 2017 report, the best thing to remodel right now is your attic insulation. Upgrading to fiber-glass insulation can give you a 116% ROI (return on investment).
Truth be told, remodeling can get expensive, so get ready to spend a pretty penny.
If you think there is even the smallest chance that you will one day sell your home, get in contact with some reputable remodeling contractors in your area that have great reviews, gather quotes from them on a few different projects, and get run the numbers before you start any work – specific projects could pay off big time down the road.
Don’t rip open the dry-wall, knock out the kitchen sink, or even think about touching the bathroom unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll recoup your investment when the home sells. You also should make sure that the remodeling projects will make an immediate improvement on your quality of life today. Always wanted to have a sparkling green lawn out front? Not only will that project improve your overall happiness, it has a great return on investment. Win.
Before you commit to any projects, bring your contractor’s estimates to a top local real estate agent and ask them this question:
“If I do this and put my house on the market next year, will I make more money?”
As long as you’re thinking about return on investment before you start a new project, go ahead and start on your home improvements.
3. Finish Any Remodeling Projects You Start
In one case that Graham alluded to, a woman’s husband “was in the middle of a number of projects when he passed away.” Because of this, several appliances were halfway replaced, and different rooms in the house were torn apart with the intention of one day being put back together better than ever.
The unfinished work made it harder to show the place and delayed the sale.
When you start to take on different projects within your home, such as remodeling, re-roofing, flooring, and so on, be sure to manage your workload appropriately. If you overwhelm yourself, you’ll find that nothing seems to get done, and the house will remain in a perpetual state of dishevelment.
Prioritize the “big win” projects like new paint, landscaping, and floors.
Choose a project, see it through to the end, then begin working on another project. This kind of diligence and task-management will ensure that your house gets improved in the most efficient way possible.
4. Invest in Landscaping
While we’re on the topic of diligence, let’s talk a little bit about land management. In an interview with the Washington Post, HGTV host John Gidding said about landscaping: “On a ‘Curb Appeal’ project, I put in $20,000 and the sellers got $200,000 more than they had paid for the house just a year prior. The return was astonishing.”
We know that not everybody has $20,000 to spend on landscaping, and Erik Shorb, owner of Shorb Landscaping out in the DC Metro Area says later in the same article that “if you don’t have that kind of money to invest, at the minimum I would recommend adding color with annuals, perennials, or seasonal flowering shrubs; mulching; edging; removing weeds; and getting the grass as green and full as possible.”
These kind of curb appeal improvements are quick and easy fixes that make a huge impact.
Although we don’t always recognize it, our yards have a tendency to become overwhelming if we neglect them. “Lawns take a while to recover if they’ve been damaged…or haven’t been watered,” Graham says.
Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring your lawn and then having to work overtime to get it back to normal; a little bit here and there will go a long way.
5. Pay Attention to the Housing Market
Our last piece of advice to you is this: pay attention to the market. When Graham gets down to the key factor in selling a house, he says that “ultimately…the bottom line to all this is pricing [your home] right.”
Visit MarketWatch, IMF.org, or CNBC to keep up with the ups and downs of the market. The trick is to watch the national market trends and keep an ear to the ground about fluctuations in your local area.
If you start watching the trends now, and continue over a long-term period, you will acquire the knowledge and insight you need to capitalize and list your house for the best possible price.
6. Get in Touch With a Great Real Estate Agent Nearby
If you’re eventually planning to sell your home, talking to a real-estate agent now is a great way to strategize. In 2015, according to this data from the National Association of Realtors, 89% of sellers in 2015 were helped by a real estate agent.
A reputable agent can assess your house on a personal level and get you ready to enter the selling market at any point in time.
If you need help finding a top real estate agent in your area, just let us know. We’ll run the numbers and give you an objective recommendation for who to talk to.
If you act now and start working to manage your home’s upkeep, add value with simple remodeling projects, take care of your front yard, pay attention to the housing market and regularly ask a top real estate agent for tips, you’ll be 100% ready to sell your house with ease when the time comes.