It’s a conundrum: You’re going to sell the home you’ve lived in for a long time, and you want to get the best price possible. On the other hand, you’re not excited about spending a lot of money to fix up a house you’re leaving. How do you balance the need to show your home at its best and keep your bank account in great shape for your next home purchase? Unlike staging, which is primarily cosmetic, upgrades are designed to bring your property—especially an older home—into the modern age and widen the pool of potential buyers. If you hoping to sell your older home to younger buyers, it’s especially important to update, modernize and refresh. Even a ‘fixer-upper’ will garner more attention and likely a higher selling price, if you’re willing to make upfront investments before listing. Here are some upgrades to consider—all worth the cost.
Still have that old brass chandelier hanging above the dining room table? The lamps your mother-in-law gave you for a shower gift in 1965? The Hollywood bulbs around the bathroom mirror? Nothing makes a home look more outdated that old light fixtures. Changing the lighting is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to make a big impact. Do a walk-through and make a list of rooms that will shine with new fixtures.
If your Realtor has suggested painting the interior of your home, take the sage advice, especially if you have a number of different colors visible from one room to the next. Painting the connecting spaces in the same color makes a home look larger and allows buyers to look at the space rather than getting caught up wondering why someone would paint the dining room Chinese Red (never mind it’s the color that stimulates appetites). The entire interior doesn’t have to be white. Instead, consider modern takes on ‘neutral’ tones—shades of grays, whites, mushrooms and neutral colors from nature—have a decidedly updated feel. Don’t forget to paint the ceilings.
Every buyer is looking at your kitchen and bathrooms. Changing the faucets—in the bathtub and shower, too—is a simple, effective update. If your bathroom tile is orange, you probably won’t re-tile, but toning down the towels and shower curtain—maybe going white—will help. A much bigger and more costly project is new counter tops. If your still have laminate (Formica celebrated its centennial in 2013!) or cultured marble, updated materials will certainly make an impact. Stone or a man-made surfaces in both kitchen and bath—perhaps with integral sinks made of the same material—will make the rooms look both sleek and timeless—and be easy-care, which appeals to younger buyers.
Selecting updated materials that are easy care is a good plan. When replacing countertops and sinks, skip the double-bowl kitchen sink and instead install a single, large sink. If the bathroom cabinets are lower than the new standard height—around 35 inches—you may be able to achieve a desirable update by finding some attractive legs and raising the bathroom cabinets to the new height. No more backache just brushing your teeth.
New cabinets may be a prohibitive option, but painting outdated dark wooden cabinets to complement your new wall colors, and changing the pulls and knobs will make kitchens and bathrooms more striking. Painting is inexpensive and provides a huge impact. Many of today’s new paints are specifically intended for kitchen/bathroom cabinets.
Get rid of worn, stained carpeting. If there is hardwood underneath, you’re in luck—although it may need refinishing. If your floors can’t be salvaged, consider installing new carpet.
Curb appeal is huge when it comes to attracting buyers. Removing old foundation plantings and installing a more modern landscape plan will make your home inviting. Unless you’re spending big and feel confident, you can recoup your investment on the sale of your home. New siding may be out of the budget, but fresh paint should be applied. A new front door? Might be another great investment. If your roof needs repair, get it done. If your home has old windows—or any of them are cracked or have broken seals—buyers notice. Especially in a cold climate, airtight windows matter, especially to buyers conscious of how the environment outside impacts their lives inside. Leaky homes cost a lot more to heat. A final consideration in bringing your home into the 21st century—and giving it broad appeal to buyers—is updated HVAC. You may need a new system, or just a few upgrades to what is already in place. This is where you need expert advice.
Many of these suggested updates aren’t small investments. But today’s buyers are younger and paying attention to details. They may be willing to spend the time and money to make a home their own, but unless they can see the possibilities—and see that a lot has already been done—they’re likely to give yours a pass.