Want to Boost Your Home’s Appeal? What You Should and Shouldn’t Spend Money on

With our ongoing seller’s market in which right-priced homes sell quickly and often for more than the listing price, do you really need to beautify your home to help it sell better?

The short answer is “Yes.” But don’t get carried away. The agents at Golden Real Estate like to tell sellers that they should only address certain cosmetic issues and what we call “eyesores.” Investing in popular big-dollar improvements or updates isn’t likely to return you more than they cost to implement.

Let’s talk cosmetic fixes first. For sure, you’ll want to wash the windows and clean your window wells. In the process, you’ll be removing the window screens.  Clean and label those screens and store them in your basement or garage. Don’t reinstall them until you are under contract. They detract from the views out your windows even if the screens themselves are clean.

 Curb appeal (aka first impression) is, of course, highly important. If you have a lawn, you can make it greener pretty quickly with one or two Lawn Doctor visits. If your bushes or trees are overgrown, consider having them trimmed. How does your front porch look? If it’s looking worn, an investment in fresh paint or stain will pay dividends. Ditto for that wooden deck in the back.

Speaking of the wooden porch and deck, let’s move on to a discussion of eyesores. An “eyesore” is anything that draws negative attention by the prospective buyer. Rotted and/or broken boards on your porch or deck definitely fit our definition of an eyesore!

Inside your home, there are several potential eyesores that I advise sellers to address. Let’s look at walls, floors, windows and countertops.

If there is damage to the walls, fix it. Our handyman (available only to clients) is an expert at drywall repair, including matching texture. Touch-up and repainting may be called for. Our free staging consultant may advise you specifically about your walls. My current seller in Golden thought their red kitchen should be repainted to a neutral color. I said no, and we still had a bidding war and went under contract in 5 days for $136,000 over asking price.

Plush and berber carpeting in good condition does not need to be replaced, but if there are ripples in it, it should be stretched, which is an easy and affordable fix. Older shag carpets should, in most cases, be replaced. Wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the more affordable improvements.

If the carpeting is covering hardwood floors in good condition, I’d suggest removing the carpet and refinishing the hardwood if it needs it. Hardwood floors that are already exposed but noticeably worn should also be refinished.

Is there hardwood under that old wall-to-wall carpeting? One way to find out is to pull up the far corner of the carpet in a closet. You can push the carpet back down onto the tack strip and no one will be able to tell you had pulled it up. If you have forced air heating vents in the carpet, lift up the vent grate and you’ll be able to see whether there’s hardwood underneath.

If you have old single-pane windows, it’s tempting to replace them, and that might be a good strategy in a buyer’s market, but not in our current seller’s market. In this market, people will buy a home with old windows if it is priced right. I’d want to see them in person before making a final suggestion.

What about countertops?  Replacing an old Formica countertops with slab granite, Corian, Silestone, concrete or other popular materials would be very expensive, and I don’t recommend it unless the Formica is chipped or scarred and therefore an “eyesore.” There’s a company Granite Transformations (www.GraniteTransformations.com) that does a remarkable job of covering an existing countertop in place with a granite-based slurry that makes it look like slab granite. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve seen homes with their work and was quite impressed.

Window coverings are another cheap fix that can make a big difference. I recently installed cellular blinds I purchased at Home Depot which have no strings — just push up or pull down. You have probably seen them and love them as Rita and I do.  They are cut to width (I suggest 1/2 inch narrower than the opening) and come in different lengths. Prices are quite reasonable, and I installed eight of them in my house in just an hour or so with nothing more than an electric screw driver.

Bathrooms offer some potential dressing up. First of all, clean the grout in your tub/shower. Consider a new shower curtain. Other suggestions might arise from a personal visit.

One of my favorite affordable improvements in my current home and the one before was to install sun tunnels in dark areas such as a windowless garage or laundry room, or that dark corridor in the middle of your house. A brand name you’ve probably heard of is Solatube, but we purchased Velux sun tunnels for our houses. They come in 10, 14 and 22-inch diameters because the joists in your ceiling and roof are either 12, 16 or 24 inches on center. The cost fully installed for ours was well under $1,000 each — so much better and less prone to leakage or hail damage than a rectangular skylight. Look into installing sun tunnels for your own pleasure, not just to brighten up your home for selling. The more light you can bring into your home the more appealing it will be.

My broker associates and I are happy to walk through your house with you, even if you aren’t immediately ready to sell your home, to make suggestions regarding things to fix or leave alone. Call 303-302-3636 to be connected with any of us. Call me or one of them for a free consultation.

Some Favorite Home Improvements When Purchasing a New-to-Me Home

Who doesn’t want to make some improvements on a home they have just purchased?  Here are some of my personal favorites.

Energy efficiency is very important to Rita and me, so the first thing we do is pay for an energy audit by someone like Andrew Sams of Alpine Building Performance to identify opportunities for making the home more air-tight. This would likely include blowing more insulation into walls or ceilings and caulking around windows. It might also include installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to bring fresh air into the home. This device warms cold outside air in the winter and cools hot outside air in the summer by means of a heat exchanger.

I love bringing sunlight into a home, not with traditional skylights but with sun tunnels. Most people are familiar with the Solatube brand, but I prefer the Velux brand. I had Mark Lundquist of Design Skylights install a 22-inch Velux sun tunnel in my windowless garage and a 14-inch sun tunnel in my windowless laundry room — and four large Velux sun tunnels in the Golden Real Estate office. Ah, sunlight!

Speaking of sunlight, we replaced every light bulb is our house with LEDs which are “daylight” color (like sunlight), not cool white or warm white. CFLs and incandescent bulbs are so 2010!

Installing solar photovoltaic panels is a no-brainer for us, especially now that the cost has dropped so much. Your roof doesn’t have to face due south. Southeast and southwest are good enough. (That’s our situation.) Since you might be driving an electric car someday, install as much PV as Xcel Energy allows to cover that future load.  If you have just purchased an EV, Xcel will allow you to install more panels based on anticipated future use.

Don’t you hate climbing a curb to enter your driveway? Developers install those mountable curbs the entire length of the streets in new subdivisions, not knowing exactly where each driveway will be. One of the first things I would do (and have done) is to hire a concrete company to replace the mountable curb with a smooth entrance. It cost over $2,000 for our 3-car-wide driveway, but I love it every time I enter from the street! Caution: the sidewalk will now be sloped slightly and pedestrians could more easily slip on ice, so be prepared to salt your sidewalk to eliminate icing!

When your gas forced air furnace needs replacing, consider replacing it with a heat-pump furnace or mini-splits. And when your gas water heater needs replacing, I suggest buying a heat-pump water heater. The cost is about the same, and, by converting to electricity for both, you will have eliminated the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

Other improvements I’d consider include: Replacing carpeting with  tile in bathrooms; and replacing regular glass with Low-E glass on south-facing windows to reduce the harmful effects of sunlight on furniture, hardwood floors and artwork.