In this crazy housing market, I spend a lot of time talking with sellers about the relative value of improvements to their homes.
While each case is different, given varying degrees of equity, home locations and styles, etc, there are some constants invariably apply across the board.
The first one is PAINT. PAINT! It is ALWAYS a good idea to make sure your home is well-painted. Paint is so cheap, especially relative to the value of the impression a good paint job makes on a prospective buyer. If you only do one single thing to prepare your house for sale, I recommend PAINTING. (Have I said that enough? And with enough capital letters? Let's give it one more try: PAAAAAAAAAAAAINT!)
I don't recommend white, either. Although painting everything white is still better than not painting at all, presuming the walls are anything less than perfect to begin with. Consult home decor magazines, the internet, or your real estate agent for tips on what colors would work best for your home. (Also note: I'm talking primarily about interior here, but the same rules apply for exterior as well. If your color is anything less than fresh, I recommend a paint job. And there should be NO PEELING PAINT ANYWHERE AT ALL. Just trust me on this.)
The second thing is lighting. Pay attention to it. Have enough of it. And try not to have it all be from Home Depot, if possible. I highly recommend lamps. Lower wattage bulbs with soft, warm light are highly superior to those super-bright CFLs, for the record. Even if you want to save the planet with the decreased energy usage that CFLs provide, I recommend swapping them out for soft incandescents AT LEAST just for the period during which your home is on the market. You will see the difference and so will the buyers.
And third, if you have natural woodwork, consider its condition. Is it dull? Are there any scratches or paint splatters? It's not difficult to clean up those small mars and then spruce up the wood with a fresh coat of stain or shellac. I know because I've just done it in my home.
When we live in a house for some time, it can be easy to grow used to the little faults and blemishes, and stop seeing them. But believe me, buyers will see them. So it's important to look at your home with a fresh eye when sizing up the need for cosmetic fixes prior to listing.
And, on the subject of woodwork, another cheap and easy way to give your rooms a boost is adding some sort of trim-work. That could be chair-rail, picture-rail, or crown moulding. In my house, I just had picture-rail installed in the living and dining rooms. The total cost for the wood itself was under $60.00, and with stain, mastic and nails it was still well under $100 (I'm guessing conservatively here because I already had the additional supplies.)
I wish I had a before photo, because these rooms in my house were disgusting when I moved in. White walls, splattered woodwork, dingy light fixtures with icy CFL bulbs, the works. It was awful. But with just a bit of paint, lighting and woodwork help, we now have this:
And yes, in case you were wondering, I am thinking of selling my home this year, and finding yet another fixer-upper. I am totally addicted to this process.
Know anyone in the market?