What not to skimp on when getting ready to sell your NYC apartment

Mimi headsht
By Mimi OConnor  |
July 26, 2018 - 2:00PM

A living room makeover helps showcase this apartment in a better light.

Designed to Appeal

Gearing up to put your place on the market? You no doubt want to get top dollar for your apartment, and you've probably guessed you're going to have to spruce things up a bit before hosting that open house. (If you didn't plan on it, be advised your competition likely is.) Still, we assume you don't have limitless funds to whip the place into shape. So what should you spend your money on?

We talked to industry experts to find out what you shouldn't skimp on when trying to sell your apartment. Here's what we learned. 

[Editor's Note: This story originally ran in October, 2017. We are presenting it again in case you missed it.]

You definitely need a fresh coat of paint

A new coat of paint on the walls goes a long way when it comes to getting your home ready for its close-up.

Think your walls don't need it? Think again, says Donna Dazzo of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving Manhattan and the Hamptons. 

"Walls get dingy over time. If you move artwork you'll see where it was hung. Walls get scuffs and scrapes," she says. "[Buyers] don't want to do any work. They want a space that's clean and fresh, and paint goes miles to do that. Sometimes people tell me they want to bring in furniture but not paint and I say that's like putting on a nice dress over a dirty body."

A rough estimate for painting costs is about $1,000 a room. 

It's worth it to fix the floors

After painting, Dazzo recommends improving the floors. For hardwood floors, she says to refinish, or at least buff. Does she think it's worth the hassle of moving out while it's done? Yes.

If you have wall-to-wall carpet and can remove it, do so, she says. "People get an 'ick' factor when they walk in and see wall-to-wall carpet," she says. "I've gone so far as to replace old wall-to-wall carpeting and put in a Berber rug in beige." 

Pro Tip:

If you're unsure how your apartment will come across to prospective buyers, how much time and money you should invest in staging or renovating, or if you simply want to test the waters, consider "pre-marketing" your co-op, condo or brownstone before you publicly list it.  The pre-marketing platform at New York City brokerage Triplemint provides a no-risk way to quietly test your asking price and marketing strategy among actual  buyers shopping for a place like yours.  There's no charge to participate and no obligation to sell or enter a traditional listing agreement if you haven't found a buyer by the end of the pre-marketing period.  To learn more, click here. >>

Do all the repairs and maintenance you've been putting off

Make sure all the appliances, lights, etc. are in good working order. "If a dishwasher is faulty, replace it," says Corcoran broker John Gasdaska. "You don't have to go overboard with Sub-Zero. It can be a good, American brand." 

If there's a crack in the ceiling, spackle it. "There should be no evidence of anything wrong in the apartment," Gasdaska says.

Move as much stuff as possible into storage

The ultimate goal when presenting your home is to create an environment prospective buyers can see themselves living in, which means the less evidence of you is there, the better.

"People try to save money by simply de-cluttering, but that’s often not enough," says Cheryl Eisen, president and founder of the luxury design and real estate marketing firm Interior Marketing Group  "I'd splurge on putting as much as possible into storage. The less it looks like someone else's home with someone else's stuff, the more buyers can envision their own life in the space."

This may be especially important for sellers with kids.

"If you have a kid who has a gazillion toys, get rid of 98 percent of them," says Douglas Elliman broker Paul Zweben.

Staging is a good investment

If you feel especially challenged in the interior design department, if your furniture is ragtag or dated, or if you just want your sales effort to have some extra oomph, hiring someone to stage your home could be a sound investment.

"When someone comes to look at your home, they're most often trading up," Dazzo says. "If you don't present a lifestyle to them, they're not going to be excited when they walk in the door. Buyers are aspirational. You've got to present them something clean and new."

Dazzo's rates start at around $10,000 for an empty one-bedroom, which includes furniture rental. Interior Marketing Group, which works with properties listed for $4 million and more, charges 1-3 percent of the listing price. 

Photos need to be high quality

Hire the best photographer you can, Zweben says, and make sure your photos are hi-res so they can be blown up and viewed full-screen. Those iPhone shots won't cut it. 

Flowers add a nice touch

Sometimes, it's the little things that make an impact. 

"For all of our open houses we spend significant money on flowers," Zweben says. "You can go to the bodega and do it on the cheap, but we go to the farmer's market on Saturday morning. It's better quality." 

Upgrades that look ritzy but aren't

The good news is, there are some changes you can make that only look like they cost a lot.

"A fresh, neutral paint color (not white) is a quick remedy and in most spaces, adding a subtle grass cloth wallpaper in a foyer, living room, or master [bedroom] adds a level of instant luxury," Eisen says. "We also love to add elegant light fixtures to the properties we design. Fixtures are transformative and can really elevate a space." 


Mimi headsht

Mimi OConnor

Contributing Writer

Mimi O’Connor has written about New York City real estate for publications that include Brick Underground, Refinery29, and Thrillist. She is the recipient of two awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for interior design and service journalism. Her writing on New York City, parenting, events, and culture has also appeared in Parents, Red Tricycle, BizBash, and Time Out New York.

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