Business & Real Estate

On the Market: How to make your house more attractive to buyers

You may have read articles that tell you what to do to get your house ready to sell to maximize the price. But does it really matter? Aren’t houses in the area selling really quickly no matter what you do to make them look better? The short answer is “yes,” it really does matter.

Q: Why do I need to do anything to get my house ready for sale? It’s going to sell quickly no matter what.

A: There are two sides to this answer. First, most houses in this area do sell very quickly. Second, that’s because realtors know what to do to make a house look as appealing as possible, which allows them to sell quickly at top dollar.

Q: OK, I get that I should spruce up my house before it goes on the market, but can’t I do it all myself?

A: Absolutely. There is
nothing magical about what a good agent will do to help you get your house ready for sale. The reality is that a good agent will give you good advice on what to do and will often have connections to good contractors who will get the job done quickly and at a better price than you might be able to get on your own.

Q: How do I know if I should do some fix-up or not?

A: If you don’t think you can get at least twice what it costs at a higher price, it’s probably not worth doing. Sometimes it’s not worth it to do anything to a house if you think the new owner might just tear it down to build a new house. This is a case where buyers are more concerned with location and lot size than they are with the house itself.

Q: What sorts of things should I focus on?

A: Typically, concentrate on cosmetic fixes and anything safety-related. Here is a list of some of the top improvements:
• Focus on the front of the house – curb appeal. Many buyers have made decisions before they even walk through the front door. So give the yard a haircut, get rid of weeds, put in new house numbers and a mailbox, pressure-wash the driveway and walkways, paint the front door, add new welcoming light fixtures at the front door, add some colorful plantings, sweep off the roof, etc. A fresh coat of exterior paint really makes a house look inviting.
• Spruce up the interior. Fresh paint is a must, and either replace the carpets or refinish the floors.
• Remove popcorn ceilings if possible – they are a real negative.
• Replace outdated light fixtures and mismatched door knobs/handles. It’s an easy way to upgrade without spending a lot of money. Replacing all of the light switch and plug covers costs approximately $50 and is well worth it.
• Pay for a deep cleaning by a professional. Houses for sale need to look and smell spotless.
• Stage your house. While this can add to your budget, it really does help sell your house and is a wise investment.

Q: How much will all of these upgrades cost?

A: Most people selling their houses spend in the $20,000 to $50,000 range, sometimes a lot more. But if you consider that most houses in this area are selling for $2 million or more, it is a great investment and you’ll usually double or triple your money.

Q: Should I get this all done before I choose an agent?

A: Usually, no, because a good agent will advise you on the most important things buyers are looking for in today’s market. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you like, you need to appeal to today’s buyers, who will be the ones writing the big checks.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Text or call him with questions, comments or potential column topics at 492-0062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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