Musings from a life of chances and changes
"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” - Winston Churchill
Recently, a friend handed a magazine to me. It was a beautiful edition of Luxe Interiors + Design Chicago. "I thought you might enjoy this because I know you really like interior design. You could probably look at it and teach me a lot." I assured my friend that flattery works every time, but that I am far from an interior designer. Of course, after a cocktail or two, I could be coerced into a prediction of the next design trends from a BergerBroker point of view.
I recognize my obsession with decorating, and I use it as a Realtor. It gives me insight when evaluating a home's marketability. Clearly, we "shape" our homes with our own style and vision. Not surprisingly, I often look at design from my ability to sell a home for the highest price. Thinking about decorating elements that are most important to sell is critical. It's a bit like winning a popularity contest. If you remember the playground skirmishes from your elementary school days, the real estate argument would go something like this: "My backyard is bigger than your backyard." "My kitchen doesn't look like it belongs in the Brady Bunch." On and on and back and forth it goes. Suffice it to say that each house has its strengths and weaknesses, much like people. So the question is what can you do to your home to make buyers see it as the most popular?
1. Accept what you cannot change. It is a waste of time to bemoan the issues about your house that cannot be changed. For instance, the location of your home. If it is next to a highway, railroad tracks, or just a busy street, get over it for now. Learn from the experience and put location as a bigger priority the next time. The price of your home will reflect the location and if the home is attractive, it will sell.
2. Leave your ego at the door. Let your Realtor come into your home and give you an honest assessment of what needs to change to make it more appealing to buyers. Years ago, I painted my master bedroom with one of my kids. It was a great bonding experience, and we were proud of our artistic talents. At the time, layered paint with rags or sponges was trendy, but trends end, and I knew that a fresh coat of neutral paint was the answer. Your favorite DIY project can detract from your home, and if you take things personally, you risk losing potential sales.
3. Correct obvious flaws. Does your house need a facelift in order to have that “cool factor”? Look around with a critical view. Better yet, the realtors that you interview should be able to give you valuable advice. Do you have faucets that drip or are outdated? Have you ever professionally cleaned your wood burning fireplace? Do all the electrical outlets work? What is the condition of your windows? These are the type of items that will be part of your home inspection. Quick fixes to minor imperfections will impress buyers and show that your house has been lovingly taken care of instead of neglected. If you want your home to be even more popular, change some light fixtures and/or hardware. These can be inexpensive and will help your home be “in style,” thus improving its popularity ranking.
4. Resist the urge to splurge. It may be tempting, but the way to be most popular is not to have the most glitz and glamor on the street. Having the largest home on the block may make it more difficult to sell. Bells and whistles, like a pool and spa in the backyard, are likely to be a detriment too. The updates to your home need to be reasonable. A moderate bathroom update will give you a better chance of success. A new or improved deck is a less risky improvement as the return on your investment is almost 72%. Make sure you speak to a Realtor who knows the average return on your investment before you make any improvements. A knowledgeable Realtor can direct you to the appropriate projects to make your listing easier to sell.
5. It's better to look good than to feel good. The goal when selling your home is that buyers view it as move-in ready. This requires a keen eye to determine what needs to be "dressed up" and what style will entice the most buyers. The appearance of the homes in the neighborhood impacts on the most sought after interior design. A house decorated in a farm style or with an industrial vibe will be less attractive to buyers looking in a location where traditional home design reigns. Remember, your house is compared to the other homes for sale in the neighborhood. If you want to impress buyers, make your home attractive and elegant in keeping with the homes in your community.
So the items that needed to be shaped up are finished and your house is dressed to impress. Whether your home has the “cool” factor needed to beat the competition will be evident very quickly. In the end, if your home sells because it has a “nice personality,” then your design was successful. Well-reasoned interior design updates helped you reach the top of the most popular crowd. In this context, it's more valuable than it was on the grammer school playground.
Judi Berger is an attorney and real estate broker who is blogging as she begins a new chapter in her life.