Is it worth making improvements before selling?

Is it worth making improvements before selling?

I’ve often been asked whether it’s worth making improvements before trying to sell a property – and if so, which ones give the greatest gain at the lowest cost?

Here’s my advice:

If the house is in poor condition – dated, in need of complete decoration, modernisation, etc – then minor or cosmetic improvements are a waste of time and money.

If on the other hand you have the appetite, expertise and/or contacts, time, and most importantly, the money to do a full refurbishment, then you can probably add a lot of value. In fact whoever buys it from you will only do so if they believe that they can create this value for themselves.

This usually only applies if you have inherited a property and any joint beneficiaries aren’t desperate for the money now.

For other properties, what should you do?

It’s easiest to break this down into two categories:

7 Improvements you can do at zero/minimal cost (always do all of these)

  1. Clean the house from top to bottom. Include cleaning carpets (hire a rug doctor), scrubbing/bleaching grout between tiles, and washing curtains and soft furnishings. There’s no bigger turn off than other people’s dirt!
  2. If you smoke or have pets, get rid of any smell. You probably don’t notice it because you live in it but visitors will. Put the dog bed in the shed. Use plug in air fresheners all the time and use a  smell neutralising spray before the viewing.
  3. Make the rooms look like what they are. If you use a single bedroom as a study or playroom, make it look like a bedroom again, i.e. put a bed in it so people can see that one fits in it.
  4. Make sure bedding, towels, etc. are clean – ideally new. Will be nice to take them to your new house later anyway!
  5. Clear away as much junk, children’s toys, etc as possible. This has the dual benefit of making it look less like your home (so people can more easily see themselves in it) and also makes the rooms look bigger.
  6. Make sure the garden is tidy.
  7. Clean and if relevant paint the front doors and windows – as the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression!

7 Improvements that usually add value (in order of importance)

  1. Paint any surfaces that are marked, stained or damaged.
  2. Replace the kitchen units, appliances, flooring and tiles if more than 5 years old.
  3. Replace the bathroom suite if not white, if stained, or if more than 10 years old.
  4. Re-tile bathroom walls and floor if more than 5 years old.
  5. Replace carpets in hall, stairs, landing and main reception room if over 5 years old.
  6. Basic energy efficiency improvements – loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, etc (should improve the Energy efficiency rating which Buyers do look at)
  7. Add a parking space. If there is room at the back of the house, or you can create a space and have a dropped kerb at the front, this will be a real plus.

Note: the above assumes that the property has double glazed windows and central heating. If not these should be added unless the property needs full refurbishment, in which case leave for the next Owner.

by Richard Watters


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