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Preparing a Home for Sale in Today’s Housing Market

By Lauramartindale @LauraMartindale

I first addressed this topic in February 2009, and three years later, things haven’t changed much at all. Selling a home in today’s real estate market remains challenging, to say the least, and many commentators are dissuading homeowners from spending any money at all on makeovers or remodeling prior to putting a house on the market.

These commentators believe that the homeowner would be hard-pressed to gain any more in their sales price, given that the primary driver of price is the local market of comparable homes. Remodel for your own comfort and enjoyment, but not just for resale, they say.

I understand the point they are making about unrealistic expectations for getting a return on the incremental investment. But I don’t agree with not doing any updating or upgrading before putting a home on the market. Of course, general sprucing up, decluttering, and tasteful staging are all critical elements that must be done just to be noticed and competitive in a crowded market. However, there is a lot more that the homeowner can do to modernize and enhance the look & feel of a home without having to spend a lot of money on major remodeling.

Start with curb appeal by cleaning up and cutting back foliage (or adding plants, if needed). Get the lawn looking thick and green. An impressive front door and entry helps tremendously, such as a heavy solid-core door either stained dark or painted black or red. I also really like wrought iron hardware and accoutrements. Earth tone exterior paint and bright, neutral tones inside will do wonders, as well.

Worn out or multiple floor surfaces should be addressed. Carpets must be cleaned and badly worn carpeting replaced. There’s nothing better than stunning, continuous floors when you first walk in–although this can get expensive if you use hardwood.

Simply installing new faucets & fixtures can do wonders to modernize and enliven the kitchen & baths (you can’t go wrong with a stainless steel finish)–and it doesn’t have to cost much.

Check out your local home improvement store for easy DIY installations. If you aren’t handy (or interested in being handy)–you can find a competent handyman to do this type of work for you inexpensively. Lo0k on Craigslist or the newspaper classifieds, or ask around for references.

Especially in today’s challenging housing market, a home must stand out from the crowd to keep it from languishing unsold for months (or years). The last thing you want is an overpriced, outdated, or uninspiring home to become “stale” on the market, or gain a bad reputation among the local real estate professionals. But at the same time you must focus only on high-value-added projects that are appropriate to your market and neighborhood. Over-enhancing a home such that it becomes the fanciest house on the block will not provide the return you hoped for.

And here’s one other idea: Some real estate agents might be willing to front you the money for some basic home improvements in exchange for additional consideration on the sales terms. Considering that they have to spend their time and money in marketing your home, it can be in their mutual interest to do so.

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