- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

People trying to sell a home usually try to make it look as new as possible to obtain the highest profit. In reviewing many of the homes on the market today, however, it is apparent that some sellers just don’t get it.

One seller, knowing full well that buyers were coming by, not only failed to clean up — he left his underwear on the exercise bike, a pan of crusty macaroni and cheese on the stove and debris throughout the yard.

Even if you decide to sell “as is,” a little soap and water could put a few more bucks in your pocket.

Let’s look at what sellers should consider when they want to get a little more money and compete with the Joneses, who also have a “for sale” sign out front.

• Clean. All homes going on the market should receive a deep cleaning, the kind of cleaning you would never do unless you’re selling your house. This involves scrubbing every cranny of the house. I would suggest bringing in a professional group to get this done and plan on spending a couple hundred bucks — maybe more — to get the house ready for your new buyer.

• Declutter. Rent a storage unit and fill it up. Use a bunch of boxes that have lids you can tape shut and label. Take the children’s toys to charity. Donate all clothes that are even a bit too tight or out of date. Remove excess furniture, or cover with matching covers.

• Repair and paint. Walk through a new construction home to see what you’re up against and then go and make yours look the best you can on your budget.

• Landscape. Mulch and flowering plants don’t cost a lot of money. Before going out and paying for a designer-created landscaping job, start with the local garden center and get some free advice on how to spruce up on a budget. Fresh, flowering plants — even in fall and winter — can make the house look oh-so-much better.

Even if you’re selling as-is, these are a must.

Here comes the next level, involving a little more money.

• Color. Giving your house a makeover doesn’t have to cost you a second mortgage. The first item to consider for rehab is your color selection. While the traditional advice is “go vanilla,” professionally selected colors — not too bold — can give a nice house that wow factor.

• Flooring. Floors are the best moderately priced upgrades a seller can install to make a huge difference. While I like the concept of “choose-your-own-carpet” offers in home listings, think about what else it’s saying: “we’re too cheap to fix up the house now, so we’ll let you walk through our tattered, stained carpeting and let you get it installed the weekend after we leave.” Make a first great impression with new carpet.

• Replacing items. Sometimes replacing certain items in the house is really more like maintaining your home instead of upgrading it. Items like windows, doors, light fixtures, faucets and door hardware need upgrading and replacing periodically. A walk down through your favorite hardware store reveals this could be done on a budget. There’s nothing worse than a brass light fixture that’s chipped and rusting.

• Compete. At some point you have to look at what the neighbors are doing and keep up or you’ll lose out. If everyone in the neighborhood is ripping out the old and installing the new, you may be forced to do the same thing long before you’re thinking of putting your home on the market. My wife and I are facing that right now with the kitchen. It’s starting to show its age, which means before we put the house on the market in a few years, if I want the best buyer — or any buyer for that matter — the kitchen cabinets need an upgrade.

• Redo, remodel, relax. As you look around the house, making your list of things to change before putting the house on the market, remember to create some time to enjoy your new digs before selling the place.

If a sale is on your horizon and you must redo the landscaping before putting the house on the market, do it early so you can drive home to the professionally designed flower beds and floral creations a few months or years before selling it to someone else.

While you want to repair, paint, remodel and add on to your house because it adds value to your home come resale, every homeowner should be able to enjoy the changes as well.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions and comments at his Web log (https://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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