Remodeling & Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

About the Episode

Sprucing up key areas of your home is a great way to increase your property’s value and attract the right buyers when you’re ready to sell. On this episode of Making it Count we heard from Brad Fletcher, the Owner of Home Staging Pros, and Kathy Michaels, a Home Loan Specialist at Addition Financial, on how to tackle the practical and financial side of prepping your home for sale. From full-scale renovation projects to simple staging best practices, listen along as Cristina and Will learn how to create the best first impression to sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

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Cristina asks Question 1: “I have heard the words ‘remodeling’ and ‘renovation’ used interchangeably. Is there a difference between the two?”

Brad responds:“Remodeling projects typically refer to the homeowner staying in the home after the project is completed. A renovation means preparing the home for sale. Renovations are usually on a smaller scale than remodeling projects. Most people are doing a home renovation so they can attract more potential buyers.”


Will asks Question 2: “How important is a first impression when a potential buyer comes to see a house?”

Brad responds: “The seller has two chances to make a first impression. The first chance is when the buyers show up with the Realtor outside waiting to get inside the house. This is when the buyers will look at the grass, paint and the general exterior condition of the house.”

“It takes about 15 seconds for people to form an opinion about your home. The second chance is when the door opens and the potential buyers step inside. People are particular about odors such as pet smells and cigarette smoke. All of these factors can change a positive outlook into a negative first impression.”

Cristina asks a follow-up question: “So I learned on HGTV that you can use candles or bake cookies when showing your home to help with the first impression. Is that true?”

Brad responds: “It is!”

Cristina asks another follow-up question: “And I guess you really have three chances for a first impression because the pictures you post online for your listing are probably really important, right?”

Brad responds: “Yes, especially during the pandemic, we are seeing a lot of buyers start their home search online more than they used to. A lot more 3D tours and people buying homes without ever physically touring it. That has started to lessen a bit as we see the market soften over time. But really, I can’t stress how important those photos are – they could make or break a sale.”

“The other thing I’m seeing is people going around taking pictures of their home with their phones, putting those online, and thinking they are going to get multiple offers. But they don’t. The photos are really marketing your property and it needs to be done correctly.”

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Cristina asks Question 3: “Are kitchens and bathrooms the key to selling a home?”

Brad responds: “One hundred percent! Kitchens and bathrooms have to look good and show up well on the listing. The most important thing is to put everything away. We tell everyone to put their stuff in bins and stick it under the sink since buyers will be looking at everything.”


Will asks Question 4: “What are some ways people can improve their home’s curb appeal?”

Brad responds: “The quickest thing you can do is replant flowers, put flower bowls by the front door, and repaint your front door and shutters. Make sure the sod on your lawn looks good, too. If the buyers pull up and everything in your curb looks dead, they will add that to their mental checklist of things they need to do if they bought your home.”

Cristina adds: “We just pressure washed our driveway – I’m sure that would help improve the curb appeal for a home as well!”


Cristina asks Question 5: “What role can real estate agents play in selling a house? They can help with both curb appeal and financing, right?”

Kathy responds: “Real estate agents are an important part of the team. They can give you information about your subdivision, what is worth investing the time and money in, how quickly it might turnover, and the general purchase price of your home. With the help of staging professionals like Brad and a real estate agent, it should be a realistic transaction.”

Will asks a follow-up question: “I know when I watch HGTV, there seems to be this narrative that if you put in say $10,000, you’ll see a $30,000 return. But that’s not always the case, right?”

Kathy responds: “Right. It’s not always dollar-for-dollar either. And not everyone puts in their own sweat equity, which is one of the factors that helps you get a bigger return on your investment. Of course, you have to do a good job for it to pay off. Most of the big projects, unless you’re a professional contractor, you’re going to have to hire professionals.”

Brad also responds: “If you plan on hiring a contractor, you need to budget at least 25% more for the duration and cost of the project. This is a common mistake that many homeowners make. I’ve seen people set their budget and after a month they're dealing with carrying costs and supply shortages. Many contractors are so busy that they don’t want to take on smaller projects. You should take all these factors into consideration before starting your renovation project.”

Cristina asks a follow-up question: “Brad, in a world with so many HGTV shows, does everyone think they are a renovation expert?”

Brad responds: “Everybody thinks they know what they're doing; some do, but most do not and that can lead to all sorts of problems. Really, these shows don’t show the reality of what goes on behind-the-scenes and everything that is involved.”

Learn more: The Pros and Cons to Selling Your Own Home


Will asks Question 6: “One of the biggest concerns homeowners have about renovation is the budget. What are some tips to help people set a budget?”

Brad responds: “Think about how much you can lose. Sometimes there will be instances where things just go wrong, no matter how well you plan it. You need to budget for potential problems that could happen during the project.”

“We have a client that is experiencing this situation right now. After their renovation was completed, the home inspector informed them that their whole roof needed to be replaced. I’ve also met another client where their plumbing needed to be replaced. It’s important to prepare for what can go wrong.”

