If you imagined 2020 was the year you would finally list your house for sale, you may have hit the brakes on those plans when the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
But now, we’re more than six months into the COVID-19 era with no clear end in sight. As many people continue working and logging in to school from home, the real estate market is again heating up with buyers eager to upgrade to a new home.
So stop putting it off: Now is the time to step on the gas in preparing your home to sell. We talked with experts to learn which home improvements will hit the right note with buyers during the pandemic (and beyond).
1. Upgrade your outdoor space
Most of us are suffering from an acute case of cabin fever these days. It's little wonder that outdoor space has become more important than ever to prospective buyers.
“Even pools are becoming more popular in areas where they weren't before,” says Bill Walker, chief operating officer of Kukun, a web resource for home improvements.
That doesn’t mean you need to splurge on a new in-ground pool; even a minor landscaping refresh can make a big difference and increase curb appeal. Depending on your budget and your neighborhood, you might also consider adding an in-ground fire pit or outdoor kitchen to maximize your outdoor space.
If you live in a cooler climate, extending the usability of your outdoor space will be a big draw for buyers.
“Get a low-cost outdoor heater and area rug to stage the space as an outdoor living room,” says Francie Malina, a real estate agent in New York's Westchester County.
2. Create a functional home office or classroom
Many workers aren’t heading back to the office until 2021 or even later, which means home office space is at a premium, along with space for kids to log in to their virtual classrooms.
“People need a dedicated space for multiple people to be able to be on calls at the same time,” says Walker, who currently works at home alongside his wife, and his kids attending school virtually. “It definitely creates challenges when we all need to be on calls and need space to work.
Even if you don’t need two home offices or a remote learning station for your own family, consider staging your home to show the possibilities for buyers.
“Staging a guest bedroom as a home office or classroom is a good idea,” Walker says. “The potential buyer can see the room being used in a versatile way and visualize it for themselves.”
Plus, most of us host guests in our guest rooms for less than a month per year, Walker says—and probably even less during the pandemic.
3. Add separation of space
Open floor plans are so 2019.
“Open floor plans are losing a bit of luster,” Malina says. “Homeowners are looking for distinct spaces for family members to work or study.”
If your space isn’t well-segmented, you may want to create separate spaces by adding barn doors or pocket doors—or even room dividers for a quick and easy solution.
Having distinct rooms helps to minimize volume from other people’s activities, and can also create a different feeling in each part of the house.
“As people are spending more time at home, they want room and different environments to not feel stuck inside,” Walker says.
4. Add space for a home gym
Many people are forgoing the gym during the pandemic, preferring to work up a sweat from home to minimize risks of coronavirus transmission. That means people are looking for space to house gym equipment, from yoga mats to treadmills and stationary bikes.
Your home may not have the space for a fully equipped home gym, but you can still carve out a corner where home buyers will be able to picture their future at-home HIIT workouts or yoga flows.
5. Give your in-law suite a makeover
If you have a guest house, this can be an attractive feature for buyers right now—especially those with multigenerational households, or people looking for a potential source of rental income.
“With people bringing elderly family members home, [additional dwelling units] are a good option, especially if there is a kitchen and bathroom,” Walker says. “Even if this space isn't used for personal reasons, it can be an investment property.”
6. Spruce up the laundry room
Concerns about cleanliness and hygiene have been at an all-time high during the pandemic, which means “laundry rooms are more important than pre-COVID,” Malina says.
People are doing laundry more often after running errands, and many of us have become more diligent about washing our bed linens. Plus, who couldn’t use more room for ironing, folding, and hang-drying clothes?
“Having a dedicated space to do laundry is a wonderful luxury, and buyers often want the space to be beautiful like the rest of their homes,” Malina says.