From an emotional point of view, selling home is tough. When we look at our homes, we see more than brick and mortar–we also see memories of our past. The driveway where the old Volvo station wagon used to sit, dinged up from all the kids learning to drive; the entrance that had been variously decorated for the Halloween trick-or-treaters, the birthday parties, and homecomings; the kitchen where everyone crammed down breakfast before heading off to school and work.
Not all the memories of home are necessarily pleasant, however. Some of them are of leaking roofs, a rat caught dead behind the refrigerator, a crack in the patio cement that got bigger every year from the roots of a misplaced ficus. Given our blood, sweat, and pocketbook, it’s also not surprising that we hold certain attitudes about our homes that may not fully correspond with reality: Typically we all think our own home is the best one on the street. We also often take the position that if something is amiss, and we can live with it, so can somebody else.
Given such strong attachments and attitudes, both good and bad, it’s easy to understand how, once we’ve made the decision to sell, we don’t want to put any more energy into our homes. Not a dime more. The thought of spending after all those years on remodeling, landscaping, or staging is about as palatable as being asked to wash your own dishes after eating at an expensive restaurant.
But–here’s the kicker–if we can get past our emotional responses to our homes and look at them more objectively as what we propose they become–houses/ commodities–the financial reward is likely to offset the exercise in detachment. Consider your home from the buyer’s point of view. Whereas you see memories gone by, the buyer is likely to project possibilities for a happy future. What you don’t want to do is color those thoughts with the possibility that the garden party gets cancelled.
I cannot speak with any authority about the interior of a house, but I can speak to the landscape. Typically, the effect of the landscape on price ranges between five and eleven percent of the total cost of a house. (If you want the academic references for these estimates, send me an email.) This means that for a home worth $300,000, the landscape is typically contributing between $15,000 and $33,000. That’s a range of eighteen thousand dollars. It’s easy to see that given this scenario, investing a couple thousand in the landscape, even when our emotional response to the extra expense tells us to run for the hills is misguided.
My advice is get the house up to snuff so you can maximize your enjoyment of it well before you plan to sell. But if you are one of those who has let the fruit trees languish, the weeds invade the lawn, and the ficus push up the sidewalk, and you are thinking of selling–grit your teeth before you call your real estate agent and consider your prospective buyers first and yourself second.