Renovations – What To Do Before Selling

As parents, many of us struggle with the benefits of staying in New York City vs. moving to the suburbs. Or, we find ourselves with a growing family and the need for a larger home. When the benefits of moving outweigh the expense and inconveniences of the city, you might make the tough decision to sell. You have lived there many years, made wonderful memories and probably think it’s the nicest apartment of its kind. Most of us are emotionally attached to our apartments, which is what makes it a home. On the flip side, this may prevent us from looking at it more objectively to see the nicks, scratches and caulking that’s peeling away. This likely means not getting top dollar for your home unless these issues are addressed.

Below is a list of things you can easily do and some that are more involved to help you sell at the best price possible in the shortest amount of time. After all, time is money!

  1. Organize closets and storage areas. If your closets are too cluttered, this will make the buyer think there is not enough closet space even if that is not the case. Throw or give away whatever you don’t need and store any seasonal items to create neatly organized closets. If this is too difficult of a task to cover on your own, you can hire a closet organizer service who’ll help you weed out what you don’t need and donate those items. This is a life-saver for working parents cramped for time.
  2. Consider storing or giving away furniture that makes any of your rooms crowded. The more furniture there is in any room, the smaller it looks. The smaller it looks; the less money any buyer will be willing to pay.
  3. Same goes for your little ones’ toys. We all have too many and are constantly playing Tetris with them, moving one here and the other there. During this period of time, it is best to store all the non-essential and non-favorite toys.
  4. Organize the furniture that’s left in such a way that it’s clear to the buyer where everything goes. A professional stager and sometimes your real estate professional can help you with tasks 2 through 4.
  5. Make sure your kitchen and bath are spotless. No dirty dishes in the sink. Kitchen counters should be clean and clear. The magnets, pictures, schedules, etc. should come off the fridge. Your fridge should be clean and odor free. The cabinets should be organized such that they look organized and not overflowing.
  6. Inspect kitchens and baths for necessary maintenance. Repair grout and caulking in kitchens and baths. Check for old water damage and stains, remove as much as possible. Polish floors, mirrors and fixtures of kitchens and bathrooms. Faucets should not be leaky and appliances should be in working order.
  7. Repair “sticky” locks and doors. Secure/replace any loose knobs or door handles. If you’re not handy yourself, a handyman will be a good investment to take care of these minor defects.
  8. Ensure that all light fixtures are working and have fresh bulbs (even in closets). How bright a space looks is in direct correlation to how desirable it is. Opening window treatments to let the light in during all showings goes a long way.

The items above will mostly cost you time; no or very little money out of pocket is needed. However, the following are projects you should consider even if you would be spending some money.

  1. Paint the walls.  If you have dark paint in any of the rooms, re-paint them a light and neutral color. Even in rooms that are painted a light color will benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Dinged up and scraped walls make the home look tired which makes it less desirable.
  2. Refinish or buff your wood floors especially if there is visible wear and tear. It is best to remove wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with wood flooring. A few apartments where I couldn’t initially convince the owner to do this sat on the market for several months. As soon as we removed the carpeting and finished the floors, each apartment received an offer, if not multiple offers within days. Today’s buyers just don’t like carpeting and would rather walk away than deal with this rather painless and inexpensive fix.

The next two rooms will make you spend much more in order to have an impact. They are the two most expensive rooms in your home but to which buyers pay special attention.

  1. Renovate your kitchen. Is your kitchen original to the building when it was built in 1955? If so, you may consider renovating it. This is a major undertaking, especially for a family with kids. However, if you’re in a starter type apartment like a 1 bedroom or a JR-4 (convertible 2 BR), you might want to consider doing this. Most first time buyers are intimidated doing any kind of work and will simply walk away, which means longer time on the market resulting in additional mortgage and maintenance payments. Consider the kind of building your home is located in before indulging in the renovation. The higher end the building, the higher end the renovations, as that is the buyer pool you’d be going after, with higher expectations than those looking in mid or lower end buildings.  If you have an updated kitchen, not original, then consider refacing the cabinets and/or changing the appliance package. New appliances go a long way to freshen up the space and are a particularly good investment.
  2. Update the bathroom.  The bathroom is another prime place for renovations. Replacing the vanity, medicine cabinet, lighting, a fresh coat of paint and perhaps the toilet might do wonders depending on how much TLC this room needs. If your home is in a higher building, you’ll have to select higher end products as you would for the kitchen.

Some sellers think giving a discount in price covering the cost of the renovation should be enough to make their home competitive in the market place. What one needs to also take in to consideration is the number of months a new owner will carry the home during the design, approval, and renovation phase. Sometimes as long as a year or more could result in several months of extra mortgage and maintenance payments to them, let alone the time and effort it takes to renovate a home. So yes, a home in need of repair should be discounted, but take these facts into consideration.

The best time to put these investments into your home is before putting it on the market.  Once potential buyers can imagine themselves making memories in your home, the more likely they’ll forget about those thoughts and dive in.

Should you be unsure about which of these items is best to undertake for your home, have a discussion with your real estate professional or contact me for further consultation. I’m always happy to help!

About the Author

Jaylon Brigham

Jaylon Brigham is a Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker with Halstead Property, the NYC Metro area’s largest privately owned real estate firm and a member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of The World.  Jaylon has been in the real estate business for over 10 years and prides herself on being there for her clients every step of the way - whether they’re savvy investors or young families making the transition from renters to home-owners. She’s handled every type of residential property, from tiny NYC studios to multi-million dollar homes and understands that each requires a different marketing approach.

Jaylon serves on the Parent’s Association of her daughter’s pre-school in Gramercy and on the Board of Directors of her Manhattan coop where she lives with her husband and their daughter.

Jaylon is a Certified Negotiation Expert™ and a member of Real Estate Board of NY. She can be reached at

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