Home Selling: How To Get Top Dollar For Your Houston House

20 Best Houston Home Investments:
Quick And Easy Steps To Increase
The Value Of Your Home

Get Top Dollar: 5 Free Tips, 15 Solid Investments

Below, please find the 20 best investments you can make before selling your home. Five of the tips are free (you should absolutely do all of these). We’ve also included 15 good (and quick) home projects, broken down by their estimated costs.

We have also added 5 quick renovation tips for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

These recommendations come from three primary sources: Our Analysis of 815,494 Houston Home Listings Over the Past Decade, the current Houston edition of the Cost vs Value Report(1), and my experience selling over $250 million of Houston real estate.

If you’re considering selling your home:

Custom Report from a Top Ranked Houston Realtor

As a reminder, each home is unique. Different neighborhoods sell in different ways. Before you spend money on a material home project, consult with your real estate agent to understand the return on investment (ROI) in your area and what works best in your Houston neighborhood. The trends and recommendations in this article reflect the overall Houston market.

Contact Paige Martin, one of the top ranked Realtors in the United States, for personal recommendations and advice.

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Things You Can Do For Free

De-Personalize

Having lots of personal items in your house is 6th on the list of 10 things that turn off homebuyers.(3)

When buyers visit your home, they need to envision themselves living in it.

It’s harder to do that if the place is filled with personal memorabilia. Often times, buyers can get caught up in looking at “your life” instead of looking at your home.

A few family photos here & there are fine, but walls & bookshelves displaying all of the special moments of your life becomes a distraction. Also, rooms filled with trophies, awards, posters, etc. draw away from the focus of your home.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are photos of the same living room. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures.

Do A Deep Clean

2nd on list of homebuyers’ pet peeves is bad odors from old carpets, unwashed furniture, and pets.(3)

Deep clean floors, carpets, furniture, baseboards, doors, bed & bath linens, etc. You’re often competing against new construction when you sell your home, so you want to do everything you can to minimize the years of “living” your home has seen. A good, thorough cleaning can go a long way to bringing your home back to life.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are photos of the same living room. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures.

Clear Storage Space

Storage space is always high on buyer’s list of home “needs.”

To maximize this feature in your home, spend a little time organizing & purging your pantries & cabinets.

If these are stocked full, the message it sends to buyers is “This house doesn’t have enough storage for the current owners. How will it have enough for me?”

You don’t have to completely empty these spaces – just tidy & organize to show them off for their maximum potential.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same garage. Note the clutter and waster space in the Before picture, and the de-cluttered After photo.

Staging Consultation With Your Furniture

According to the NAR 2015 Profile of Home Staging report, home staging had a positive effect on 96% of buyers.(1)

81% of buyers also note that it is easier to visualize a “staged” property as a future home than houses that didn’t go through staging.(1)

NAR data also shows that 54% of homebuyers are more likely to make an offer up to 20% higher for staged homes.(1) Check resources online for home staging tips.

Typically, hiring a stager costs several hundred dollars.  However, it’s something that we pay for if you’re one our listing clients (so it’s free for them – read more & see details).

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same living room. Note the difference in the room layout and furniture set-up in the Before and After photos.

Houston House Renovations Under $500

Fix The Obvious

If a buyer notices many items in need of repair while walking through your house, it will lead them to believe that the property is not well cared for, or that there are “bigger, more expensive” repairs looming.

You can avoid this by “fixing the obvious.”  For example, if you notice wood rot on your front porch leading to your front door, then repair it so you make a better first impression.

Take care of the conspicuous issues you see: replace burned out light bulbs, make sure all fans work, fix dings or scuffs on the wall – especially in high traffic areas.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are photos of the same patio. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures.

Swap Out Old Fixtures & Hardware

The #3 Biggest Turnoffs for Homebuyers are outdated fixtures and appliances.(3)

While you can’t cheaply replace appliances, you can easily swap out old-looking fixtures.

You can buy new door handles, wall outlets and cabinet fixtures at a Home Depot or Lowe’s for a few hundred dollars, and easily give a makeover to the most important rooms, including:

  • Entry way (remember, 1st impressions matter)
  • Hallways
  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same hallway. Note the clutter and old fixtures in the Before picture, and the de-cluttered and redecorated After photo.

Improve Lighting

Inexpensive replacements of old & dated light fixtures from a home improvement store can make a room look more current, especially if the house is being shown empty.

If you’re handy, you can also go the “DIY” route and paint out-of-style fixtures & replace shades for a much improved look at a much lower cost.

If you’ve got old, heavy draperies that block out the light, consider removing those or replacing them with faux wood blinds to allow for more light. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually enlarge the space.

BAD
GOOD

These are pictures of the same bedroom. Note the how the shades and curtains block natural light in the Before picture. In the After photo, the room looks more open and spacious.

DIY Painting Project

Painting your walls can instantly brighten up your house and make it appear in good condition.

Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable.

There are plenty of online guides and video tutorials on effective home painting techniques. With just a few gallons of paint, brushes, and rollers, you can give your house a newly-bought vibe.

