The other day, I saw a Minneapolis duplex where approximately 15 quarts of motor oil had been sprayed on the walls and floors.
For the record, that is not a great way to stage your duplex in order to attract a buyer.
So, if you’re thinking of selling, what physical improvements should you make to your investment property to make sure you get maximum market value in the shortest amount of time possible?
Getting a duplex ready isn’t really much different than getting a home ready to sell, except that we can’t control what a tenant’s unit looks like. However, we can make some of the same exterior and interior improvements a home owner would.
And the good news is none of them are terribly expensive.
Tell your tenants you are selling. As this is frightening for many, reassure them they are protected by their lease and that while you and your Realtor will do all you can to provide ample notice of showings, it will be within the terms of their lease or law. (In Minnesota, notice for business purposes is “reasonable attempt to notify”, not 24 hours. If your lease, state, city or county says something otherwise, those are the regulations you must follow.)
Now, let’s start on the outside of the duplex.
If it’s summer, make sure the lawn is mowed. Trim tree branches so the lowest one is above human height, and hedges so they’re below the window sills. Of course, if it’s winter, make sure you stay on top of snow and ice removal.
If you have planters, flower beds, or a front porch that’s just right for hanging planters, make sure all of the plants and flowers are healthy. If they’re looking like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree before the blanket, consider replacing them.
If weather permits, paint the front door. And, if window trim is peeling and flaking, take care of that too. FHA appraisers are paying particular attention to this right now, and as FHA loans are one of the most popular forms of financing duplexes, taking the time to address paint can make your property a possibility for a much larger pool of buyers.
If your duplex exterior is either stucco or siding, consider pressure washing it to give it a cleaner, fresher look.
If there’s trash in the yard, abandoned furniture or vehicles, give the tenants a deadline to remove them before doing so yourself.
If interior or exterior light fixtures are dirty, or broken, clean or replace them. Make sure all light bulbs inside and outside the building are in good working order, and provide adequate lighting for showings.
Repair or replace anything else that’s broken, both inside and outside of the building.
Ask your tenants to clean their windows on the inside, while you wash the outside. This is a subtle thing that isn’t immediately visible, but it does leave a more favorable impression on buyers and their agents.
While we can’t control every facet of what the interior of a tenant’s unit looks like, some residents are willing to help the property show better (especially if they’re offered a discount on rent in return).
Encourage them to eliminate clutter if you can. Ask if they can free up traffic paths, remove items from surfaces that weren’t meant to have something on them, and put things away they are no longer using.
If they are either smokers or pet owners, ask if they can try to mitigate smoke and animal odors. If they have cats, encourage them to keep the litter box clean, and if they’re dog owners, to keep they yard clear of waste.
Believe it or not, these little things go a long way toward making an impression in a buyer’s mind. By en large, banks aren’t doing anything to freshen up the look of their properties (hence the motor oil), so these little flourishes will make your Minneapolis duplex stand out.