We needed to sell our house quickly and after only living in it for one year. That's no easy task, and if you're in a similar situation, I can give you some advice on how it can be done. Of course, the simple and first answer is to price it right, whether or not you get to some of the fixes I'll mention here. Yes, it mattered that I performed some of the fixes, but pricing it based on the competition and making it the best deal in the neighborhood meant that we got multiple offers in the first two days. While not every market is as hot as ours, a good price will ensure you get what the house is worth, since it won't sit around and have people wondering what's wrong.

Exterior

Over the past year, I caulked a lot around windows and doors. I also filled holes in the siding. I then painted over these fixes. It's fairly simple, and it's not just hiding problems. I mostly did it because Lisa didn't want bugs in the house. Buyers might see the caulk, but inspectors do see it, and it makes the buyer feel better when it's apparent the house was maintained.

I painted a rested chimney pipe that my inspector had noted. Again, buyers might not notice the paint, but they certainly won't see the rust, either. I also had painted the porch again, since it gets more traffic than the rest of the trim that was the same color. Buyers will stand on your porch while the realtor fiddles with the keys to enter.

I also put a bunch of rocks around the tree out front. My realtor suggested it, and I was thinking of skipping it, but the project certainly did make a difference. I had a lot of mulch for the area around the tree because of taking out three tree stumps in the yard. While I bought the house with the stumps, I would recommend selling without stumps, especially since it cost less than $500 to take all three out.

Almost immediately after moving in, I had put a screen up for my garbage cans. Depending on where these are stored on your property, this could be huge. Basically, I can keep the garbage outside, unlike many neighbors who use their garages. If those neighbors had to sell, they'd have to move the garbage out to make sure the garage smells better, and then it hurts curb appeal. A screen is not hard, either: one 8ft fence section, one post (hammered in with metal stake post holder thing), and some nails. I nailed one side to the house and staked the other side into the ground.

Besides that, it was mostly cleaning up a bit and getting some grass to grow. The previous owners had used that fast-growing annual grass to sell the house. I used high-quality stuff. Either one will sell the house, but mine will last. I also added one flat of flowers. Nothing crazy.

Interior

The interior upgrades were almost all about lighting and flooring. Sure, I replaced a kitchen faucet and the thermostat, but most people would have barely noticed the more subtle additions. Lighting and flooring, however, helped a lot.

We bought the house with 80s blue carpet. It's probably the main reason it was still on the market when we looked at it. The sellers put in a neutral color, and that certainly helped us resell the house a year later. I also added new carpet in the basement. I just laid it over the old stuff that had been glued down, but I got really big rolls, so it looks almost like it was installed rather than a giant area rug. I also painted the unfinished basement floor to a glossy finish, making it look clean. I painted the walls white with the glossy gray floors. The last and maybe best flooring decision was to add $100 of sheet vinyl to the kitchen to cover the 80s linoleum. Even if the buyers want ot gut the kitchen, throwing some sheet vinyl down makes it look like we cared.

The lighting was another main reason people did not buy this house right away last year. Ugly chandeliers and an under-lit basement. I replaced one awful light with a surface-mount LED, and then replaced a recessed light in the kitchen with a matching light. I painted one gold chandelier to black, adding frosted LEDs and just throwing out the amber bulb covers out of the 70s. Downstairs, I just added a whole bunch of LED tubes. For maybe $200, the lighting improved by several thousand dollars, now able to show off the floors.

Yes, paint the walls white if needed. Paint probably has about the best return-on-investment of any home update. We had also added six outlets for electricity in the unfinished part of the basement, as well as area rugs, which really did make it seem nearly finished, using only lighting, flooring, and paint.

I just talked to someone who tried to sell his house this year. He had over 50 showings and no offers. He said people said they'd like it with new carpet or in another color, but he didn't want to do the work until he had an offer. Since I did not have the time he had (he eventually pulled it off the market), I had to get it right before the offer. With some minor exterior and interior work, mostly using paint, flooring, and lighting, I was able to increase the value of our home by around $20,000 in one year. We even thought about increasing the asking price another $5000, but then we would have been in the territory of being overpriced. If you've ever watched the home rehab shows, you would never believe that a house can increase in value so quickly with simple additions, but it really is possible, especially if a lot of the updates are to a 40 year-old house that had never been touched. The new owners have more ideas, and I did, too, for that matter, but the point is that we were able to make a lot of small changes that were worth almost as much as that new kitchen or bathroom without the investment. And if you need to sell quickly, take a look at some of our ideas before you go nuts with a major remodel. But don't just tell folks to make an offer before you do anything, since they'll likely offer you advice rather than a price.

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