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Sprucing up your home before moving into independent living can reap big profits

Feb 15, 2024

The foibles and imperfections of a house often become “invisible” to the homeowners who have long gotten used to the grooves in a hardwood floor, out-of-date appliances, faded stains in the carpet or leaves piled high in the corner of the yard.


But for Rosie Gonzalez, real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Realty and the No. 2 Realtor in Brookfield for the past 12 years, what seem to be just little quirks to homeowners become major eyesores to potential buyers that can cost owners tens of thousands of dollars when it’s time to sell.


For individuals ready to sell their home and move into an independent living facility or even find themselves in need of assisted living or long-term care, Gonzalez’s moving tips can expedite the process and add profit to the move. While some homeowners prefer to sell “as is,” or may have to because of health issues, there are just as many who, if they have the time, ability and interest to invest in some improvements, will benefit tremendously.


Gonzalez, who has helped numerous clients move from homes they’ve lived in for decades to Cantata’s Senior Living complex in Brookfield, said the change can be a very positive one filled with opportunities to declutter and start fresh.


And Ground Zero is not the house, but the yard.


As Gonzalez is fond of saying, there’s no second chance for a first impression. The outside of the home is front and center when a prospective buyer pulls up. Weeds, cracks in the walkway, peeling paint along the windows and doorframe, uncut grass and a lack of plants will drive many buyers away before they even park their car to peek inside the house.


“You want your home to look like it just had a manicure,” Gonzalez said. “For a few hundred dollars, a landscaper can clean out undergrowth, mulch around the flower beds, cut the weeds and grass and edge around the walkways. The result is a home that looks new and inviting. And that driver who passed by earlier? You can bet he’ll stop to see what the interior of the home is like.”


Before putting a home up for sale, Gonzalez does a run-through with the seller to assess their needs and the condition of the house. She takes stock of the flooring, kitchen cabinetry, bathrooms and walls. Home buyers today want hardwood floors, bright cabinetry, updated bathrooms and kitchens, white walls and the ability to move in “as is,” without having to make improvements themselves.


For Gonzalez, carpet is a big no-no. The color gray is out; white is in. Also out: granite countertops; quartz is the preferred choice now. Lighting should be plentiful, even if it’s just adding a few table and corner lamps to a room. White or light-colored Shaker-style cabinets keep a kitchen bright. Floral shower curtains should be replaced with white ones. These changes alone can add tens of thousands of dollars in value to a home.


Next up: the furniture.


If there are sentimental pieces the owners want to take with them, Gonzalez recommends tagging those items and then measuring the space at Cantata to see where they might best fit. If the seller can’t move furniture themselves, a moving company should help empty the house. If the owners have amassed a large collection of antiques and treasures, Gonzalez can help them arrange an estate sale.


Once the house is emptied or at least freshened up, Gonzalez will create virtual staging of the rooms on her website so that prospective buyers can get an idea of what the home would look like with new furniture. Professional photos of the home are also uploaded to the site.


Once the changes are made, the homeowners are often surprised at the difference and wonder why they didn’t do these things earlier.


“You know we just get used to what is around us and either don’t have the time, or want to take the time, to really see what we could improve in our own homes,” she said. “Nonetheless, these remodeling tips add so much value that even after the move, the sellers are pleased and ready to start anew.”


This article originally appeared on the Wisconsin State Journal.

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