1. How do you come up with your list price? I look at recent comparable sales in your area as well as your current competition among active listings. I want properties that are close to your home and depending on the market, I want to find sales that happened within the last few months. I look for similar bedroom count, square footage and condition. I throw out unusually high and unusually low prices as these are generally considered outliers.
2. What improvements should I make to optimize my home’s resale value? Each house is different so it's important that I come see the home, discuss your sales goals and then determine who your buyer will be. Why do this? Simple. Different buyers have different needs.
If an investor is the most likely to buy, limit repairs since they will probably gut or remodel.
If you are selling a $4 million home, people expect a move in ready home. Making updates and ensuring that home inspection issues are addressed are important.
Is it a first time buyer? Make sure all health & safety issues are fixed because lenders will require repairs.
There are lots of things to consider so consult an agent before making improvements to sell.
3. Do I have to spend big before I list? Not necessarily. Getting a new front door or a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference in staging your home. Deep cleaning or decluttering costs little or nothing, yet can have a big impact on potential buyers. Curb appeal is also an important consideration. Take care of your lawn, plant a new tree, and add some flowers or color. First impressions create lasting impressions.
4. Do I have to do improvements before listing? No, if you need to sell quickly or don't have the extra funds to make improvements, you can sell the home "as is" but remember that you may not get top dollar for your home. Health & Safety issues should be a priority and if your city has a "point of sale" ordinance, you may have to pay for some government requirements. For example, Pacific Grove requires a sewer lateral inspection and a city inspection before sale. The Monterey Peninsula Water District requires that water retrofits are done prior to sale - 1.28g toilets, functional rain sensor for irrigation system etc.. Your agent will let you know what needs to be done.