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Ask McEnearney: How can I increase my home’s value before I put it on the market?

This week’s Q&A column is written by Darlene Duffett of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Darlene at 703-969-9015 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How can I increase my home’s value before I put it on the market?

Answer: I’m asked this question all the time.

There are so many things that can be done to a property to increase its value prior to sale.

Here are 10 things that will make a big difference to your home’s value without hiring a contractor to knock down walls or expand the property.

1. Touch Up Your Curb Appeal and Landscaping

First impressions are everything. Potential homebuyers will make immediate, first impression notes as they drive up to your home. Approach your home from the street like a homebuyer. Take a fresh look at it. Do you have overgrown old bushes, weeds or unmanicured lawn? My top advice is to bring in a landscaping company to do a quick clean up and edging. You would be surprised how quickly a crew can get done what will take you an entire weekend.

Are you on a budget? Spending the weekend in the yard with the family can be an economical way to improve the appearance of your home. Trim the shrubs, mow the lawn and rake up any leaves. Make sure to edge all the sidewalks, beds and walkways. Clean up all the flower beds and add a new layer of mulch. Finish with a few flowerpots to add a pop of color by the front entrance.

2. Declutter and Depersonalize

The appearance of a larger room will increase value. Less is more when it comes to appearance and clutter. Walk through your home. Remove extra and oversized furniture to help rooms look more spacious. When you decrease the number of items in a room you visually increase the room’s square footage. Clean off all flat surfaces. Open blinds or add a mirror to a smaller room to visually extend the room. Always depersonalize so that the homebuyer can envision themselves living there.

3. Paint It!

One of the easiest and quickest ways to make a house shine is with a fresh neutral coat of paint. This is not the time to make a statement with the color of the year. Stick with something neutral. Hire a professional painting crew to put a fresh coat of paint on all walls. It is a quick way to freshen up each room and make them look clean and updated.

If you have a limited budget focus on the kitchen and bathrooms. Buyers will likely spend more time looking at them and will go a long way. Again, if you are a do-it-yourselfer make sure to cover all surfaces as you do not want to decrease the value with pain spots on the floors. For the exterior, follow your neighborhood’s trends to create some uniformity and sense of place.

4. Clean It

A clean home sets the stage for a potential buyer. Make sure that windows are professionally cleaned. It is worth every penny to have clean, streak free windows that let the natural light in. Vacuum all carpets and clean them if necessary. Mop all wood and tile floors. Scour all sinks, showers, tubs and toilets. Clean all kitchen appliances, wipe out the interior of all cabinets and shelving, wipe down all cabinets on the outside, and polish the counters and stainless-steel appliances.

If you are still living in your home, make sure to take out the garbage. You don’t want the smell of your last meal to be the first scent for the new homebuyer.

5. Kitchen, Kitchen, Kitchen

When touring homes, homebuyers always spend the most time in the kitchen. First, buyers will look at the kitchen itself. Then they will open the drawers, open the refrigerator, open the oven and even run the water. Make sure to clean every inch of the kitchen. A dirty refrigerator, oven or sink may turn a homebuyer away immediately. Replace old cabinet hardware with new knobs or pulls. Remove almost everything from the counter to open the kitchen up and help the buyer envision using the kitchen.

If you choose to update the kitchen, please do not waste your money on a statement piece. The statement piece that you spend so much money on may be the exact item that turns off the new homebuyer. Keep it simple and stick with stainless steel appliances, classic neutral colors and light patterns.

6. Bathrooms, Bathrooms, Bathrooms

You can get a lot of bang for your buck with small bathroom updates. An outdated sink can be replaced inexpensively to change the look of an entire bathroom. Replace dated or rusted light fixtures and bathroom fans with new versions. Update the faucets and showerheads and pick up new hardware pulls and rods. Replace the old shower curtain with a simple white one to open up the space and add a few white towels.

7. It’s all About the Lighting

Do not overlook lighting! Dark or minimal lighting will immediately show the age of a room or home. Replace old, dated fixtures with new classic fixtures. Again, stay away from statement pieces that may appeal to you, but not to a buyer. Use neutral lighting and make sure to replace all recessed bulbs so that they match. Put a lamp in a corner of a dark room or place lamps on the bedside tables. A little lighting will make a house feel like a home.

 8. Go High Tech

As millennials now make up the highest percentage of homebuyers, we should all stay aware of technology that can add value to a home. Consider upgrading to smart thermostats, fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, smart locks and lighting systems. Many of these items can now be run through a smart phone and give the additional benefit of energy efficiency if the new homebuyer can change their thermostat from afar.

9. Replace Worn Rugs and Carpeting

Would you want to walk on the rug in bare feet? Or would you want a baby to crawl on it? Buyers will notice immediately that the carpet needs to be replaced when they walk into a room. Take a look to see if carpeting is stained or worn or if there is lots of dust built up next to the walls and in the corners. Sometimes you can have rugs cleaned but many times it is worth replacing.

10. Staging

Studies show that staged homes increase dollar value because it helps the new homeowner envision how they would live in that home. The most common rooms homeowners’ stage is the living room, kitchen, master bedroom and dining room.

These are just a few areas where, with a little elbow grease, you can significantly impact the value of your home and help a homebuyer picture themselves living in the property. Stay tuned for more tips and suggestions in the months to come!

Darlene Duffett is a licensed real estate agent in Virginia with McEnearney Associates Realtors® in Old Town, Alexandria. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Darlene at 703-969-9015, [email protected] or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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