Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Little fixes can make buyers take notice

Even with a budget of $1,000 or less, sellers are not priced out of making improvements that can help their home stand out among the competition.

In fact, real-estate experts say there are many relatively small upgrades that can go a long way toward attracting buyers.
"There are a lot of things that you can do that won't cost a lot of money but will sure make your home look a whole lot more appealing," said Gwyn Thorne, owner of Staged Appeal Homes in Fairfax, Va.

Among Thorne's top suggestions for a thousand-dollar budget:
• Swap out old light fixtures to modernize the feel of the interior. Flush-mounted fixtures for bedrooms and hallways can go for as little as $20 a pair, Thorne said. "Because a lot of the light fixtures that are in the older houses haven't been changed, they have a very outdated look," she said.
• Buy a new bathroom vanity. Vanities start from only about $200. Add a new faucet and relatively inexpensive peel-and-stick tiling, and the bathroom looks like new, Thorne said. "Bathrooms and kitchens are probably the two most important rooms in the house," she said.
Nicci Parrish, co-owner of Impress Me Home Staging in Bowie, Md., said sellers should focus on the exterior. "If it doesn't look good on the outside, buyers are going to have a negative opinion before they get inside," she said. Some of her favorite touches:
• Add colorful flowers in a planter on the front porch.
• Buy a new mailbox to replace a shabby old one.
• Touch up paint on the door and shutters.
All are relatively inexpensive improvements that can help would-be buyers feel more comfortable, Parrish said. "When someone is coming up to your house, it just makes it a little bit more warm and inviting," she said. And make sure house numbers are clearly visible, she added. Sellers know where they live; buyers don't.
Deborah Gorham, a real-estate agent with Long & Foster in Centreville, Va., said sellers should start simple. Painting, she said, is the best investment a seller can make. She offers some specific tips:

• Apply neutral-colored paint with white trim to help the home's architectural details stand out and remove the seller's style, which might conflict with buyers' preferences. Painting can be cheap, she said. "I say this in all due kindness: Most people can figure out how to paint and do it themselves," Gorham said.
• Replace the oldest kitchen appliance. Specifically, replacing a dishwasher — often viewed as the most unsanitary kitchen appliance — can go a long way with buyers, Gorham said.
"If they have the funds to do it, a dishwasher is the kitchen appliance that takes the most use and abuse," she said. The kitchen is a room buyers obsess over, she said, and they "just want new."
• Have the air ducts cleaned. "You can literally look in the intake vents and see how dirty is," Gorham said.
Alongside de-cluttering, comprehensively cleaning is the other most fundamental task sellers should take on, said Elaine Quigley, owner of Topline Home Staging in Burke, Va., and president of the local chapter of International Association of Home Staging Professionals. Quigley has some do-it-yourself suggestions:
• "Clean it beyond what they can imagine cleanliness is," Quigley said. "The tracks in the windows, get every cobweb, every piece of dust, get in there with a toothbrush." As with painting, sellers can keep cleaning costs down by doing it themselves.
reprinted: Washington Post

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