Service members who PCS to Hawaii often take advantage of the generous VA loan benefit and buy a home with the expectation that they’ll sell it in 3-5 years when they move again. Since a VA loan under $720,050 requires no down payment, buyers often have some cash on hand to make property improvements, increasing the value of the home with a little sweat equity.
Oahu’s housing stock is fairly old and worn by mainland standards, so VA buyers have many opportunities to improve a home. They do, however, need to work with their Realtor to make sure they’re offering on homes that will meet the VA’s minimum property requirements for condition. That said, there are plenty of structurally sound cosmetic disasters dying to be made-over.
What Types of Improvements Should Buyers Make During Their Tour on Oahu?
Here’s how to improve without spending a lot on materials or labor:
1. Get the ugly out! It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to not be awful. Paint, paint, and more paint. Glossy white trim, a light and neutral wall color in a flat finish that hides flaws, and spraying the ceilings a bright white, even over the 80’s popcorn treatment, will do wonders. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl is my current favorite, but have it color matched with whatever brand is on sale. And don’t forget to paint the outside! Fortunately, many Oahu homes are single-story and easy to DIY. While you’re at it, paint the concrete too!
2. Speaking of concrete, many Oahu homes have an overabundance of it. Work out your frustrations with a jack hammer and bust out whatever isn’t necessary. Paint with concrete paint or stain, whatever stays, including concrete walls. What a difference!
3. Busting out all that concrete means more space for beautiful plants and grass. Use greenery to create attractive views and privacy between homes. Fruit trees are an inexpensive bonus. Whenever I tour properties with buyers I point out all the fruit trees on a property – a great selling point.
4. Replace old fixtures. Repeat after me: “beautiful, simple, modern.” Light fixtures (inside and out), towel bars, drawer pulls and cabinet knobs, toilet paper holders, faucets, shower heads, builder grade bath mirrors, light switches and plates, outlets and covers, curtain rods, door knobs, house numbers. They don’t have to cost a lot to make a big difference.
5. Replace the carpet. If you can afford a good looking laminate, wood, or tile in the common areas, do. Carpet is completely acceptable in the bedrooms, in upper hallways, and on stairs. Tip: you may want to wait until the end of your tour to replace the carpet, so it’s fresh and new for your sale.
6. Re-glaze the bathtub and tile. Is it pink and sparkly a la 1950? A very good professional bathtub reglaze costs about $650, much less than replacement. A new, furniture style vanity from Home Depot or Lowe’s is a few hundred dollars.
7. More paint. Try painting anything before you replace it. We bought a home with orange Saltillo tile and black grout in the family room. It was like a Halloween party every time I entered the room. I found a primer that sticks to slippery surfaces and painted the whole floor a medium, neutral gray in two days, all for $150. Try painting kitchen and bathroom cabinets, too. It’s a waste of money to put new counters on crumbling cabinets, but if the cabinets are in good shape, yet not an attractive color, paint!
Need Some Help?
If you’re considering making some improvements before selling your home when you PCS, contact me for an estimate of your home’s current value. I’d be happy to come take a look and make some recommendations.