insights on creating innovative spaces

Simple Rules to Sell Your Home for More

Here's a townhouse in Long Island I renovated when the homeowners were deciding whether to sell or stay put.

Before and after shots of a Long Island townhouse, renovated to sell

Welcome to the holiday season – always an exciting time, in New York and beyond. One of the best parts of the holidays is catching up with friends and family, and I had a wonderful opportunity to do that last week. I traveled south over Thanksgiving to visit good friends who moved to Florida about 10 years ago. Their home is beyond lovely, and so well maintained.

Now, the couple is looking to sell this beautiful home (and we’re talking perfect floors and stainless-steel sinks without a single scratch), but they’re still struggling. Blame it on a tough market. Still, I’m confident they’ll find a buyer – and not have to negotiate much on price. And that’s because they understand that maintenance makes the price, when it comes to selling a house.

This holiday trip reminded me of a recent New York Times article detailing all the upgrades homeowners are (and aren’t) making as they try to sell. Brokers estimate that buyers are often seeing up to a dozen listings before making a choice, and with values dropping and each buyer looking for the best deal, that spells major competition. At first glance, it might seem like a wasted effort to replace those cracked tiles or that leaky faucet, but now is a better time than ever to consider small to mid-range investments to keep your asking price higher and prevent your home from going into heavy negotiations. When a $5,000 change adds $15,000 to your asking price, that’s a good move.

I renovated this Long Island townhouse for homeowners who (eventually) decided they didn't want to move.

Simple fixes, like a short entry wall, helped define this entryway

How should you reconsider your space? Try to be objective about any issues buyers might have with your property. It’s hard to evaluate something that’s close to you, on the emotional and physical levels. We grow accustomed to flaws and irritants in our own homes. That dark red kitchen is charming to you, but a buyer might cringe. Overlooking any mold in the shower? A buyer won’t. Also, no matter how many design magazines buyers read, they usually don’t have the instant creativity to imagine what a space can be. They see it how it is, outdated fridge and all.

Once, I visited a client who was deciding whether she and her husband should get a new home or stay put. Her husband had bought the house 18 years earlier; it was a model home, and he left it as it was. Unfortunately, prior to our review, the couple had spoken with a real estate agent, who returned a low selling price. Unacceptable! We reconsidered their place and found out it had great bones but just needed a facelift to suit their lifestyle. We renovated, and they love their place now. (They brought the buyer back for fun and found out they could have sold for significantly higher than their asking price.)

If you’re looking to sell, then consider the value that a little extra work could give. Until the end of December, I’m offering reduced rates on property evaluations for homeowners looking to make the move. Let’s talk about what work might be required, then discuss how to make your home a “stage” to entice buyers. It could be as simple as just a few changes – and they’ll be well worth it when you sign the papers in the end.