Home Improvements: K-I-S-S (Part 2)

By on 1 May, 2013 in Real Estate, Sandra Nickel with 0 Comments

Photo by epSos.de

Note: This is the second part of a series of posts on making improvements to your (often historic) Midtown Montgomery home. Read part one here.

The 24/7 Wall St blog recently did a long feature on 11 home features buyers will pay extra for. The article contained this specific warning: “But they may not be willing to pay as much as you think.”

Examples provided in the story included a walk-in closet. Six in 10 home buyers said they would be willing to pay more for a house with one, but those people said they’d only spend an additional $1,350 — much less than what a walk-in closet typically costs.  Buyers also will pay extra — $2,520 extra — for central air conditioning. Unfortunately, in this market you generally cannot get central air installed for that amount.

A second source of information about what improvements actually add value is Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report.  It does not include Montgomery specifically, but it does survey our neighbors just 90 miles north in Birmingham. There, a minor kitchen remodel (new cabinet doors, laminate countertops, appliances and sheet vinyl flooring) will return 88.6% of its costs, but will not generate a profit for the current owner.

These and other sources make it abundantly clear that the K-I-S-S (keep it simple, Southerners) formula must be your mantra as you consider how to improve your home for sale.  And simple means just that:  improvements that for the most part you can make yourself.

If your kitchen cabinets are worn and tired, paint them a light neutral color (not white, because that’s “out” right now) and swap your old brass hardware for brushed nickel. Then, invest in as bright a light fixture as your space will accommodate, because light “pushes the walls back” and makes the room appear larger than it really is. Finally, clear the countertops of almost everything so that the eye can make a clean sweep.

Want to upgrade to stainless steel appliances? Think twice if you have small children, because stainless shows every little fingerprint. If you’re determined to do it anyway, shop the “scratch and dent” areas of the big box stores, or even consider advertising on a site like Craigslist for gently used items. I never cease to be amazed how inexpensively a military family headed overseas will sell an almost new refrigerator, washer and dryer because they just don’t store well.

Speaking of storage, spring for an off-site storage unit and some used moving boxes, including some standing wardrobes. Then remove at least half of the clothing in every closet in the house. Your goal is to be able to see the back wall when you open the door. This makes the space seem huge. And that’s important because every prospective homebuyer has “solving a space problem” prominent on their agenda of must-haves.

Use the same fool-the-eye trick for every space in your house where you store stuff: cabinets, pantries, storage sheds, etc. Throw away or box up anything not used daily. Be creative in finding hiding spaces. Under the bed, behind the sofa, and in the trunk of your car are all legal!

Bottom line: Don’t spend a penny more than you must to create an inviting ambiance. Even if you’re not selling right now, you’ll thank me later when we meet to value your home and I put you among that small brother- and sisterhood of folks who actually not only get back all their improvement dollars, but turn a profit as well!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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