Concentrate On Curb Appeal

Focus on the first 10 seconds of a buyer’s experience.

Cut the lawn, put fresh mulch down, trim the hedges, and ensure that the buyer’s entrance into the home allows for easy access and promotes a “fresh and clean” appearance.

If you’re selling a single family home, tidy up your front porch.  If it needs a fresh coat of paint or powerwash, do that.

If you’re selling a condo, make sure your door and door handle are clean and tight.  Focus on the first things that a buyer sees when they open the door (make it light, bright and attractive).

Houston Home Investments Under $5,000

Professional Paint Job – Inside & Out

A USA Today survey revealed that 40% of homebuyers are willing pay extra for homes under 5 years old.(4)

A fresh coat of paint helps immensely in making a house look new. Hire professionals to take care of your house painting job to ensure good quality.

Aside from the added curb appeal, regularly painting your house helps improve its longevity. You need a fresh coat of paint or sealant every two to 10 years for wood siding and every 15-25 years for fiber-cement.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same living room. The new painting in the After photo makes the room more inviting.

Carpet & Flooring

If your carpet or flooring shows a lot of wear and tear, it can date the home.

Much like a fresh coat of paint, new carpet or refinished flooring can really bring a home up to a buyer’s expectations quickly and cost effectively.

If you’re upgrading only one or two areas, make them count. Focus on rooms that buyers first experience when they enter the home or those that need the most attention.

Landscaping Touch Up

According to a LawnAndLandscape Magazine study, around 60% of landscaping costs is recouped when you sell your home.(5)

Curb appeal plays a big role in reeling in the interest of homebuyers.  According to RealEstateAOL, an eco-friendly lawn can cost about $4,000.(6)

At a minimum, ensure that your lawn is well cared for (cut the grass, replace patches of dead grass, trim overgrown trees or hedges, etc.)

BEFORE
AFTER

These are photos of the same yard. The landscaping project doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul. Note the difference between the Before and After pictures.

Entry Door Replacement

Your entry door is one of the first things a potential home buyer sees.

Based on the latest Cost Vs Value report, the average project cost is $1,291. On average, you recoup 106% when you sell your home.(1)

The return on investment (ROI) not only improves your home’s exterior, but it is also profitable in the long run.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are photos of the same home. A simple repaint and a few fixes make a world of difference in the Before and After pictures.

Garage Door Replacement

A garage door replacement is one of the Cost Vs Value reports “best deals” with a 110% return on investment.(1)

From personal experience, this value is best realized if your home features a garage door that is visible from the front of the house.

If your garage door is on the side the house, back of the property or more hidden from immediate view, you can probably spend your money elsewhere.

Best Overall Projects

Candid disclosure: In nearly every one of these “best projects” it’s likely that you won’t get 100% of your investment back out of the property – but they’re the best projects as compared to other options.

Whenever you start a major home renovation project (like any of the ones below) it’s typically more effective to price your home to sell than take on the work associated with the project itself.

My recommendation is that you look at any of these as “doing them for your enjoyment of living in the house” NOT because you expect to “make money” from it (unless you’re a professional and know exactly how to manage projects like this yourself).

In my professional experience, much of the the value of any of these projects comes in helping your house sell faster – not from “making money on them.”

Where that translates is that the faster you sell your home, statistically, the higher price you’ll receive.

Stone Veneer Accents

Stone veneer accents is one of the best home renovation projects. For an average spend of $7,050, you stand to recoup $9,412 (124%) when you sell your home.(1)

Even if you’re not planning to sell, stone veneer accents can help improve the look and feel of your home.

Kitchen Renovation

Kitchen remodeling is one of the best investments you can make for your home. Next to the master bedroom, the kitchen is the second most attractive interior feature to homebuyers.

Depending on your kitchen renovation inspiration, you can have minor kitchen renovations at around $19,795 or major kitchen remodelling for roughly $59,905. Recouped costs are at 83% (minor renovation) and 55% (major remodelling).(1)

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same attic. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures.

Attic Insulation / Room Remodels

MoneyUSNews notes that “an attic bedroom is one of the most desirable features among homebuyers”.(7)

Adding an Attic Insulation can ring you up between $1,000 to $1,500. However you stand to recoup at least 75% of your costs when you sell.

An attic conversion also lets you add valuable living area without altering the footprint of your house.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same attic. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures.

Window Replacement

Window replacements can cost between $12,000 to $20,000 depending on the quality of your home and the materials (usually vinyl or wood) used. Cost recouped when selling is between 75-85%.(1)

Personally, I have yet to see a buyer pay specifically more for a home because windows have been replaced. They appreciate the replacement, but don’t equate the same level of value to this project as a seller would.

Because this upgrade is often done for energy savings, definitely make this improvement early in your home ownership, as you need to recoup as much of this investment yourself vs expecting to get it on resale.

BEFORE
AFTER

These are pictures of the same room. Note the difference in quality of the Before (untouched) and After (post-staging and taken by a professional photographer) pictures

Siding Replacement

Quality siding replacements offer longevity and resistance to termites, moisture, rot, and fire. Renovation costs is between $10,000 to $14,000. You stand to recoup 74% of the renovation costs.(1)

From my professional experience, this helps with curb appeal in a big way (especially on older homes or properties that have experienced significant wood rot).

