Maximizing your home value: Strategies for getting your property listing ready

Selling a house is an important and exciting decision, but it can be daunting. What improvements before listing give the best return on investment? What sorts of things scare potential buyers away? Is it worth hiring professionals to help stage for open houses? In this blog, the expert team at Charleston Empire Properties will give a few insider tips on your home value while you prepare to list.

Curb Appeal

The first thing most buyers do is a preliminary drive by of the properties they’re interested in, so curb appeal is one of the most important house selling tips & listing strategies.  Extensive front yard landscaping might not be worthwhile since that takes a lot of maintenance, and you might not be at the house to keep up if you’re already in the process of moving. Having the house and porch pressure washed, updating the color on the front door, and repainting any decking and window trim, however, is a must.  Fresh mulch or pine straw and some high-sun tolerant flowers like vincas in pots by the entrance entice people to explore the interior. Focus on the front façade.  The back yard should be tidied and mowed, but new buyers like to customize back yards and gardens themselves as a small project to customize the space after they move in, so spare the expense.

A perfectly manicured landscape and flawless façade on Meeting Street lets passersby know that the rest of the house is sure to be beautiful as the exterior.

Updates for Home Value Maximization: What’s Worth It, What Isnt?

The Charleston area has a large stock of older houses with one bathroom, including in the increasingly popular 1950s and 1960s suburbs in West Ashley, James Island, and the north area. Adding a second bathroom isn’t a small feat, but it’s often a deal maker for buyers. Young families want at least two bathrooms, but young professionals do as well, in case they have guests.  A second bathroom- and updating existing ones with new fixtures and a coat of paint- are worthwhile investments.   Kitchen updates are also a good investment, especially getting rid of Formica countertops and replacing with a granite or other stone surface, and updating dark cabinetry. If replacing is too expensive, brighten the walls with a light complimentary coat of paint.

The light blue color in this Summerville kitchen of a listed home brightens the space and is unassuming and not busy.

What’s worth it, and what isn’t?

Charleston Empire Properties founder JJ Rahnamoon gave some house selling tips & listing strategies, stating that interior colors do matter. Buyers may add their own bright favorites later, but they are put off by intense or unusual colors and finishes already in place. No new resident wants to paint the house the minute they move in!  Go for neutral colors for walls, fixtures, cabinets, and countertops.  No need to remove an expensive custom red marble countertop that’s already in place, but if you’re doing updates, go with whites, greys, or timeless neutral colors.   Be wary of trends, which not only come and go, but they can also date a house quickly, and are not to every buyer’s taste.

JJ says, “It’s better to do those small renovations because people out of that realm are scared by it, and they’re scraping up what they have and want to tackle that right away.”  He recommends Rockwell Construction for historic properties that need an update because the firm has extensive experience renovating properties in historic neighborhoods and homes of every vintage and price point, from South of Broad to Cannonborough-Elliottborough (including antebellum homes) to North Central (with its one-bedroom 1920s to 1940s cottages and bungalows). They work with top designers and have rapport with the city’s preservation staff and preservation advocacy groups, an important track record.

Image 2: a timeless kitchen update for a house on Logan Street. From Rockwell Construction’s Instagram page.

JJ also loves Archer Construction, which specializes in restoration work for home value mazimization, new construction, and commercial projects.  If you have a commercial space that needs systems brought up to date or the interior renovated for a better listing price, contact Archer.  For residential, their portfolio includes downtown projects as well as a beautiful update to circa 1940s house in Riverland Terrace, James Island.

Arnett ( is another firm that Charleston Empire Properties recommends. Arnett has “has built a legacy of quality service in Charleston since 2008. Combining industry best practices with our own personal lessons learned and skills acquired over the years, we bring our clients a trusted partner for their projects.”  Arnett offers project management, general contracting services, and takes on restaurant/commercial overhauls as well as residential.

No surprises

In the damp Lowcountry, inspectors will make a beeline for the roof and the crawlspace to look for moisture issues. Lowcountry Crawlspaces can do a pre-inspection and put in a moisture barrier or recommend other ways to dry or seal the lower areas of the home. Make sure your termite bond is up to date for the next buyer, and have the roof inspected by a professional so you have a good idea of its lifespan for your home value and for negotiating final sales price later, and have the heating and air conditioning serviced ahead of time.

We recommend having the property inspected professionally ahead of time so there are no big-item surprises once you are active-contingent and the buyers have an inspection done. The inspection report will also point out small issues- wall dents, faulty fixtures you’d forgotten about- that you can repair cheaply before listing.

Get Showing Ready

Staging companies are a great small investment, not only because sellers have enough to worry about already, but because professionals know exactly what makes buyers feel at home. Staging companies also have up to date, or timeless, furniture and interior décor to bring in if you’ve already packed your things. They also assist with staging furnished homes on the market that are still lived in. JJ recommends Refresh Your Nest,, a leading local staging and interior design company. Shannon Hawkins provides consultations and explains that “If you are selling a home in a more competitive price range or you simply have the time and resources available to properly stage the home yourself, our consultation service is a perfect fit for your needs.  Our expert guidance and prioritized, step by step instructions will allow you to create the most value for your home within its marketplace.” Refresh Your Nest offers occupied and vacant home staging service.

A perfect interior staging photo from Refresh Your Nest’s portfolio shows their expertise in making spaces inviting and cozy yet uncluttered.

Another house selling tip & listing strategy reminder from JJ is that sellers who are living in the listed house to declutter and remove family photo collections if they want to stage the house themselves.  A photo or two is fine, but large collections of photos make spaces feel smaller and make it harder for the new residents to envision the place as their own. If you have too much stuff or a small house, a storage unit is a great way to get some of your packing done ahead of time and clear out the interior.

Get better lightbulbs so the house looks warm and inviting for evening showings, make sure pet areas of the house are kept clean and crates aren’t in the kitchen taking up space, and consider hiring a professional company to do a pre-listing deep clean for your home value.  Remember that interiors often look larger in person, but photography can’t always convey that. for listing images, it’s important to declutter to make the spaces look as inviting and open as possible.

The décor at 1724 E. Ashley, currently on the market, tempts viewers to move to Folly Beach with its fun nautical theme. Note the warm light from the bedroom lamp to brighten background spaces.

Proper photography also goes a long way. Leave it to the professionals to get the best light and angles of each room to make them feel spacious and cozy. Real estate photographers also have a keen eye for interior features that make your home unique.

Listing photos for 1115 Oceanview Drive, listed by Charleston Empire Properties, highlights the house’s connection to the landscape. Buyers can picture themselves watching the marsh views from their new porch.

Nick Cann Photography is Charleston Empire Property’s go to.  Besides a great artistic eye as a photography, Nick has a marketing background that makes him uniquely suited to understanding what sells and translates well- you’re essentially marketing your biggest investment when you list a property.  Nick Cann offers various packages for every price point, and aerial photography as well as listing photos. Aerials are worth it- the lowcountry landscape is what brings buyers to our region in droves.

A beautiful interior photo of a historic house on Meeting Street, from Cann Photography’s website.

Perhaps most importantly, choose the right listing agent who knows the market and local comps for each area, and who has the knowledge to get the most for your house. If you’re ready to sell, now is the time to reach out to the experts at Charleston Empire Properties to get more house selling tips & listing strategies for your home value maximization and to get the most out of your sale- today!

Listing photos from Kemmerlin Drive, Johns Island. Empire Properties highlights the amenities and outdoors spaces

Author: Christina Butler

Owner of Butler Preservation L.C., Professor of Historic Preservation at American College of the Building Arts, author of Lowcountry At High Tide (USC Press, 2020).