By Dan Moreau
Investors Business Daily
Want a bright idea to help you sell your house?
Don't drop 10 gran on a new kitchen. Instead, spend $100 on brighter light bulbs.
That's what realtors believe gives you the biggest payoffs. In a survey of 2,000 agents, HomeGain found that $100 of brighter light bulbs can boost a home's sale price by as much as $935 (see chart).
The new kitchen didn't even make the top ten in the survey. HomeGain is a Web site (www.homegain.com) aimed at matching agents and home buyers and sellers. It found that simple measures, most costing less than $2,000, can boost housing prices as much as $4,800.
"We were surprised at how these home improvements cost so little," said Cathy Harrington, a spokeswoman for HomeGain, "We thought the survey would show that more major work was required."
The light bulb idea seems simple enough. Use the highest watt bulbs you can. They make even smaller houses look larger. There's another bright move you can make, the survey found. Clean windows inside and out. And open the curtains to bring in natural light. Think of realtor Carolyn Burnham in "American Beauty" throwing open one curtain after another to let in some light while she still ruled.
Window cleaning is cheap, less than $350. But it can boost the sale price by as much as $2,300. That's a nearly 600% payoff.
Clean and de-clutter was another top move. For less than $400 on average, you can boost the offering price by more than $1,000. LeRoy Flemming, a realtor at Mackintosh Realty in Frederick, Md., said that's a big point for buyers.
"Someone coming into your house won't appreciate your tender stuff; They won't get past the way the place looks now rather than how it can look if they live there," he said.
First impressions count. Realtors told the survey new front door hardware is a smart move. A fresh coat of paint on the entry door also helps. Clean grout in the kitchen and baths were a plus.
New toilet seats are mandatory.
Second impressions count, too. Do light landscaping. Plant flowers and fill any patches in the lawn. Fix any plumbing or electrical problems.
Repaint if you have to, but use neutral colors. Replace any bright or bold wall paper with more neutral colors. Replace electrical switches, plugs, and plates. It's a quick way to make the house look freshly refurbished.
Keep It Clean
Keep the house extra clean, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Pay to have it professionally cleaned if you can. Display flowers around the house. Play soft music on the stereo.
Fleming says if you do any big-ticket items like a new kitchen, show the receipt for the work and a list of the materials you used. That way, you can bargain for at least some of the cost of the improvement.
Harrington says doing some things before can save you money another way. A new carpet may cost you $2,500. But bargaining with a buyer who wants credit for new carpeting can cost you twice that.
"When you do it, it is cheaper than when you are giving concessions," she said.
The National Association of Realtors reported similar results from a yearly poll it sponsors. Minor kitchen remodeling, such as refacing cabinets and replacing some fixtures, returned up to 81% of the value if the house was sold within a year.
But major remodeling brought back only 70% of the investment. New windows returned just 56% of their cost. A new home office brought in just half of the investment.
HomeGain said its results varied by region. West Coast buyers are impressed with cosmetic improvements like a table set for dinner. New towels in the bath were another plus.
East Coast buyers want to know the roof is sound. They want the basement dry and clean, says Harrington. She blamed those on the weather. Be sure you talk with your real estate agent about what you can do to improve your home. Fleming said he deals most often with clutter.
He suggestedrenting space to store old or excess furniture. Anything that gives the home a less lived-in look.
Check out the Home Sale Maximizer feature on the HomeGain site. Use it to measure the impact of various improvements on the sale price of your home.