In 2021, my main strategy is helping each client’s home look its best online with careful planning, staging, and professional photography. The photo above didn’t just happen, it involved my staging team and a creative professional photographer to compose this warm and inviting space.
We follow certain steps to add market appeal to every photo. It’s work.
But right now, I know if you have some do-able home projects, they are just what you need to reduce your stress levels and see a brighter future at home. Really, it’s okay to pretend a little while improving your home and current lifestyle.
Putting together plans to help my clients prepare their homes to appeal to the real estate market is always fun, but, these days, I know everyone is seeing their homes differently now that they are spending a lot of time at home during this awful pandemic.
So, here are some ideas of smart home projects that you can do now which will improve the look and feel of your house while riding out this storm.
Let’s get started!
Here is a checklist to help you get rolling…
- Think like a Home Shopper: All of the time you have spent looking at Houzz or Zillow over the last nine months have been preparing you for this moment. What has caught your eye in the dreamhouse you have been checking out? Why would someone “Like” or “watch” your listing?
- Your top-ten projects list: You probably know projects around your house that need finishing, that’s okay, but write down only ten of those things that need changing, finishing, or really need deep cleaning.
- Purging all that Stuff: We all live with too much stuff and now is the time to make some decisions. Ever been mortified to see a house online that has too much stuff? You don’t need to become a minimalist and toss everything out, but remove some old 1990s stuff, toss it or donate it. Don’t rent a self-storage place because you’ll never see it again.
- Walls and Carpets: Painting is an easy way to change the whole look and feel of your home. You can always hire a professional, but some rooms you may be able to do yourself like a bathroom, rec room, dining room or kitchen. Tips from experienced painters can be found with an easy Google search, and since you have extra time, you’ll be able to appreciate your work. Here are my painting suggestion. Your carpets probably should be professionally cleaned when the weather warms up (so you can open windows).
- Update light fixtures: New light fixtures are much easier to find and buy online these days. I always have clients update certain ones and they are always excited about the new look. ADD multiple LED lights inside a walk-in closet, replace a gold chandelier in the dining room, or replace your under cabinets kitchen lights with new GE Enbrighten lights… they have transformed my kitchen!
- Clean Hardwood Floors: Some hardwood floors may need professional attention to look good again, but many can be cleaned with specially formulated cleaner that gently picks up dirt and revives that luster. Check out Lowes or Home Depot and start cleaning in a hidden area just in case… like under a couch.
- Go to the bathroom: But seriously, take a look at your bathrooms. Home buyers want to see spotless, relaxing spa-like bathrooms. So, consider replacing your shower head, faucets, toilet seats, light fixtures, or paint. Fluffy new white towels are also a simple upgrade.
- Your kitchen: Kitchens seem to be the obvious place to update. Renovation isn’t a functional option since it may take six to eight weeks, and replacement appliances could be back-ordered for two or three months. Start with a deep clean, especially in your refrigerator which may have old salad dressing bottles etc. that are just taking up space. Chuck them! Removed shelves and clean in your sink with hot water. Replace bulbs. As for appliances, today’s dishwashers are super quiet, new refrigerators are bigger inside, and a new gourmet range will make the whole kitchen look professional.
- Light Bulbs: A lot has changed in the world of light bulbs over the last five years. “Soft White LED bulbs” are what you want to use… trust me! I often find old bulbs covered in dust, or those curly CFL bulbs looking like ugly fluorescent lights (they are). Toss them! Add a 120w equivalent LED floodlight in the garage for an immediate transformation. Or use new 75-watt equivalent LED Edison style bulbs in your exterior front door fixtures – clean that fixture too!
- Laundry room: These are the work horses in most homes that rarely get any love. They do sell cleaners, but you can probably find sites recommending white vinegar to sanitize inside your machine. Get you vacuum out and clean lint out of the dryer. Wipe down the machines and get all that dust or soap off. Consider adding a shelf (Container Store), replacing the light fixtures, or adding brighter soft white LED bulbs.
- Working from Home: The old school “home office” has taken on a higher prominence in today’s lifestyle. Remote workers aren’t driving into the office. If you have a home office, start to set up a modern yet professional backdrop for Zoom calls. Art on the walls, books and art on your bookcase, additional lighting, a professional mic. All too often I see people on TV who look like they are in their bedroom (maybe) or are in an empty basement room.
- Upsizing: Believe it or not, people want larger homes since they are working and possibly virtual-teaching their kids. They need extra space so it is important to look at every room in your house with a 2021 lens. Upgrading high speed, fiber optic internet access isn’t a luxury but a necessity.
- Plumbing: Replacing your hot water heater takes only a couple of hours but will immediately change your life. You will need a professional for this job, but if your hot water heater is more than eight years old then you are getting poor performance in the shower, dishwasher, and laundry.
- Safety: Safety in a home project is important so know where the Circuit Breaker box is, the Main Water Shut Off valve, and when you are beyond your competency. Replacing smoke detectors is fast and easy and can provide an excellent level of home protection.
Before and After… for example
I hope that you will consider a few of these projects and then let me know how a home project turned out at your house. A photo or two will be great (before and after) and then I’ll feature it here in a series to inspire others.
To give you an idea, here is a room that I did for clients last summer.
There were a few things in this 2012 dining room that I knew needed to change. The wall paint needed to have greater contrast to the extensive white trim work. The ceiling was painted similar to the wall color which dulled this bright room and hid the three piece crown molding. And, the “heavy” chandelier needed to have a modern vibe like what I see in competitive homes.
- Wall paint
- Ceiling paint
This is the professional photo that I used. The ceiling has been painted white. The trim work was fine so it wasn’t repainted. The wall is a nice gray from Benjamin Moore. And, the modern farmhouse chandelier gives a minimalist feel.
Looking beyond this long winter
In the meantime, know that I am thinking about everyone who is sheltering from the virus at home, and dealing with this hardship on so many levels.
I look at data all the time and the Fairfax County real estate market has remained remarkably strong in the spring (2021). Buyer demand far outstrips the supply, and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell has essentially guaranteed low-interest rates for another two years.
All in all, this makes an excellent case for using your home as a hedge against future inflation. Lock in long-term loans or refinance, and understand that inflation will continue to lift the value of your home.
Current owners looking to move should start to plan now as we find that finding your next home, anywhere in the country, will be more difficult than finding a buyer for your home. There are some specific strategies that I plan to cover in a future post.