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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

Marketing house is hard work

It's one thing to get the house ready for company. Or, as mother always said, "straighten up" or "pick up" the house. More than likely the friends and relatives who are coming have been there before. They expect to see the grandchildren's pictures on the mantle, the cat's dish in the kitchen, and the comfortable chair that overcrowds the living room. In the winter, guests we know may remove their coats and hang them in the closet.

But, they don't go through the house and open every closet door, and inspect the garage, basement, and attic with the rest of the house.

It's a whole new ball game when you are getting the house ready for sale and hoping someone will come to see it and love it. That's when it's more than "straightening or picking up," and even more than spring housecleaning. It's a whole revamp of your quarters.

The rules for readying a house for sale are probably more important now than they have been in several past years because of the economy. Sellers know house sales are down. Prospective buyers feel they can be selective and get a deal.

The term that gets me, because I live in the country, is "curb appeal." Realtors emphasize curb appeal whether they are listing or selling. Be sure your place has outstanding curb appeal, they say. Or, if you are shopping, they say you will like a place because of its curb appeal.

Here in the country we don't have curbs, and we have never missed them. The area that comes closest to being where a curb would be in the city is a shallow ditch and a split-rail fence.

At the lake, you see the back of houses first from the road, and that is not always appealing or easy to make attractive. One answer may be to talk and walk fast and lead the prospective buyer around the house to the front, and there at last is the curb appeal, which lake house sellers prefer to call lake appeal.

Personally, cookies baking in the oven or soup simmering on the back burner wouldn't impress me if I were looking at a house or condo. Those are overworked gestures that have nothing to do with the condition of the house or even the design of the kitchen.

Rule number two after we get past the exterior is no clutter, which tells me all the stuff stacked on this computer desk and a second desk has to go, but, where? I need it. That's the challenge. To prepare a house for sale apparently it has to look as though you don't live there. They say to think of yourself as a buyer and walk through your house, room by room.

The day that I showed this house I had tidied up one closet the day before but didn't have the energy to do the other three. In fact, when I saw the "lookers" drive in, I quickly tossed a stack of freshly laundered rugs into the coat closet.

My heart sank when the woman opened that closet door. I don't blame her. I would have done the same thing.

So your grandmother's picture has been on the chest in the living room for 10 years and the walls are lined with photos of the children from birth to college, weddings, and other magical moments in family history. Those have to go. Buyers want to see space where pictures of their family would look nice.

If you follow all of the rules to make your home look larger, more attractive, and clutter-free, you just may want to stay in it. Home sweet home just never looked so inviting.

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