Cristina asks a follow-up question: “Kathy, when you get a call from somebody who wants to get a refinance or sell their home, what are some reality checks you have to have with them?”

Kathy responds: “Say your home is worth $400,000 and you owe $300,000 on your mortgage, you might think you can use the full $100,000 in equity to get a HELOC or home equity loan. But most lenders don’t finance 100% of your equity.”

“So we’ll go through the updates they’ve made to their home over the last few years, but they don’t always match up dollar for dollar. For example, a homeowner might spend $30,000 to put in a new pool, but the adjustment only allows for a $10,000 increase in their home’s value.”

“We have to tell homeowners, gently, what factors are even considered during the appraisal and review the overall condition of the home. The appraiser has an unbiased perspective as they look at your home, homes in your area, and similar sales that have happened recently nearby.”

“We use the appraiser’s valuation and how much you owe (or don’t owe) on your mortgage to determine what amount of loan is right for you and monthly payment that’s comfortable with your budget.”

Learn more: 6 Benefits of a Home Equity Loan for Holiday Remodeling

Cristina asks another follow-up question: “So I shouldn’t just go to Zillow and assume my Zestimate is correct?”

Kathy responds: “Well, actually we have found Zillow can be pretty close to what our appraisers come up with. Because the market is so busy, Zillow has a ton of data to base their estimates on and they do base those off the geographic areas. So in lieu of paying for an appraisal or getting a real estate agent to come out and give them a BPO, we do see homeowners using that free tool to give them an idea of their property’s value.”

Brad also responds:Redfin is another good one as well. And like Kathy was saying, they are getting more accurate. Another thing to note is that what Kathy does, what a real estate agent does and what I do is look at your home like a buyer would – there’s no emotion there.”

Learn more: Home Appraisal Requirements and Who Pays for It


Cristina asks Question 7: “Speaking of financing, what are some options that people should know about to get the money they need for a renovation or remodel?”

Kathy responds: “First, you need to know the dollar amount of your project. If you need something done quickly, I suggest getting a quick personal loan or a low interest rate credit card. If your project has a higher dollar amount or takes a longer time, you might need a home equity loan.”

“Lenders will typically give you a minimum of $10,000 for a home equity loan or a HELOC. If you have the equity in your home, this may be the way to go since it gives you lower rates and lower payments until you sell your home. Overall, everything depends on how much money you need, your timeframe and the lending or financing option that’s best for you.”

Learn more: HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: 15 Pros and Cons to Consider


Will asks Question 8: “I’ve heard of some people using credit cards to pay for remodeling. Is that a good idea?”

Kathy responds: “It can be done, but it’s a slippery slope that you should be aware of. People who use credit cards to pay for their remodeling projects typically get them at Lowe’s, Home Depot or at a furniture store. Once their projects are completed, they get a home equity loan to consolidate them all.”

“Financing your project with a credit card is best when it's a project that can be done quickly. Since the typical home equity loan takes about 30 days from application to funding, using a credit card to finance your project might be the right option if you need the funds sooner.”

Learn more: Best Home Improvement Loans That'll Have You Ditching Your Store Credit Cards

Cristina asks a follow-up question: “Brad, when staging a house, how important is it to be on trend?”

Brad responds: “It’s important to keep everything neutral since we don’t know what a buyer prefers in terms of color and furniture style. It’s also very important to scale the furniture. We like to call it the ‘Goldilocks Zone.’ During the staging process, we pick out pieces that are not too big or too small in the space. In terms of color, grey and cream are very popular right now. Tan and brown are also coming in this season. Overall, just keep it nice and simple by not doing anything too wild.”

“Now, for our downtown properties, we do see a lot of an avocado color from the 1950s which first-time homebuyers seem to love.”


Cristina asks Question 9: “Part of getting your house ready to sell is making sure that everything works as it should. It might not qualify as staging per se, but how important is it to take care of small repairs?”

Brad responds: “The inspection is very important. Even the small repairs can throw a wrench into your deal. Make sure all of your lighting is up to date. Replacing your cabinet knobs is another simple way to boost the attractiveness of your kitchen or bathroom. You can do some really easy and aesthetic things to stage your home. However, the most important thing is making sure your house is spotlessly clean.”

Cristina asks a follow-up question: “What should people do to stage their homes before potential buyers come to see them?”

Brad responds: “First and foremost, you should always declutter and depersonalize before showing your home. Decluttering doesn’t cost anything and it’s the easiest thing you can do. You also need to depersonalize to separate your personal tastes from the house. Leaving a few pictures out is fine for the listing, but you need to put those away when you’re showing the house.”

“Make sure to not have anything that indicates religion or political affiliation as well. We even go as far as avoiding leather because we don’t know if someone is vegetarian or not. Finally, make sure your home smells good. Eucalyptus, lemon, soft lavender and vanilla are good scents. We recommend keeping it nice and simple.”

