6 Coronavirus-Friendly Home Upgrades That Cost Less Than $10K—and Will Bring In Offers

Getting a home improvement project to pay off is notoriously tricky. There’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you pour into a bathroom remodel or an outdoor kitchen. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has made completing even minor projects more difficult, as many nonessential construction projects have been halted.

And while it might seem crazy to take on a big-ticket project in a time of economic uncertainty, many home buyers are still looking for turnkey properties with attractive amenities. So if you’re a seller with a house in need of a little TLC, you should focus on relatively low-budget upgrades that will seriously juice your home’s value.

Below, our experts spill on the improvements under $10,000 that buyers are perennially interested in, plus the trending ones whose popularity is likely to last.

Deep cleaning: $500 or less

Scuffs on doors, counters, cabinets, and walls; a ring of scum around a drain; cobwebs in basement corners; toys or tools peppering lawns and patios—these all look bad in the eyes of potential buyers. Luckily, eradicating these blemishes doesn’t take much.

“Deep cleaning is one of the most important things you can do for a little money that dramatically increases your value in the market,” says Heather Wendlandt, a real estate agent with the San Diego-based Team Kolker. “The Magic Eraser and elbow grease can go a long way.”

She says deep cleaning, plus basic paint touch-ups, can increase home values by thousands.

Front-door upgrade: $2,000 or less

Thee front door is the first part of a home that a potential buyer will interact with, so it’s worth lavishing attention on every detail. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware, or updated accessories like house numbers, door knockers, and attractive lighting are all easy and relatively inexpensive to obtain.

Wilmington, NC–based real estate agent-turned-blogger Rebecca Fernandez says that when she was given a listing that sat on the market without activity for months, a front-door upgrade helped make a difference.

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Watch: 5 Smart Upgrades To Help Coronavirus-Proof Your Home

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“I convinced the homeowners to provide me with a budget of $500,” Fernandez says. “It was a very small Cape Cod home, painted dark beige, with an unflattering wood front door. To add contrast, I purchased black vinyl shutters and painted the door a dark red. Next, we cleaned up the front lawn and purchased a door mat, flowerpots, and mums, since it was autumn, and we wanted it to have a fresh, seasonal look. After those minor tweaks, with new pictures online and the added curb appeal, we drew multiple buyers and sold the property quickly.”

Touchless fixtures and fresh-air systems: $200 to $5,000

During the pandemic, certain fixtures have become more relevant—and coveted—than ever.

What buyers want right now are touchless fixtures like sinks and toilets that eliminate your need to come into contact with a germ-filled surface, says Scott Campbell, team leader at Cedarburg, WI’s Re/Max. Both of these upgrades cost a few hundred dollars to install around the house.

Another pandemic must-have is excellent airflow.

“Updating mechanical systems and adding a RenewAire system that pulls fresh air into the home every few hours is a huge plus for buyers,” Campbell says. “Ultraviolet air exchanges that help kill viruses are also smart investments and very practical for home showings during the pandemic.”

Better kitchens and bathrooms: $9,000 or less

Kitchens and bathrooms that look outdated or cheap can sink the value of an entire home.

Tracy Jones, an associate with Re/Max Platinum Realty, witnessed firsthand how a kitchen face-lift boosted her home’s value.

“During the years we’ve done some hefty renos, but resurfacing our kitchen cabinets cost less than $4,000. We replaced the cheap-looking plywood cabinets with white doors and custom-built drawer fronts with soft-pull hardware,” she says. “We also upgraded the 1990s Formica countertops with granite for $4,000, creating a modern look.”

Jones believes these upgrades helped them bring in a profit. They bought the home for $189,000 in 2006 and sold it for $425,000 in 2020.

Bathrooms can also make or break a deal.

Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers in Chattanooga, TN, says he helped renovate and flip a home that cost him $80,000 and was sold for $140,000. Of the $15,000 he invested in home improvement, Wright put $9,000 toward upgrades on the kitchen and bathroom, including light fixtures, new cabinets and counters, fresh towels, and new vanities and faucets. All told, he cleared $45,000, primarily through minor tweaks.

