Home Renewal: Rules to Sell By

"Curb Appeal" is an important element to help sell a home.Do Clyne found the 10-foot sofa at Renaissance Interiors and the Milo Baughman barrel back chairs at Neal Auction Company. The Oushak rug is from NOLA Rugs.

It’s not hard to see we’re in a housing glut. The signs are literally everywhere. Walk down most streets in Uptown New Orleans and you’re bound to see multiple “For Sale” signs.

The reasons are simple. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath displaced thousands, forcing hundreds to put their homes on the market as they retreated out of state or to other parishes. Now that newly renovated flooded properties are hitting the market, the problem is only getting worse.

“It’s a competitive market right now because we have so much inventory,” says Kelli Wright, realtor with Latter & Blum.

But just because it’s tough doesn’t mean houses aren’t selling.

What separates a quick seller from a languishing listing? That’s tricky because so many factors affect a sale right now, including price, insurance availability and neighborhood stability. But real-estate experts say there are a few steadfast rules that homeowners can follow to increase their home’s chances of selling quickly, even in a tough market.

1. Start outside. It’s almost a cliché in the industry, but curb appeal is king. You’ve got to make sure the house is picture-perfect from the street. “The most important thing right now is the exterior,” says Joe Ory, Realtor with RE/MAX New Orleans. “So many people start their searches online. They are market savvy. They go and look at the homes before even contacting the real-estate agent. You can’t miss that mark.”
That means well-manicured lawns, attractive landscaping and clean sidewalks. If the house needs touch-up paint, freshen up the doorway and trim with a fresh coat.

2. Make the repairs, even the small stuff. A light switch that doesn’t work properly may not seem like much, but small fixes add up. If a buyer walks in and sees a dripping faucet, missing cabinet hardware or a door that sticks, it sends a message that a home hasn’t been properly maintained. These are all small things a homeowner may overlook, but buyers notice.
Ory advises sellers to consider getting an inspection before they put a property on the market to find any hidden problems. That way a seller can address issues on the front end rather than having to knock down the price after they’ve accepted an offer.
Because of Hurricane Katrina, buyers are especially sensitive to the structural integrity of a property. There is too much on the market in excellent condition to pay a premium for damaged goods. “Structure, structure, structure—that’s the most important thing. If a house isn’t level, then forget it,” Wright says.

Buyers expect updated master bathroom.

3. Master bathrooms matter. You can get away with a dated guest bathroom, but today’s buyers expect a large, updated master bath. That means no powder-blue ceramic tile and cramped shower. Wright says buyers respond to natural stone counters—anything from marble to travertine—and have similar tastes in tile. Updated vintage looks such as ceramic subway tile are acceptable “as long as it’s fresh,” she says.

4. Light and airy sells faster. Many older homes in New Orleans were built with different expectations for living space. Today’s families are looking for open, fluid floor plans. Small changes, such as installing a larger window or taking down a wall to create a great room, can make a big difference when it comes time to sell. Any changes that will allow more natural light into the house will make it more attractive, says Brooke Arthurs, Realtor for Latter & Blum. “Light is so important,” she says. “It makes rooms look bigger.” Arthurs opens all curtains for her house showings and replaces light bulbs to make sure rooms are brighter.
Granite countertops in a kitchen can help with a home’s sale.

5. Buyers fall for a nice kitchen.
Two things are almost de rigueur these days in the kitchen: stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. It’s almost expected now because so many had to replace appliances after the storm, Wright says. If you can’t change the counters, consider freshening up the cabinetry with new hardware, paint or door facings.

6. Price trumps everything. The biggest factor, bar none, is whether a listing is appropriately priced, say real-estate agents. That’s a tough lesson for some homeowners who’ve been spoiled by double-digit appreciation in years before the storm. Now, buyers are looking at hefty insurance costs, higher taxes and steeper interest rates and adjusting purchase offers to make the math work. It means some sellers will have to make concessions to close a deal. “Ultimately it’s price,” Ory says. “We have a glut of inventory so buyers can look at 10 homes. They are going to buy the best value. If you’re not willing to position yourself in the market, you will lose.”

Categories: Home Renewal, LL_Home