Publication Date: Wednesday, March 12,
Doing your homework
How to make your home more marketable
by Susan Golovin
Thinking of putting your house on the market? John Alexander, an
agent with Coldwell Banker in Menlo Park, has been in the real estate
business for 16 years. According to him, "The way to get the
most for your money is to have as large a pool of buyers as possible."
Alexander, who often works in conjunction with his wife, real estate
agent Darran Ross, has a lot of good advice about how to prepare
your home to attract prospective buyers and entice bids.
Adding stylish drawer pulls, such as these found at Restoration
Hardware in Palo Alto, is an easy way to perk up on an old-fashioned
bathroom or kitchen.
"The first thing you need to do is schedule both the required
property inspection and termite and mold inspections. Sometimes
it can take as long as two weeks to get on their schedules and you
want to have as much time as possible to deal with issues that they
might find," Alexander said.
He suggests dealing with safety issues first, such as electrical
wiring and any termite damage that results in weakening the structure.
"In my own house I cleared out an old deck and found subterranean
termites. The side of the garage was so spongy that you could punch
a hole into the wood. The buyer will assign a cost to such repairs
that may not be accurate, and it's often better to fix it yourself,"
"If there are a lot of structural problems, you have to decide
whether to deal with them or just subtract from the asking price,"
he added. If you choose the latter, he suggested getting an estimate
of the cost of repairs and having it available for prospective buyers.
Changing something as simple as a doorknob - these are from
Restoration Hardware in Palo Alto - can leave a more favorable
impression on potential homebuyers.
Roof leaks are a real issue. Alexander recommends considering re-roofing
"if the rest of the house is in good condition, and you think
you can recoup your costs."
"You have to have a mold inspection, and it's best to take
care of any work because mold problems can reduce your asking price
enormously," Alexander said. "If the mold is toxic, it
can pose significant health hazards, so an authorized company has
to remove it." An alternative plan is to provide an estimate
for the work needed.
"Make sure that you have proof of completed work. It gives
the buyer confidence that the home has been maintained," he
Landscaping should be assessed early on. "It takes flowers
a few weeks to grow in, so you want to plant them as soon as possible,"
Alexander said. He also recommends clearing away all brush, fertilizing
and planting new shrubs if necessary.
"We bring in our own terra cotta pots to enhance the front.
It's very important that the front of the house look especially
welcoming," he said.
Professionally cleaning the inside of the home, paying special
attention to windows and painting both inside and outside is important.
"If the outside doesn't require paint, you should have it power
washed to eliminate all cobwebs and signs of neglect.
"Move all your clutter into the garage. You can rent storage
space and have the company come and clear out your garage,"
Alexander said, adding "then when you move, just have the contents
transferred from storage."
Replacing or eliminating large pieces of furniture can make your
home look bigger. Alexander and Ross often loan their own furniture
and prints to clients in order to "stage" the home. If
you don't want to hire a professional staging company, you can rent
rugs and accessory pieces.
Alexander also recommends pulling up old carpeting and either putting
in new carpeting or, ideally, exposing hardwood floors. "And
make sure the floors are buffed," he said.
People are especially interested in kitchens and bathrooms. "Update
pulls on drawers and cabinets," Alexander said. "You can
get attractive, inexpensive ones and it makes a big difference."
He said it's also a good idea to paint cabinets, and to replace
Bathrooms can also benefit from new faucets, pulls and towel bars.
If it is a small space, paint it off-white. Make sure that mirrors,
cabinets, walls and floor all co-ordinate. If you have an old vinyl
floor, you may want to replace it.
"Hang brand-new towels to give a fresh look," he advised.
Fresh flower arrangements add the final touch. And don't forget
"Whatever you do, you want to get your money back," Alexander
cautioned. Often, the suggested repairs and adjustments can come
to as much as $20,000 to $30,000.
Now, these recommendations are for relatively quick transformation
-- one to two months. If you are thinking of longer term, or, if
you simply want to remodel with an eye to eventual resale, Alexander
still suggests starting with inspections to avoid surprises and
to be able to build on a solid foundation.
"People are looking for joined kitchen/family room orientations,"
he said. Completely remodeled kitchens, with granite counters, upgraded
appliances and hardwood floors are a real plus. "I like to
see as much hardwood as possible," he added.
Dated bathrooms are a good place to use remodeling funds. "The
master bath should have a tub with a separate shower, and two sinks
are better than one," he said. Adding a bathroom, especially
in a home that has the bare minimum, (one and a half) is a lucrative
project as regards resale.
"Replace windows framed in aluminum with, if possible, dual-pane
wood. Divided-light windows (windows with cross hatchings) are especially
popular. However, the crucial thing to remember is that windows
should be appropriate for the style of the home," he said.
In California, indoor/outdoor living is important. Hiring a landscape
architect is a good idea, especially if you are going to add hardscape
such as patios and walkways. "Connecticut bluestone or slate
are especially desirable," he said.
"You won't believe how many clients, when they see the improvements
in their homes say 'If I had done this before, I wouldn't have moved!'"