10 things that can alter
the value of your home
Here are 10 features that can add value to your home, and another 10 that could reduce the sales price:
1. An updated kitchen. Kitchens are critical. Today, people like a big kitchen with a lot of workspace, modern counter tops and cupboards. They look for solid surface counters and high-quality flooring, such as wood, laminate, tile or stone. And they want newer appliances in working order. Even if it's not huge, it should have countertops that are serviceable that aren't going to have to be replaced soon and cabinetry in good condition. It has to be good quality and large enough to fit your needs. And it doesn't hurt if it opens onto another room. A lot of families are looking for that great room or family room off the kitchen area. It helps to have a window over the sink. Be wary if renovations are out of character with the community, such as granite countertops in a subdivision where plastic laminate is the norm. "Will you sell faster? Yes. "Will it sell for more? Not if the appointments you've done are significantly higher quality than the rest of the neighborhood."
2. Modern bathrooms. Buyers are looking for "master baths" that give a little room to roam . A big asset: spa or whirlpool tubs. Some other features buyers are seeking: separate showers with steam and/or multiple jets, double sink, separate room for the toilet. And make sure the plumbing and hot water heater can handle the job. The pipes have to be large enough to carry an adequate volume of water and the hot water heater has to be big enough to accommodate it. You need a bare minimum of a 75-gallon hot water heater.
3. A well-appointed master suite. "People are really excited about master suites. The wish list: a luxurious bathroom, lounging areas and walk-in closets.
4. Natural materials. "People like natural materials. Ceramic tile, hardwood floors, granite. We've gone back to a real appreciation for historically true materials. In floor coverings -- especially bathrooms or kitchens -- look for ceramic tile or wood rather than linoleum, which can tear. In the rest of the house, wood or laminate products are a plus over wall-to-wall. But if you have carpet, it should be a good product and well maintained so that "a person doesn't have to walk in and think, 'I'm going to have to spend five grand right off the bat".
5. Curb appeal. First impressions are everything. A house that appears tidy and well cared for will sell more quickly and for more money. A good first appearance can add as much as 10 percent to the value of the home.
6. A light, airy spacious feel. People buy space and light. I have yet to have anybody walk into a really dark house and say, 'I love this."
7. Good windows. People are looking at exposures and windows . Energy efficiency is very important and insulated windows are always a plus. Typically, they pay for themselves in five years. The cost: for an average 2,600-square-foot home, estimate about $10,000 for new windows. Well-placed skylights are also a good touch to add value.
8. Landscaping. Mature trees are worth $1,000. And having outdoor spaces with touches such as pergolas and Victorian garden swings "can be very attractive. Conversely, you don't have to spend a fortune on plants, either. Just keep it "typical with the neighborhood".
9. Lots of storage. Nothing beats an oversized garage, some attic space and plenty of closets. "If you have a two-car garage, do you have extra space for those things we all have -- bicycles, lawn mower, snow blower?" "Space is important." A nice plus in the master suite? "His and hers walk-in closets."
10. Basement. If it's dry, it's a plus. But it's a negative if it has water problems . A finished basement adds even more value.
Seller: Get home inspected before marketing
Dear Real Estate Advisor,
Should you have your own home inspected before putting it on the market for sale?
-- Sandra W.
There are many compelling reasons to do so. Traditionally, inspections have been paid for by buyers as part of the due diligence in accessing a property. But a seller inspection, also known as a prelisting inspection, is always a prudent practice. That is particularly true in the buyer's market that prevails today in many regions of the country. Such an inspection takes some of the fear and distrust out of the equation for the buyer and helps establish you as a conscientious seller. And the aboveboard image you'll project doing this just might give you the edge over other competing sellers.
What's more, if there are problems you are not aware of, it's better to find out earlier rather than later. That way, you can shop around for the best price to remedy the problem, rather than accept the price tag an inspector, the buyer or a closing agent might attach to it. The earlier you get the inspection the better -- well before you put your house on the market -- because it may reveal underlying flaws and problems -- i.e., "defects" -- that must be addressed to make the place more palatable for a buyer.
It may also keep you from wasting money making minor repairs to an area that in the end requires larger-scale work, should a more significant underlying problem be discovered. Make sure you leave yourself at least a month or so after the inspection to perform needed work. Ideally, your inspector will be comfortable with you following him or her around during the inspection to allow you to observe and ask any questions about your home's condition and how to address any flaws.
This way, the written report the inspector produces when the process is completed will make more sense to you and you'll find it easier to point out the needed repairs to contractors. In some cases, buyers would rather accept a cash credit on the purchase price and perform their own repairs, particularly if they involve areas they would prefer to establish their own tastes in wallpaper, built-ins and paint-color schemes. You can always ask me about what repairs or improvements should or should not be done as well.
Of course, a pre-listing inspection will not necessarily replace the need for buyers to have their own inspections performed, even when you produce a copy of your own inspection for the buyers as part of disclosure. Nor will it guarantee that a buyer's own inspector won't find other defects that will have to be addressed. But it does signal your willingness to make things right and should promote better-faith negotiations and a faster and smoother sale.