However, for many buyers, this replacement is viewed more as “maintenance requirements” vs an upgrade.  Like window replacements, this is noticed and appreciated, but typically it’s not a dollar for dollar return on investment.

Best Updates To-Do While Rebuilding Post-Harvey

Harvey dumped over 50 inches of rain and caused over $180 billion in damages. The Hurricane also displaced more than a million people from their homes.

The scary thing is: only 17% of homeowners in the eight counties heavily affected by Harvey had flood insurance.

It will take a while for the Bayou City to fully get back on its feet.

For those forced to rebuild due to flooding damages and those planning to remodel to better prepare their homes for the future, here are 5 home updates to do post Hurricane Harvey.

Pipes and Drainage

Piping and drainage are easily among the most overlooked parts of the home. It’s not only very hard to update due to its location, it also usually doesn’t present a lot of issues until it’s too late.

One of the few good things about having a flooded home is that it allows better access to the piping and drainage system.

Take advantage of the displacement and have your contractors check your pipes and drainage. Usual damages include cracks, leaks, and clogging. If you have an older home and never had any piping work done before, look into replacing the pipes and tubings entirely.

Molding

Houston is no strange to rainy weather and storms. Due to this, molding is not an uncommon issue for our homes.

Keep an eye out for mold. While molding is a common occurrence following storms, some houses may already have molds building up even before Harvey. Now is a good time to have a more thorough survey of the home to make sure it has no molding.

Molding is also a major health risk. Aside from being a serious health risk, mold can cause further damage to wood floors, ceiling tiles, drywall and other parts of a house if left untreated.

Within a day of a flood, mold can begin forming. Two of the biggest red flags are discoloration and a strong musty smell. It’s important to remove items from the home if they’ve been soaked with water and can’t be fully dried. This can include everything from rugs and furniture to drywall and appliances.

Electric Outlets

Developers build homes with a general idea of where the most ideal locations are for lighting, plugs, and sockets. The home owner has a better idea of where exactly these outlets should be located.

Work with your contractor and map out the exact locations for your plugs and sockets. With everything currently displaced, you can also request additional outlets added all throughout your home. This helps get rid of octopus wiring and exposed outlets.

Also ask your builder to spot-check your home’s electrical system to make sure everything is in order. Replace everything that needs replacing, and ensure there are no issues.

Flooring

Some parts of Houston have always been prone to flooding. Most homebuilders prepare houses by using floors not susceptible to water damage. That said, too much exposure to water is still detrimental to any type of flooring. This is specially accurate for homes that use carpeting, hardwood floors and laminated tops.

Consider installing tiles and any other concrete- or ceramic-based materials. Stay away from hardwood, laminated tops, and carpets.

Homeowners in flood-prone areas should also consider raising the floor off the concrete with rubber feet, making a small channel below where moisture can run.

Windows and Home Exteriors

If Harvey damaged your windows to the point that it needs replacing, it might be a good idea to also reinforce it during the process.

Talk to your contractor and look into putting in hurricane- or wind-rated windows and doors. Also have them check your window’s jambs, sills and overall frame – ask them to replace it with high-grade materials if needed.

Look into updating home exteriors with solid brick and stucco siding. Avoid vinyl sidings as its easily torn off by strong winds and is more susceptible to water damage.

Bonus Tip: Generators

Generators are expensive, but a definite blessing during calamities. Many homes lost power for days after Hurricane Harvey.

In the latest Houston edition of the Cost vs Value Report(1), a backup power generator usually costs in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. The recouped cost is at 50%.

Portable generators are less expensive, typically between $400 and $1,500. It can only power the sump pump and other basic electrical needs during a disaster. You’ll also need to manually hook it up and fill it with gas.

Generators may stand idle for most of the time. However when the need for it does arise, it can be the difference between having a miserable to bearable experience.

Houston Home Selling Checklist

Before entertaining any buyers, prep you home like you’re about to have guests. Here’s a checklist of things that can improve your home’s appeal:

EXTERIORINTERIORDURING SHOWS
  • Maintain the yard
    – Keep grass freshly cut
    – Remove clutter (toys, tools, etc)
    – Apply fresh paint to fence
    – Weed and add fresh mulch to garden beds
  • Add a fresh coat of paint to the front door
    – Tighten door handles
  • Clean windows
  • Powerwash home exterior
  • Fix gutters and downsprouts
  • Remove excessive wall decors, furniture, and personal knick knacks
  • Deep clean walls and ceilings
    (also consider repainting)
  • Wash carpets
  • Organize closets and cabinets
  • Fix faucets, drain taps, sinks and ensure there are no leaks
  • Clean and replace all light fixtures
  • Turn on all lights
  • Open drapes to allow natural light in
  • Hide pets or secure them outdoors
  • Play a soft “mood” music
  • Light scented candles with comforting scents like vanilla
  • Vacate the property

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