3 Ways to Fix Problem Areas and Make Your Home Sell

By ForSaleByOwner

A recent ForSaleByOwner.com survey can help you read buyers’ minds and get a signature on that contract a lot faster.

Buyers aren’t as finicky as you might think. Yes, some prefer a colonial that evokes a refined horse-country sensibility, while others see themselves in a mid-century modern ranch with rakish lines that speak to a Space Age future. These are personal preferences, and for every style and design of home, there are buyers out there who will love it.

But there are some necessities that buyers demand in a home — and if a property lacks too many of these features, the pool of prospective buyers dries up.

According to ForSaleByOwner.com’s survey, those who planned to buy a home within the next year identified the following as important:

•    Garage or carport
•    Central air conditioning
•    Home being in move-in condition
•    Open floor plan
•    Renovated or new kitchen

Some of these features are part of popular trends industry groups are following. Home buyers — especially those in the Millennial generation — are increasingly mindful of how their choices affect the environment. In its 2013 Homeowner Mood & Mindset Survey, the Home Industry Leadership Board found that 58 percent of this group considered reuse of materials in home improvement projects to be important, 47 percent believe “going green” makes them a better person, 41 percent consider going green a part of their lifestyle and 24 percent would choose green alternatives regardless of cost.

Green technology is among the most popular features found in new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. According to the association, energy efficiency is a key theme, with Energy Star-rated appliances, programmable thermostats and Energy Star-windows at the top of the list.

Other popular features cited by the association include a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a laundry room and first-floor ceilings at least 9 feet high.

Obviously, it’s not possible to meet every buyer’s expectation. The good news, though, is that FSBO sellers can address many of these issues when preparing and staging their homes. By investing some time — and often just a little more money — you can enhance your home’s appeal to buyers. Here are specific recommendations for dealing with some potential problem areas.

Killer Kitchens
“No matter if your space is large or small, if there is a budget for a kitchen renovation, make sure that you plan for ample cabinet and counter space,” advises Darlene Parris of GetUpStaged.com, which offers interior redesign, organization services and home staging in the Los Angeles area. “Space is an in-demand feature that people are willing to pay for.”

Parris also warns that sellers avoid skimping on the finishes. “Choose the best cabinetry and countertop that you can get for your budget,” she says. “Granite is still quite popular, but Silestone (a quartz surface) is gaining popularity.”

If your kitchen remodeling budget is limited, Parris suggests replacing the countertops and flooring, refacing the cabinets and replacing the sink and hardware.

If you have little or no budget, Parris offers these tips:

•    Paint the walls.
•    Sand and paint the kitchen cabinets.
•    Change the pulls and hinges on all cabinets and drawers.
•    Remove everything from the countertops and the front, side and top of the refrigerator.
•    Organize your kitchen cabinets, drawers and pantry so that they aren’t bursting at the seams.

“And clean everything from the sink and appliances to the counters and floors,” Parris says. “In all scenarios, prospective buyers are wanting to see a kitchen that’s free from clutter, is clean and has enough space. So make sure that it sparkles.”

If you can afford to, add new appliances. “This will instantly give your kitchen a new look at the fraction of the cost of a full renovation,” Parris says. But a FSBO seller doesn’t always need to buy new appliances. If the appliances are all the same color and style — for example, all white or all chrome — then sellers can clean them up and include them in the sale. The appliances must, however, be in good condition and exceptionally clean. If they’re not cleanable or of mismatched colors and styles, Parris says new appliances may be in order. “Usually you can get the best price on installation if it is arranged with the same retailer you are purchasing from,” she adds.

No Parking, No Deal
Whether it’s attached or separate, make sure your parking space is free of clutter and absolutely clean — and that means getting rid of oil stains, too.

And if you don’t have a garage or carport, play up whatever dedicated parking space you do have. “If the property features a driveway, then the seller is in luck,” Parris says. “Most buyers will at least want a place to park their vehicle that’s not three blocks away.”

Sellers should ensure that the driveway presents well and repair any damage before the property is photographed for that all-important online listing. “Additionally, the seller might perhaps make an inquiry with their town as to whether a carport can be added,” Parris says. “This is valuable information for a prospective buyer, as the question will undoubtedly arise during showings.”

If a property only offers on-street parking, that still might not be a deal breaker, Parris says — especially if municipal permits guarantee residents have parking spaces.

No Room to Grow
If your home doesn’t already qualify as being an “open space” design, you probably won’t be able to knock down walls and do extensive remodeling. Still, knowing how buyers’ minds work can go a long way toward presenting your home at its best.

“There are many things that can stop prospective buyers in their tracks,” Parris warns. And a perceived lack of space is one of them. “Space is a premium feature that all buyers are looking for, so things like too much clutter can make a buyer feel claustrophobic,” she says. Buyers need to envision themselves in a space without the added mental gymnastics of figuring out how or where to put their things.

“Declutter every room, closet and cupboard, as prospective buyers will be looking into all of these spaces,” Parris says.

She also emphasizes that too much personalization will prevent buyers from seeing themselves in your home. “Remember, they are wanting — and needing — to see the home you are selling, so put away items like family portraits, religious artifacts and even your toothbrush. This helps to neutralize the space and allow buyers to see how they will live in the home.”

The key is to transition your perspective from “how I like it” to “how others need to see it,” Parris says.

If for sale by owner home sellers follow these strategies, they’re more likely to give buyers exactly what they want.

Tell us in the comments: What home improvement projects have you completed before showing your home?