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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Selling your house in 2008

If you're planning to sell a home in 2008, it's time to start thinking about how to make that home stand out from the rest. You can start by getting professional advice. Call your Realtor and let them do a walk through and give you their take on what you may need to do.

Don't launch into major home improvement projects. Homeowners aren't able to recoup as many improvement costs as they did in recent years, according to a recent study by Remodeling magazine. In selling a home, the three-C's of real estate - condition, clutter and cleanliness - are more important than having the latest stuff in the kitchen.

Condition has as much to do with how the home looks as a potential buyer walks through it. Chipping and peeling paint, dangling gutters, a worn and tired looking entrance door, holes, scars ands marks on walls, doors that don’t close properly, cracked windows or mirrors, missing shingles or overgrown rain gutters, soiled, worn or ripped carpeting and many more easy to spot issues can immediately give the prospective buyer the impression that there’s likely much more wrong with this neglected house.

Clutter is something that sneaks up on almost everyone. It’s all about having to much stuff in the house. Stuff like furniture and knickknacks and tools and clothes and shoes and boots and pictures. Most people tend to have too much furniture in most rooms. That makes the rooms look crowded and smaller. Buyers should be able to freely move through each room without having to run through and obstacle course. Less is better is the mantra that you should adopt when getting ready to sell, even if it means renting a storage unit somewhere to put a bunch of your stuff in until the home sells.

Cleanliness is the final factor and likely the hardest for many, especially those with pets. Buyers don’t necessarily go looking for your dust bunnies, but they often stumble upon them while looking in places that you may seldom visit. Dirty floors, dirty dishes in sinks, unclean bathtubs and toilets, unmade and disheveled beds, pet hair all over the furniture or floors, pet odors, dirty windows, dirty carpets, dusty shelves, cob webs in ceiling corners, dirty overhead fan blades, cluttered and dirty pantry shelves are definite turn-offs for buyers. I’d even suggest hiring a cleaning service at the front end of a listing and asking them to do a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of your house. Then try to keep it that way, ot have them come back at least once a month.

Next, you may want to get a jump on any issues by hiring your own home inspector. Most homeowners either don't know about the problems that they have in the house or they've become so used to them that they ignore them. A home inspection may cost you $300-400 on the front-end, but could end up saving you a lot more as you try to save a deal. Finding a faulty furnace and replacing it not only provides you with safer and more cost-effective heating, while you are selling; it takes away the panicked effort to get the furnace fixed in a hurry to save a deal. You can afford to get the 2-3 estimates and take the best deal vs. taking whatever deal you can get to save the sale. even if you don't get everything fixed, you'll at least know what's likely to be found by the buyers' inspector and can have a good idea what to offer for concessions to the buyer.

There are a number of inexpensive, "mini-makeovers" that you can do to improve your home's market appeal.


Keep the drive and walks cleared of snow and ice and do a walk-around to see if you have loose or hanging gutters that need to be rehung.

Check the windows all the way around for any torn screens, cracked storm windows or loose and misaligned shutters and fix those problems. Also look for broken seals on thermal windows and get them fixed.

Remember that people will be walking up to your front door, not coming in the garage as you most often do, so fix anything there that doesn't look right. Trim back overgrown bushes that may make walking up to the front door difficult. and take a look at the front door itself and replace it , if it will give a bad first impression.

Check your garage door for rust at the bottom and a torn or missing bottom seal and fix those issues and make sure that the opener works properly.


Nothings spruces up a room like a fresh coat of paint, and don’t forget the ceiling. You can even use embossed wallpaper and create a tin ceiling effect or get real tin ceilings (a bit more expensive). And don’t, don’t, DON’T paint directly over paneling, even if it is the old dark type. There are wall papers that you can get to put over the paneling that will hide the lines in the paneling and allow painting. It's best just to take the paneling down, even if you have to put new drywall up.

Put in new faucets. Look at both the baths and the kitchen and maybe update to the newer faucet finishes. Bright brass is out and the newer brushed nickel finishes are in.

Put new switch plates and outlet covers on. This small change can do wonders for a room. Switch plates in particular get dirty and leave the wrong impression with visitors.

Put in shelving in rooms like the family room, the laundry room and bedrooms. Relatively inexpensive and easy to hang designer shelving can add a touch of class to an otherwise plain room and it can increase the utility of laundry rooms.

Replace the knobs and pulls on kitchen and bath cabinets. In many cases the cabinets perhaps didn’t have pulls or knobs, so add them. You can also add class to a kitchen with under cabinet lighting.

A new bathroom mirror can spruce up that space, perhaps on a new medicine cabinet.

Check your inside doors and replace any that look damaged or excessively worn, especially those folding closet doors. Replace with solid wood doors, instead of the hollow type.

If you're handy, consider putting up crown molding in the living room, family room and dining room. They make corner blocks these days that will allow you to avoid having to miter the corners.

The point of all of these tips is to help your home stand out in a crowd. With so much inventory on the market, buyers are going to see lots of houses that have similar features and the same prices. Make yours the one that they remember.

Finally, remember the 3-P's of real estate - Price, Patience and Persistence. They are more important than ever. Let your real estate professional help you set the correct market price. Then, be patient. It is taking 6-12 months to sell in the current market, even with a well priced house. And, be persistent. Get into a routine of getting the house ready to show every day. If you have small children, develop a game with them to see how fast you can all work to get their toys picked up and be ready to get out of the house - maybe to a McDonald's or somewhere where you can reward their efforts.

People are buying houses in 2008, as they did in 2007. There may be fewer buyers out there looking right now, but they are there; so, resolve that when they get to your house they'll stop and say "Wow, this is a great house and a good deal."

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