The Atlanta real estate market remains robust compared to the majority of other major cities in the country due to the fact Realtors were deemed essential in Georgia and pivoted quickly to facilitate safety in the showing and closings of homes during Covid-19. The amount of homes available still remains somewhat tight which is good news for sellers as more buyers are compete for less inventory. In a seller’s market, you still need to compare to other homes in your area and price range favorably. Independent of location, there are 3 primary driving factors in selling your home in a timely manner…price, condition and marketing. A good Realtor will help you determine a fair price based on a professional market analysis of comparables, as well as provide you with the marketing resources crucial in exposing your home to as wide an audience of ready, willing and able buyers as possible. The job of the home seller is to ensure the condition is as good or better than the surrounding competition in order to sell quickly at the highest price. If you have loved your home well, this may sound somewhat intimidating as to what investment this may entail, but the more move-in ready a home appears, the more readily others can see themselves in it. Returns on your investment will vary from making more money on the sale, to selling your home faster thus having less mortgage and utility payments.

  1. Curb appeal- The importance of your first impression is similar to a job interview. What is the initial opinion of the decision maker? If the front of your home presents well, the buyer will immediately be excited to see more. You can do this by sprucing up your landscape by making sure weeds are pulled and your lawn is mowed. Consider adding fresh pine straw, flower beds or potted plants near the front. Repainting your front door will make it pop, and if these are cracked or outdated, replace the door handle and doorbell cover. Another easy repair is pressure washing the driveway and sidewalk. Pressure washers can be rented at home supply stores inexpensively. Any amount of money you spend from where the car is parked to the front door will typically give you a 103% return on investment.

  2. Paint the interior- Unless your home is already a neutral color throughout that can be spruced up with either light touch ups or cleaning scuff marks off the walls, it’s a good idea to paint the primary living areas of the home, entryway and hallways. Not only will this make the home appear bigger, brighter and more welcoming, but the smell of fresh paint gives the sensation of a cleaner and newer home, much like new car smell. Plus neutral palates create more of a blank slate which will help future homeowners envision living there. Stick to lighter shades and endeavor to complement the color of the flooring. For instance you may be tempted to paint a cool grey tone throughout but if your carpet is a warm brown, stick to beige tones. DIY painting ranges from $200-400 per room or hire a professional painter for approximately $700 per room.

  3. Clean or replace flooring- If you have outdated vinyl or dark, worn or stained carpeting, you may want to consider replacing it if a good steam clean doesn’t make it look somewhat new. Much like the smell of fresh paint, the smell of new carpeting is a trigger for people’s senses that a home is move in ready and is one less thing for them to worry about. Vinyl flooring has come a long way and laminates are inexpensive and emulate the look of hardwood. Be sure to once again stick with neutral colors and take into consideration the color of the walls when choosing flooring. This may be your biggest cost in prepping your home for sale but history has shown that homes which offer a flooring incentive vs. homes with new floors will languish on the market longer. Flooring expenses vary widely based off of cleaning vs. replacement costs, but the difference in the speed of how quickly your home sells may be well worth it.

  4. Light it up- The easiest way to make your home appear inviting and ready for a new owner is to ensure every lamp and light in your home have working lightbulbs. This may seem insignificant but a chandelier with a blown light bulb can send a subliminal message that there may be other projects lurking around the house. You should also consider upgrading some of your light fixtures if they appear old or outdated, especially in the foyer, dining room, and bathrooms. Fairly affordable fixtures can be found at home supply stores or you can find used ones online or at thrift stores. If you prefer spending less money but perhaps more time, a couple of coats of bronze or black spray paint transform old brass light fixtures within hours and noticeably give the appearance of an updated feel. Light bulbs are inexpensive and changing light fixtures by either painting them or replacing them can range from $50 to several hundred dollars.

  5. Turn it around- What is something that turns every day that you may not notice but a buyer will? Doorknobs, faucet fixtures and ceiling fans. Doorknobs are a fairly inexpensive and easy DIY project to update and faucet fixtures and ceiling fans can often be handled by the same handyman. If the style of any of these are outdated, much like light fixtures, your home will immediately appear newer with simple and somewhat affordable adjustments. For sources outside of home supply stores, Ebay is a great place to look for secondhand fixtures and Amazon has a wide selection of new products that are quite affordable. Prices start as low as $15 per doorknob, $50 per faucet fixture and $60 per fan plus any installation fees.

  6. De-clutter, clean and stage- The majority of your investment here will probably be your time, some miscellaneous cleaning supplies and perhaps a short-term storage solution such as a family member’s garage or renting a POD. An empty room looks larger than a cluttered room and a well-staged, decluttered room looks larger than an empty room. Prepping your home for sale also means getting a jump on packing early. Remove all personal items such as family photos and memorabilia as possible so new buyers can picture themselves over the mantle, not your lovely family. De-clutter all countertops and organize storage to give the appearance of more than adequate space. Clean your home as if you were having an important guest come to dinner, and then clean it some more. And make sure it smells good. Obviously you can’t stop living your life, but understand if you cook inside and then show your home shortly after, the lingering smell of bacon grease or fish will be a turn off. Studies have shown the most appealing smells to be baking bread, cookies or vanilla. Air fresheners that neutralize odors are a solution as are plug ins if necessary (for instance in the kitchen or the room the dog sleeps in), but just be sure they are turned down low as too much fragrance can also backfire. And if you don’t have the money to hire a staging company ($300-$600 for initial consultation with no furniture rental), look online for ideas. Pinterest is a great resource for not just staging individual rooms but also outside spaces like decks and patios.

You’ve done a great job getting your home ready to sell, now what? Homes that are listed, marketed and sold by Realtors make more money and sell faster. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyer and Sellers, data shows that in 2019 FSBOs sold on average 40% less ($200,000 vs. $280,000) than homes listed by a Realtor. And it’s impossible to quantify the amount of time and headaches a Realtor can save you by handling the marketing, showing and contract negotiations required to get a home to closing, not to mention running interference for any challenges that pop up. After all your hard work, possibly the biggest return on your investment will be hiring a qualified and experienced Realtor.

By Holly Morris

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