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HomeHomes
Published: Tuesday, 10/4/2005

Home Improvements That Can Do Wonders

There are many reasons why you might sell your home -- bigger space requirements, job relocation, grown-up children, trouble making the mortgage payments, or unsafe community, to name a few. One thing remains constant: You want to get the best price you can for the place you've called home.

Putting your house on the market is more than just listing your home with a real estate agent and letting her do the rest of the work. It requires some elbow grease and ingenuity on the part of the owner to make the home appeal to the widest possible buying audience. And that means you'll get more offers and a most likely a quick sale. These changes need not be major repairs that break the piggy bank, but inexpensive cosmetic improvements. Here is advice on how to enhance the appearance of your home as you get ready to put it on the market:

It's critical to make a good first impression when potential buyers pull up in front of your house. Sometimes buyers won't even look at a home with overgrown grass and shrubs, scattered debris, dangling shutters, saggy gutters, or patches of peeling paint on the outside of the house. Make an effort to clean up the yard, trim the bushes, and fix cracked windows to prevent a "broken-down" look. You can either do the work yourself or hire someone. You don't want buyers to think they are looking at a "fixer-upper" that could be bought at a bargain price.

"You want the house to look idyllic in terms of its presentation," says James R. Webb, director of the Real Estate Research Center at Cleveland State University.

The longer you've lived in your house, the greater you risk that too much junk has piled up. Cleaning out closets, the garage and basement, and tidying up counters, is critical to attaining a crisp, clean, organized look. Your books, magazines and family photos may look nice to you but they can look one big mess to buyers if they are not presented in an organized manner. Buyers need to visualize themselves living in your home.

"Certainly, you have to live in your house while showing it, so it should be personalized," says Allyson J. Bernard, a Connecticut broker and regional vice-president for New England, of the National Association of Realtors. "You don't have to get rid of all of Grandma's and Grandpa's photos, but don't have 30 of them around. Just pick your five favorites."

If you find that you can't part with some items, stash them at friend's house, or rent a mini-storage space temporarily.

A new coat of paint often makes a house look neat and cared for.

"Painting the inside and outside freshens a house incredibly," says Bernard. Light colors -- whites, beiges, or pastels -- make rooms look larger, which is a marketable quality when selling your home.

"If you grew up in the 1960s and painted your dining room black, you might want to put a few coats of neutral color on the walls, because radical decoration statements appeal to one out of 20,000 people," says Webb. If you want to add color without painting, you can add splashes of color with cushions, throws, and rugs.

Now is the time to do all those little jobs around the house that you've always meant to do, but haven't had time. Loose doorknobs, dripping faucets, and squeaky doors and floors convey an air of neglect.

"If people see minor problems, they think they're a clue to larger things wrong with the house," says Webb. Worn, matted, or dirty carpets should be replaced or cleaned. Don't try to cover old rugs -- it will be obvious that you are trying to hide something.

You want your home to smell nice. Bake mom's apple pie in the oven so buyers smell it when they arrive at your door. You don't want people to walk in and smell mildew or pet odors. Make sure you clean up after your pet. Open an air freshener. Buy flowers, and leave the lights on. Do all you can to make the house welcoming.

Remember, there's no place like home!



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