That’s a good question that I get from sellers quite a lot these days.

The quick answer:   It depends.

First, let’s get to the variables:   Your budget, your location, comparable homes, and did I mention your budget?

Money, money, money.     It’s on everyone’s minds these days.   It’s particularly salient in this economy, where most people, regardless of social class, are becoming more aware of their spending behaviors.  From taking a shorter vacation to eating out less, Americans are more mindful of their money these days.    I want you to be careful with your money and get the most for it – in all economic times.

So how much money do you spend on a home you plan to sell to make it saleable?     Try to see your home through a buyer’s eyes.

Let’s take an example.   You live in a fabulous location just blocks from Lake Michigan, a high-demand area of new condo construction, along with older but mostly updated condo properties.       You own an early 1990s-era condo with gleaming hardwood floors.  Your bathroom tub, sink, and commode are all original, not to mention tile and flooring.    You have recently had the whole place painted in updated color schemes.   Your kitchen cabinets, counters, flooring and fixtures are in good shape – and original.  You have a newer refrigerator and stove purchased within the last 3 years.     You have 1200 square feet and two bedrooms.     You have underground parking.   You also have an efficiently and effectively-run condo association, and the money you have invested over the years has been well managed.

You have some great selling points here and also a few challenges.

Location, location, location.   That principle is static in real estate.   In this scenario, you have a high-demand location.    People want to live in your neighborhood, which is blocks from the lake, with convenient transportation, thriving businesses, a strong cultural presence, and more.   You also have hardwood floors in excellent condition.   The majority of your buyers prefer hardwood to carpet, but some like carpeting that’s newer and updated.     Another asset:     Your freshly-painted walls, with their current color schemes.     You also have 1200 square feet and two bedrooms, which is a generous condo space, and two-bedroom units tend to be more desirable than one bedroom or studio units.    The whole place has been well cared for over the years.    Wear and tear can be a true obstacle that tends to require repair/replacement.     Your place is uncluttered.   Minimalism is one of the most effective ways to showcase a home.     Clear your clutter if you’re a saver.   Keep the place sparkling clean.     Keep fresh towels on hand and place them out just before your buyer arrives.

Other negotiating points:     Your square footage, underground parking, and well-run condo association.   You’re the original owner of this unit, having lived here for nearly 20 years, and you know how secure you’ve felt with how your money has been handled.   You’ve loved having room to stretch, and the underground parking has extended the life of your car.   These are true assets in a condo, so use them.

As for your kitchen and bathroom challenges:     Fall back on your excellent location as a selling point.   Sellers may compare your place to a cutting-edge building down the street and attempt to devalue your property.   The original bathroom might dissuade some buyers, while others may see beyond its early 1990s look.

If you have the budget, you could update with a classic pedestal-style sink, which would dramatically improve the look of the original bathroom.     Do you then move on to update the tiles and flooring?   Where do you draw the line?    As for your kitchen, you can tout your shiny newer appliances.   You could choose to have the cabinets refaced as opposed to replaced, which would save you money and update your look.    Your kitchen has original flooring in good condition.     Do you replace the flooring?   The countertops?     Where do you stop?

Beyond my suggestions here, the best advice:     Talk to your realtor.   Allow your realtor to walk through your home and make suggestions.   Remember:     Put yourself in the mindset of the buyer.   Is your place in move-in condition?   Your realtor will be able to give you an appraisal of how your home compares to the standard in your area and how far you will want to go in altering your home.

Also, check out Remodeling’s Annual Cost vs. Value Report.

Finally, if you decide to spruce the place up, check out my list of Chicago preferred providers.

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