Home Sellers Handbook
Keeping up Appearances
Ellen Bower’s dinner parties have left their mark on her beige dining room carpet. At the Klines, Mo and Curly have scratched the door each morning when it’s time to go outside. To Ellen Bower and the Klines, these little imperfections are just part of the nostalgia of their homes. To potential buyers, however, they might be reason to look elsewhere.
When looking at your home, put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. Inexpensive improvements can go a long way toward attracting buyers. Cleaning the carpet or applying a new coat of paint won’t cost much and could substantially raise the value of your home. But be cautious about more expensive improvements. Adding a first floor bathroom or updating your kitchen might raise the value of your home, but luxuries like swimming pools and saunas might not. Some amenities may turn off buyers who aren’t interested in them or don’t want the hassle of upkeep.
When the Klines were ready to sell their house they spent $500 on quick and easy improvements. They started by organizing Cindy’s books and renting storage space for all of Jim’s lamps. Then they hired a landscaper to plant some flowers and replace dead patches on the lawn. A few large red geraniums and some colorful petunias made a huge difference in the “curb appeal” of the home. Next, they painted the doors, including the one that Mo and Curly scratched. Finally, they hired professional cleaners to scrub their house from top to bottom and shampoo their carpet. When they were done, the house looked so nice that Jim said to Cindy, “Why do we want to sell?”
Easy Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value
- You never get another chance to make a first impression: Paint or stain your front door; add polish to brass fixtures such as address numbers and door knobs; trim the bushes; plant colorful flowers; and lay down a new welcome mat.
- Cut the clutter: Have a garage sale to get rid of junk; straighten the cupboards and closets; and get rid of piles of papers or newspapers that you just haven’t had time to read.
- Clean and shine: Make sure your home is spotless and fresh-smelling. You may want to hire a professional carpet cleaner and air out any smoke or pet odors.
- Paint: Your taste may be unique. Tone down wall colors and wallpaper prints by painting or papering rooms in neutral colors like beige and white. These appeal to a greater number of people. Spackle is cheap. Fill holes and cracks first.
- Fix leaky roofs and other moisture problems: Water stains on the basement walls or bedroom ceilings can raise red flags for potential buyers. If you cannot afford to fix water damage, explain the problem to buyers—you will be liable for any problems you know about but don’t disclose.
- Get the bugs out: Exterminate any pests such as ants or rodents. One rodent can send a potential buyer running.
- Pay special attention to the bathrooms: A bathroom must be sparkling. Replace any vanities, soap dishes, wall coverings, or carpets that aren’t “hotel clean.”
- Make small repairs: Little things are the mark of quality. Tighten loose knobs; fix leaky faucets; oil squeaky door hinges; and replace any dirty furnace filters, drain catches, and torn screens.
Hiring a Contractor
Hiring a contractor to repair or enhance your home before you sell? Keep these tips in mind:
- Decide whether to hire a specialized or general contractor based on the work you want completed. Before agreeing to hire a contractor, get three bids or at the very least two estimates so you can compare costs for the work you want completed.
- You may want to ask a contractor for references. Don’t be bashful about asking a contractor for this information. Follow up by contacting those references to find out about previous jobs the contractor has completed and the level of customer satisfaction.
- The State of Minnesota requires most home improvement contractors to be licensed through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Contact the department to verify that the contractor is legitimate. If you hire a contractor, make sure the contractor has all the necessary permits and insurance before any work is started.
- Before construction begins, have the contractor provide you with a written contract. The contract should outline the terms for payment and should provide information regarding the work schedule or any other agreement made between you and the contractor.
- Document the progress of the work performed and be sure to keep any invoices, permits, or documents related to the work in a file. If you experience a problem with the contractor and the work performed, these records will be important.
- If you need assistance in resolving an issue with your home improvement contractor, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has prepared a consumer handbook entitled Home Building and Remodeling. To order a free copy of the publication or if you have questions you may contact us at the following:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812