Are you thinking of selling your house this year? You’d obviously like to get top dollar for it, but it may be looking a little tired and worn, and maybe you don’t have a lot money to sink into renovations before the "For Sale" sign goes up. Luckily, there are a lot of do-it-yourself projects you can tackle that will make a big difference in how quickly your house sells, and how much you can sell it for.
Or maybe you’re the buyer, and you’re on the prowl for a bargain. We’ll look at those same items from a potential buyer’s perspective, and see if I can’t convince you not to walk away from a home with some great potential just because of some minor issues!
As the seller: Come on, get out the pruners and the rake! This is one of the easiest things in the world to take care of, because it typically doesn’t cost you anything other than time and a little sweat. And the first impression of that curb appeal can often make or break a sale.
As the buyer: Nothing better than being able to see the potential in the worst house on the block, and you’d be surprised how many people drive right on by the one with scruffy bushes and unkempt trees. Sweat equity can pay big dividends on landscaping.
As the seller: Your house doesn’t need to be a uniform, boring white inside, but the dark blue living room with green trim and that hot pink kitchen that you thought was a great idea for some forgotten reason? They can drive off a lot of potential buyers, as can the peeling paint on the exterior trim. Paint is one of the easiest and least expensive of the do-it-yourself fix-ups a seller can do.
As the buyer: If the location works for you and the house has a good structure, don’t be foolish and walk away from it because the master bedroom paint color isn’t to your liking. Even a house that needs a complete exterior repaint shouldn’t drive you away, unless it’s an obvious indicator of severe moisture problems. Once again, paint is an easy and relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself project, and can lead to some bargains if you see potential that others don’t.
As the seller: Sure, you loved the disco era. But it’s past, and you need to let it go. Big walls of mirrors or, even worse, mirror tiles are a real turnoff for a lot of potential buyers, and many people see their removal as a major project. Eliminate that stumbling block to a sale by taking the mirrors down yourself, doing any wall repairs, and then painting. If the other walls in the room are OK and you don’t want to try to match the paint color, consider painting that one wall a contrasting color as an accent wall, but pick something tasteful!
As the buyer: Don’t panic when you see these outdated decorating features. They’re not difficult to remove, so don’t let them sway you against a purchase.
Wallpaper and paneling
As the seller: These two items can get a little trickier. If you have an accent wall or even a bathroom of ugly, outdated wallpaper, take the time to strip it and repaint. If your house has a lot of wallpaper, consider having a wallpaper-stripping party, or hire a company to come in and do the stripping for you, then repaint things yourself. You’ll be surprised what a difference paint will make in place of drab old wallpaper.
Paneling can be a lot harder. Removing it can be a bigger task, and the paneling may be concealing a lot of sins underneath. Painting over it can make it look even worse. There are so many variables here; you’ll want to have a discussion with your real estate agent about how best to handle it. You may just need to leave it alone.
As the buyer: Wallpaper is the same as paint from a buyer’s perspective. Let it work to your advantage, and be the one to see the diamond in the rough. Removing it is tedious and time consuming, but cheap.
Paneling is a matter of perspective, depending on what it is. Some paneling is pretty junky, and is best removed, but be aware that there may be a few repairs to deal with behind it. Other paneling is real wood and surprisingly expensive. It can often be cleaned, then sanded and stained to a new color that brings out some beautiful highlights, so if you’re not sure, talk with a designer before taking it down. If you do remove any real wood paneling, whether in sheets or individual boards, check with a local salvage yard about selling it.
As the seller: For some reason, closet doors are a funny thing with a lot of buyers. If they’re missing, or if they’re severely out of adjustment or have been replaced with beads to go with the mirrored wall, it can be a real turnoff. Make sure your closet doors are installed, adjusted and operating properly.
As the buyer: Don’t walk away from a potentially good deal because there aren’t any closet doors. See if the sellers have them, which is the best solution. But even if they don’t, getting new ones is an inexpensive do-it-yourself fix, and may help you snag a deal on a house that someone else shies away from!