“Every home has a buyer, but at the end of the day, think about how you are going to differentiate your home from the next one.” This piece of advice sums up our conversation with Angela Chesko, a REALTOR® local to central Pennsylvania with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
Sellers: What are buyers looking for when house hunting? What are the deal breakers for potential buyers of your home? We sat down with Angela Chesko, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, to find out what’s really important when selling a home, and what special touches can set your home apart in a competitive housing market.
Armstrong Ceilings (AC): As a seller, what questions will buyers be asking about your property?
Angela Chesko: Buyers will want to know what other homes in the area have sold for and if the property is listed at a fair price. They’ll also ask about the history of the home and will want information on the seller’s disclosure – defects, upgrades, age of the roof, utilities, etc. It’s really important to work with an agent to get your home properly priced; they know the market best.
AC: What are the first things that potential home buyers notice about a property?
Chesko: The condition of the home! Cleanliness and lack of clutter are a sign of a home that’s been well maintained. A fresh coat of paint can work wonders in this area. They’ll also be looking at room size (especially bedroom size), the floor plan (buyers today are loving open floor plans), and the location. Kitchen and bathroom updates are great, hardwood floors, and fun differentiating touches like exposed brick or a cool wall treatment. A finished basement is always an added bonus – extra living space!
AC: What are some of the biggest turn-off’s for buyers?
Chesko: A home in poor condition! Cleanliness (noticing a theme?) unless a buyer is looking for a flip or a gut job. A big one is odor, especially the smell of moisture in the basement, might make buyers think of a larger problem like mold. Other things that I would say raise a red flag (even if there isn’t actually one there) would be homes that sit on the market or price drops. People could think something is wrong with the property and may not even consider it. Or with a price drop, it could look like there is negotiating power because the seller is motivated – more reasons on the importance of pricing your home correctly from the beginning.
AC: You know we have to ask since we’re in the ceilings business, what about popcorn or plaster ceilings? Drop ceilings?
Chesko: Drop ceilings in the main living area could make people weary – what is it hiding? No one really bats an eye at a drop ceiling in a basement. Buyers know that it’s probably hiding the mechanicals. Those types of ceilings definitely date a home, but they aren’t deal breakers. With that being said, updating a drop ceiling or covering up a popcorn ceiling, for example, can add market appeal and get more potential buyers through the door. The more people that see your home, the better chance it has of selling in a timely fashion and for a better price. It’s those unique features that can help differentiate a home against all of the others for sale.
AC: Fair enough! Building off of that, what home projects increase property value and are worth the investment?
I’ll say it again, but fresh paint really makes a huge difference – neutral colors (grays and creams) are preferred. Hardwood floors will pay off, though not fully. Keep in mind that no home improvement project will ever pay off 100%. Well-maintained heating sources, the roof, landscaping/curb appeal (you don’t need to go crazy, but just nice and well-groomed), and really anything that can put the buyer to rest.
Other projects that are worth your while are kitchens. People love upgraded granite counters, such as granite or quartz, and a nice backsplash. Natural gas is a bonus, but not a deal breaker.
A partially finished basement is definitely worth it also! The perceived added living space is appealing to buyers. I say partially finished because a fully finished basement takes up valuable storage space which is really important too.
AC: So what are some projects that are not appealing to buyers or should be avoided?
Chesko: A swimming pool is one project that comes to mind. Buyers will simply not pay more for a swimming pool and could even decrease the value of the home a little bit. Like I said, there is a buyer for every home so avoiding a project isn’t necessarily the right strategy. It’s your home while you have it and you should enjoy living in it! Do the nice aesthetic upgrades if you like but don’t expect them to add value. Remember, though, those touches can lead to more interested buyers wanting to see your home that are looking for something unique.
AC: That makes sense. What about any differences you find between first time home buyers, typically “millennials,” and second, third, or forever home buyers?
Chesko: First time home buyers, I’ve found, are more open when looking at homes, simply because they don’t have another comparable frame of reference. The term “starter home” has changed too. Traditionally, the definition is an inexpensive fixer-upper that people only plan to live in for a few years. Expectations have shifted and first time homebuyers are willing to wait a little longer and spend a little more to get what they want in a first home.
With that being said, first time buyers and seasoned buyers alike are interested in cool touches. For example, I had a client that added outlets with USB ports for charging phones – it showed attention to detail and got people talking. Wainscoting and moldings that add architectural interest, a fun kitchen backsplash, just anything that adds a little something is almost always going to generate interest!
AC: We love “the little something!”
Chesko: As long as it’s not over-the-top or too custom, it’s usually a safe bet.
AC: Noted. Unfortunately, we have to wrap up so you can get on with your busy day. Any final parting words to sellers?
Chesko: People decide within 5 minutes if they are going to consider your home so make sure that it shows its best, with or without major renovations. Clean and odorless is key, fresh paint, and clutter-free are going to give the best impression and help buyers visualize themselves in the space. It’s an exciting time for real estate and getting buyers interested is sometimes the hardest part. Think of easy ways to differentiate your home without going overboard. Keep it simple and a little unique.