Farm Talk: Maximizing your budget when selling a home!

In today’s Farm Talk, Paul has some very valuable tips on maximizing your budget when getting your home ready to sell. Paul shares a real case scenario about a home he is planning to list, and what challenges he & the current owners are facing in the process of getting the property ready for listing.  Paul tells us about the good, and the not-so-good aspects of the property, and answers the question: what really needs to be done before selling?  Obviously, a seller doesn’t want to spend money, if they don’t have to, but remember: You only get one chance to make a great first impression.

Paul starts with a list of what is non-negotiable.  First off, anything that is FREE, is non-negotiable – in other words, picking up personal items and putting things away is free and NEEDS TO BE DONE.  Also pruning dead flowers & plants needs to be done.  And there’s more!  This is an excellent show that is full of great info & advice.

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Farm Talk: Maximizing Your Budget When Selling a Home!

I want to talk a little bit about how to maximize the dollars you spend on a limited budget when getting a home ready for sale. I’ll start by describing a real case scenario that I’m going through right now with a client and also explain what we’ve decided to do about this home.

I’m getting ready to sell a 4,000+ square foot farmhouse on a 30-acre avocado ranch. There is also a 500 square foot studio apartment above a two-car garage. I would describe the home as Mediterranean style – beautiful, in a very picturesque setting with amazing views. The house sits on a hilltop and looks out at all of the surrounding orchards, hills and mountains. There is a trustee that is in charge of the sale. The trustee does not live at the property and he is not related to the family. The owner passed away and gifted the property to his children. The grandchildren are living in the home and guest house. I would say the house has been well loved, which is just a polite way of saying the house is dirty and there’s a lot of stuff lying around.

Some of the things that are going on inside the house; there are two cats and a large dog that also live inside with the family, the windows are dirty – two of the large double pane windows have lost their seal and the glass between the double panes is frosted, which prevents the view from being seeing out the windows. If the glass is frosted, you really can’t see out the windows. There’s also a woodshed near the house which is blocking the view from the family room. Remember, this is a hilltop home with amazing views and you’re looking out at a woodshed. One of the cats is old and lives in one bedroom where he has clearly made good use of the carpet, there’s an evident urine smell as soon as you walk in the room. It’s overpowering! There are food and pantry items all over the kitchen counters. The carpet on the staircase as well as the high traffic areas is dirty. The beds are all unmade in all of the bedrooms and there are clothes lying all over the floors. There are toiletries all over the bathroom counters, some of the cabinets are discolored from water stains, and outside there’s metal work around the property which at one point was painted, but now is faded or peeling. There are two fountains outside and neither of them work. There are dead plants and flowers that bloomed last spring but now have died but are still attached to the plants. Some of the planter beds are in good shape and I would say others are not in good shape. There are also bird poop stains on the patios. Some patios were painted before, but now the paint is peeling. The good news is the home was very well built. It’s structurally sound and I would say the exterior stucco and the stucco paint is in good shape, despite being dirty. The windows are dusty outside because this is a ranch. There’s just a lot of dust.

One of the conversations I’ve had with the trustee is about his options to getting this property ready for sale. Now obviously he needs to sell the property for as much money as possible, but without spending a fortune on preparations. So, as I see it, he’s got three options. One, of course, is to do nothing. Doing nothing is always an option. He could sell the property “as is.” Option two is he could do some of the needed items that I just referred to. And lastly, option three is he could do all of the needed items that we just touched upon. And again, people don’t want to spend money if they don’t have to.

On the other hand, you only have one shot at making a good first impression. You can’t quantify some of these repairs, or some of these items; you’re going to spend money now to maximize your return. Even when you get an offer on the home, you’re most likely going to end up negotiating on price. I would say you’re going to spend $2,000 or $3,000 or $5,000 getting this property ready for sale. But what is that return? That is a hard number to quantify, but let’s go through the list. So, we are reviewing the items together and we’ve decided which ones are not negotiable. First off, anything that is free that does not cost any money, that’s non-negotiable, whatever is free has to be done. That includes picking up all of the personal belongings and putting them away. So, the grand kids who live there and their kids have to pick up all their clothes, all their toys, and they have to make their beds. They have to put all the pantry items away in the kitchen. They’ve got to put all the excess appliances away that are not being used on a frequent basis, put all the gaming consoles away, put away all of the clothes and food that are lying around the family room, the living room; those all need to be to put away.

Also, pruning dead flowers and plants – that necessary. Spring is over, we’re now in late summer and heading towards fall. Whatever roses and bushes bloomed in April and May, now the flower buds are just sitting there dead and those all need to be pruned off the plants. Any dead plants in pots either need to be replanted or the pots need to be discarded. That’s all kind of free or close to free as it gets.

Then there are more expensive items that I would put in the non-negotiable category. Cat urine in the bedroom, that’s pretty non-negotiable. If you’re going to get a buyer to come out and buy your beautiful ranch, the last thing you want is for them to just be knocked over when they open the bedroom door by cat urine, so the carpet needs to be changed. I think the trustee is going to go with vinyl instead of carpet because the cat still lives in the room and if he decides not the cat decides not to use his litter box, but instead use the vinyl floor, at least it can be mopped up and we don’t have to worry about changing out the carpet a second time. The “strategically placed” shed which is blocking the view in the backyard needs to go away. Once that shed is removed, looking out the family room window there’s now a gorgeous view of the surrounding orchards, the mountains and the hills off in the distance. That’s not going to be too expensive, it’s just a question of taking the shed down and then taking the pieces to the dump. Then there are two large windows, as I mentioned earlier, where the seal has been broken between the double pane windows, so you see the condensation or the frosting that’s happened between the panes. I’m recommending that those two windows be replaced. It will certainly enhance the view and if there was no view, it probably would not be that much of a deal, but because this property is all about the views, it is important. There is also some touch up painting that could be done that would be much more economical than painting entire walls. But, , that’s something that could be done.

Obviously, a perfect scenario would be to go through and do everything professionally and as thoroughly as possible because again, as I said, you only get one shot at making a good first impression. If somebody’s going to come out and buy this big beautiful ranch property, the last thing you want them to think in their mind, even if it’s subconsciously, is “my gosh, this property needs a lot of work.”

Most people don’t have the time today to fix up a property when they buy it. They want to come in, put their groceries in the fridge, put their dishes in the cupboards, hang their pictures on the walls, and put their feet up. They don’t want to have to paint, they don’t want to have to replace the carpet, they certainly don’t want to have to replace windows and tear down old sheds. The more that you can do to alleviate a buyer’s concerns, the more interest that you’re going to get in the property. These properties do not typically sell quickly, we’re talking about maybe 2% of the population that really wants to buy a big ranch. Within that percent, there’s even a small percentage of people that can actually afford these properties so, you really want to put some effort into making the property look good so that when potential buyers come out, they’re interested in the property.

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