How to spend less than $5000 preparing a rundown home for sale

How to spend less than $5000 preparing a rundown home for sale

Daniel Butkovich | Advice Editor | Fairfax Media 

Securing the maximum price on auction day is front of mind for any vendor. But getting top dollar for a property that needs work can be challenging, especially if your budget for improvement is tight.

There are many reasons for selling a rundown or tired property. Downsizing, selling a home inherited from a deceased relative or a sudden urgency due to a growing family are all common factors.

Renovating is one way to improve the value of a home prior to sale, but significant improvements can be costly and time consuming, and not everyone has the spare cash to splash on an extensive reno.

So how do you get the best price for your fixer-upper for under $5000?

Where to spend $5000 to prepare your home for sale

Although updating the kitchen and bathroom can have a big impact, a major renovation can set you back tens of thousands of dollars and take weeks to complete, which simply isn’t possible within a tight budget and time frame.

Instead, focus on the areas of the home that will enhance the look for minimal outlay and make a good first impression.

One example of an affordable pre-sale renovation is this four-bedroom character home being sold in Carlton.

Although the tidy home has had some improvements over the years, including a new bathroom, the vendors limited their scope to minor cosmetic updates when preparing for sale, and avoided renovating the kitchen.

“The vendors did the minimum to get it ready for market, but there’s still scope to make money on this house by opening up the rear,” selling agent Kristina Lee, from Professionals Montgomery Group, explains.

To prepare a dated property for sale, Ms Lee always recommends repainting interior walls in a neutral colour, as well as replacing carpets or refinishing floorboards.

“For $5000 you could repaint and re-carpet, which freshens up the smell of the home too,” Ms Lee says.

First impressions are especially important, so tidying the front garden, pruning hedges and mowing the lawn will enhance curb appeal.

“We advised the owners to put up a white picket fence, which cost less than $1000,” she says.

“Those changes would certainly add, in my opinion, at least $50,000 to the value,” she says.

$0 updates

The changes that will make the biggest impact may actually cost nothing more than a few weekends of hard work.

Decluttering is essential in preparing a property for sale. If a potential buyer can’t see past mountains of junk, they won’t be able to visualise the potential of the space. Clear out the clutter and put anything that can’t be tossed into storage out of sight, such as in the garage or under the house.

Likewise, removing daggy or outdated furniture, and paring back the space to staple items will make rooms feel bigger. Although styling might not be in your budget, consider borrowing statement pieces from friends or neighbours temporarily to improve the look of the home for inspection.

Give every surface a deep clean, including exterior surfaces and windows, floors and tiles. If you don’t have the time or energy for cleaning and decluttering, consider services like Airtasker to find an extra helping hand.

Untidy gardens and lawns can drag down a property’s potential value and make the home look uncared-for. Pruning, weeding and mowing all make a big impact, but adding bark mulch is an affordable update that is especially effective, as it injects colour and makes garden beds look neater.

If you don’t have a green thumb, include the cost of hiring a gardener for a day in your budget.

Know your buyer

It’s important to understand that the buyers of a dated or rundown property will likely be planning on renovating themselves, and will have their own ideas on what changes they want to make.

Sydney buyer’s agent and associate director of RPM Property, Kyah Johansson, believes that spending big on significant improvements can be counterproductive.

“If a home is liveable and it’s neat and tidy, you may be better off putting it to market as is,” she says.

That being said, Ms Johansson agrees that updating interior surfaces can appeal to buyers looking for a renovation project.

“If buyers can tick the walls and floorboards off their list, then they can focus their money and attention on the major areas like the kitchen and bathroom,” she says.

“A lot of people are looking at buying something that’s very liveable, then renting it out and saving for a renovation further down the track.”

Potential renovators may be living in the home or renting it out prior to starting work, so as long as the kitchen and bathroom are functional, they are best left alone as these are the areas renovators like to inject their personal touch.

Richard Baini, director of Richard Mathews Real Estate, agrees. “If there are areas of a home that people want to put their personal touch on, it’s the kitchen and bathroom,” he says.

The same notion extends to outdoor areas, as major work won’t necessarily get you the return you might expect.

“Everyday people aren’t professional landscapers, and it doesn’t make sense spending money on changes that don’t have broad appeal,” says Ms Johansson.

However, if your home has any significant problems, such as leaks or structural issues, it’s worthwhile hiring a building inspector to highlight any potential issues, and spending the money to repair them before sale.

“Most buyers want somewhere that just needs superficial work, most of them shy away from anything that needs structural work,” says Ms Lee.

Apart from turning off potential buyers, serious issues can also become bargaining chips, giving buyers a stronger negotiating position.

If the kitchen and bathroom are functional, focus any improvements on less expensive areas. 

How to prepare a rundown home for sale for under $5000

  • Paint interior walls in a neutral colour
  • Replace carpets or refinish floorboards
  • Clean and declutter the entire home
  • Mow the lawn and prune overgrown plants
  • Paint the front fence to improve kerb appeal

Main photo: canva.com

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