Backyard upgrades: $500 to $10,000

Backyards are now thought of as an extension of the home.

“For those in the suburbs, pools, koi ponds, and fountains are newfound hot-selling items,” says Neal Clayton, licensed partner at Engel & Völkers in Nashville, TN. A small water feature that makes a soothing impression can be purchased and installed for as little as $500.

“Fire pits and outdoor kitchens with basic cabinetry are also frequently requested as people find creative ways to expand their living spaces,” Clayton says.

Home office: $10,000 or less

Home offices were on their way out before the pandemic, but they are all the rage now. Converting a room and buying all of the furniture, accoutrements, and shelving cost well under $10,000, experts say.

If you’re on the fence about carving out a home office space, consider this: Many buyers won’t consider a home these days if it doesn’t have a place where working or schooling from home is feasible.

Source: realtor.com

If a Sale Doesn’t Go Through, Who Pays the Appraisal Fee?

If you’re buying a home, one of the (many) things you must check off your list is hiring a professional to do a home appraisal to assess the property’s value. But what if you check it off your list and then, for whatever reason, the home sale falls through—who pays the appraisal fee then?

Let’s take a look.

What is a home appraisal anyway?

A home appraisal is a professional assessment of how much a property is worth. Unless you’re paying for your home in cash, it’s a non-negotiable in the process. Most lenders require an appraisal before they’ll grant you a mortgage. Your home is their collateral, and if you can’t pay your mortgage, they want to make sure they can get back as much of their money as possible. An appraisal also helps protect you from buying an overpriced property.

The appraiser will take an unbiased look at a home, the condition it’s in, any repairs it needs, and other factors, and will also likely compare it to other similar properties in the area before providing an estimate of what they think it’s worth. An appraisal goes deeper than the comps your real estate agent likely gathered and presented to you when you were first considering the property—but not as deep as a home inspection, which you’ll also want to have completed in most cases before the sale is final.

If the appraised value is higher than the cost of the home you want to purchase, good for you! You’re making an investment that’s paying off from the get-go. If, however, the appraised value is lower than the price of the house, then you have a variety of options—including negotiating with the seller, challenging the appraisal, and/or getting a second one. Or, of course, you could walk away from the deal completely.

The cost of a professional appraisal varies depending on where you live; but in general, you can expect to pay somewhere around $300 to $400 for one.

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Watch: Don’t Put Your Faith in These Common Home Appraisal Myths

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Who pays the home appraisal fee when a deal falls through?

In most cases, even though the appraisal is for the benefit of the lender and the appraiser is selected by the lender, the fee is paid by the buyer. It may be wrapped up into closing costs, or you may have to pay it upfront.  There are some cases, however, in which a seller will offer to pay the appraisal fee to make the deal more attractive.

So, back to the original question: When a sale falls through, who’s on the line for the fee? In most cases, it’s still going to be the buyer.

“The buyer is usually required to pay the appraisal fee upfront, and it is owed even if the lender does not move forward with a loan,” says Lee Dworshak, a real estate agent with Keller Williams LA Harbor Realty in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “While the seller may have agreed to pay all closing costs, if the closing does not occur and the property is not conveyed, the seller is not required to pay your appraisal fee.”

If a buyer doesn’t pay the appraisal fee upfront and instead rolls it into the rest of her closing costs, that doesn’t mean she’s off the hook if she doesn’t close.

“It has nothing to do with the seller; it is ordered by your lender, and payment is due regardless of the outcome,” says Maria Jeantet, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker C&C Properties in Redding, CA. “It is typically paid by the buyer unless specifically negotiated ahead of time to be paid by the seller.”

Having a home sale fall through is usually a bummer for both the seller and the buyer, and having to pay for an appraisal on a home you’re not going to buy adds a bit of insult to injury. Just know that while the appraisal fee can sting, it can save buyers from a much bigger financial wallop that comes with buying an overpriced home.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay when it comes to finding the right house at the right price.

Source: realtor.com