Will asks a follow-up question: “So we’ve talked about the general rules about staging a home. What’s the benefit to the seller and why should people hire a stager?”

Brad responds: “Statistically speaking, if your home is priced and staged correctly, you can get up to a 50% faster selling rate and an over asking price. It’s also about reducing your carrying costs. When your house sits on the market every month, this means continually paying for your mortgage, home insurance, water bill, etc. Price reductions can also occur when a house sits on the market for, let’s say, six months. Properly staging your home will take these problems out of the equation.”


Cristina asks Question 10: “What are some of the challenges in the seller’s market right now around staging or renovating?”

Brad responds: “Everything is currently in short supply. It’s even difficult for our company to get furniture. For people who want to update their flooring, it could take up to six months for the materials to come in. That’s why I like to recommend quick easy fixes, like sprucing up your bathroom, kitchen and interior paint. However, people are paying above the asking price these days so it does seem like things are returning to normal again.”

Kathy also responds: “I agree, I think things are going back to normal. While completing recent purchase transactions, I noticed a few appraisals that were coming in lower than the purchase price of the home. Sometimes the buyer really wants the house and they’re willing to pay more for it. But we are seeing things ‘correcting’ themselves a little bit.”

“And we are also seeing our buyers saying they want to wait before purchasing a home at the moment. I always feel so empathetic for our first-time homebuyers right now because the market is so competitive. I know personally I would not want to be buying a home right now.”


Will asks Quick Question 1: “Kathy, what do people need if they want to apply for a home equity loan or HELOC?”

Kathy responds: “They’re going to need to inquire with their lender about what’s available for them. They’re also going to need to fill out an application. In the application, we will review their credit history, income and the value of their current property.”

“Depending on the product, you need to allow enough time for the application to be approved. So you have to plan, and your real estate agent and teams like Brad’s are part of that plan. It’s not like walking into a dealership and buying a car over the weekend.”

“However, the first step is to ask questions. Ask your real estate agent, staging professional and financial institution questions about the process. Ask them questions like ‘What do I need to get a loan?’ and ‘How long is it going to take?’”

Learn more: 4 Home Equity Line of Credit Requirements to Know


Cristina asks Quick Question 2: “Brad, what are some quick tips that can help people save money on renovations and prepping to sell a house?”

Brad responds: “Again, you want to declutter and depersonalize. We usually recommend taking 50% of your furniture out to open up the rooms so the buyers can see where their furniture could go. But the flip side is that, based on studies, buyers are also not receptive to vacant spaces. That’s where your staging professionals come into the equation.”

“For an outdated bathroom, we recommend spraying epoxy over the ugly tile or countertops and changing out the cabinet knobs so it looks like you have a brand new bathroom – for under $500. Painting your house is another quick, easy fix.”


Will asks Quick Question 3: “Kathy, here’s a fun one for you. What’s the one thing you’d renovate in your current house if money were no object?”

Kathy responds: “I would love to have my popcorn ceiling removed. I recommend this project to everyone before they move into their home. Also, since I’m from the Northeast where we have basements and lots of storage space, my garage has been filled to the brim with stuff. So tackling the organization in my garage would be the second project.”


Cristina asks Quick Question 4: “Brad, how much time should people be prepared to spend preparing to sell their house?”

Brad responds: “A week if they plan on doing just some basic home staging. Now if you’re planning minor renovations, then you’re looking at at least a month. If you choose to hire a contractor, then things could take up to two to three times as long.”


Will asks Quick Question 5: “Kathy, what are some benefits of using a HELOC to finance renovations?”

Kathy responds: “HELOCs and home equity loans are going to offer you lower interest rates and a lower monthly payment since you can spread the payment over longer terms. Depending on how your loan is structured, your repayment plan could have a span of 10, 15 or 20 years. These types of financial products can potentially lead to a tax benefit and you’re using your equity to make your home more attractive on the market.”

Learn more: Home Equity Line of Credit vs. Second Mortgage: The Differences


Cristina asks Quick Question 6: “Brad, what would you do to update your current home if money were no object?”

Brad responds: “My kitchen. Since I live in a highrise, getting a contractor to work in my building is very difficult because of the extra time and logistics that are involved. I bought my home as a foreclosure and the previous owners had done some very specific things that we have learned to live with. They even took the appliances with them. But nonetheless, I would love to update my kitchen because I love to cook.”


You can contact Kathy and the real estate department at Addition Financial by calling 407-896-9411 and asking to speak to any of the real estate associates or by visiting any one of the Addition Financial branches.

To reach Brad, you can visit the Home Staging Pros website here or call 866-599-5133.


In this episode, Cristina and Will shared The Step-by-Step Guide to Relocating and Starting a New Job. It covers everything from selling your current home to finding a new one – and making a good first impression at your new job!

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