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Ready, set, sell

Money and looks are key, say real estate experts

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February 22nd, 2011

What s the secret to a quick and successful home sale in a challenging housing market? It comes down to two things, says Mike Aubrey, local real estate agent and host of HGTV s Real Estate Intervention. In this marketplace you have to be priced right and you have to look good, said Aubrey recently on CNN s American Morning. People don t want project homes anymore; they want to drop their furniture and start living their life, he says. In fact, having your house move-in ready or what real estate agents refer to as turn-key, can mean the difference between selling quickly and sitting on the market. Today s buyers tend to shy away from things like carpet, wallpaper, vinyl floors, and dated kitchens and bathrooms, says real estate agent Lou Bivona of Long and Foster s Reisterstown office. Instead, they want hardwood floors, neutral-colored walls, granite countertops, and stainless appliances.

Don t go overboard

Bivona says he doesn t recommend sinking thousands of dollars into remodeling, but notes the sales price needs to accurately reflect the features and the condition of the home. He also suggests having a home inspection performed by a licensed inspector before going on the market to determine which items should be addressed before the for sale sign goes up. You only get one chance at a buyer and you need to put your best foot forward from the beginning, says Bivona. I always tell my clients to look at selling their house like you would a puzzle. You want to make sure you put all the pieces together before you list the house, because if even one piece is missing, you lower your odds of being successful.

Learn from experience

So how do you go about getting your house move-in ready without spending an arm and a leg? Here s a checklist of some basic home selling rules to get you started:
  • John Doe lives here. Start by depersonalizing your house. It s important that buyers are able to visualize themselves living in your house and are not distracted by your personal belongings. Go through each room and remove family photos, collectibles, and souvenirs. Change out flowery curtains and bedding with something more gender neutral. Remove any personalized name plaques from your front porch or yard.
  • Less is more! It s important to make your rooms appear as large as possible. One way to achieve this is by removing all unnecessary furniture and clutter. Remove things that harbor clutter like bookcases and china cabinets and place them in storage. Go through your kitchen and clear the countertops and organize cabinets. Buyers want to know there is ample storage space so be sure to clean out closets, basements, garages, and attics to make them appear spacious and showcase their potential.
  • Inner beauty. Repair and update your home s interior. Remove wallpaper and give walls a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint. Replace worn or stained carpet and flooring. Replace heavy drapes with sheers or blinds that allow the light to filter through. Update your bedroom with fresh linens and new bedding.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Clean. Selling your house is not the time to let your house chores wane. Give every bathroom a deep scrub. Replace cracked or stained caulk and grout. Clean all windows inside and out. Steam-clean carpets, furniture, and curtains. Clean and scrub the inside and outside of your refrigerator, freezer, and oven. Pay special attention to odors, especially if you smoke or have pets. Empty trash cans daily. Clean ceiling fan blades and dust blinds. Organize linen closets. And get in the habit of making your bed every day.
  • Get a facelift. When selling your house, curb appeal counts! Think of the outside of your house as the first room buyers will see. Make sure lawns are always kept mowed and neat. Pull up and replace dead flowers and trees. Trim overgrown shrubs. Mulch garden beds. Power wash vinyl siding, decks, and concrete walks. Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Update or polish the front door hardware. Replace dented or rusted mailboxes. Add new house numbers and replace old door mats with something clean and fresh.

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