Selling probate real estate can be tough because properties are usually out of date, very “lived-in,” and attract discount buyers.
Here are a few minimum renovations and repairs that executors should consider in order to receive a flow of serious buyers, without spending too much in estate funds.
1. Clean out the clutter
Cleaning out clutter is more expensive than people realize. For example, cleaning out a one-bedroom apartment in the Manhattan area will cost between $1,500 and $2,500 for several cleaners/movers, a truck, and a dumpster.
Though cleaning out is expensive, it is a MUST. It’s very difficult to sell a home with the deceased person’s belongings everywhere. Do your best to get the home at least broom-clean or better. Even buyers looking for a sweet deal aren’t really excited to clean up someone else’s mess so that they can move in.
You’ll probably need to pack and ship some items to heirs anyway, so cleaning out the place completely just makes sense.
2. That fresh paint smell
We’ve seen so many homes with outdated colors or tones. We have one right now with blood-red colored walls. Though certain colors may have been popular at one time, you need a neutral color like beige, light gray, or white to sell a home. Don’t try to get fancy with different shades of the same color. We had a house with at least eight different shades peach freshly painted throughout, and it was not appealing! Give the buyers a blank canvas to work with and let them pick their own colors.
Don’t use wallpaper – stick with paint.
Besides being aesthetically pleasing, a fresh coat of paint can help reduce odors. To put it bluntly, most probate properties smell like the person who lived there. Again, give the buyer a blank canvas that smells fresh.
3. Let there be light!
For some reason, really “lived-in” places seem to feel dark. Maybe there are too many curtains, or the windows haven’t been cleaned.
Most realtors will say that maximizing the light very important. You can do this by updating all of the lightbulbs to LED lights (which is a cheap fix, by the way!). It is also good to wash and fix the windows, if feasible (this may not be so easy in a high-rise building). You may want to consider getting rid of curtains to brighten the place. Additionally, getting rid of curtains can reduce odors trapped in the fabric.
4. Refresh the floors
You don’t need to do a full reflooring, as this can be quite expensive. Just replace or remove the carpet. If you find hardwood floors under the carpet, leave it exposed. People tend to like hardwood floors. Sanding and refinishing old wood floors is way cheaper than putting new flooring in. If you have to put carpet in, choose a light, neutral color.
5. Minimum bathroom updates
Bathroom updates can get expensive, but there are some minimum updates you can do to maximize its appearance. Don’t replace the tub, just re-caulk it. You should consider replacing the vanity, as it is fairly inexpensive and easy to install. Many old vanities have stained outlines of where pill bottles and other items sat.
It is also beneficial to update the showerhead and the fixtures. You can go to any hardware store and pick up inexpensive, shiny, updated fixtures. The $50 spent to replace a leaky shower head with a fancier one, will be worth it to help the home sell.
If there are enough funds and the heirs agree to use the estate funds, then you can make costlier updates. However, I assume that most heirs want to maximize their inheritance and just get the home sold. Besides, you don’t know what taste the buyers will have. You might spend a lot of money on updates that look good to you, and the buyer ends up ripping it out to suit their own style.