published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

When selling, think like a buyer

If you're planning a move, most likely you are scrutinizing your home for economical ways to spruce it up before putting a For Sale sign in the yard.

Why throw money away on expensive remodeling projects that won't end up netting a higher sales price? To avoid this loss, Houzz.com, an online collection of interior design and real estate advice, posted 10 tips to increase a home's resale value.

We checked the merit of these tips with three local professionals to see which were of value to local homeowners. Each tip is followed by input from either Vicki Trapp of Crye-Leike Realtors, a certified real estate specialist with 26 years in the business; Dolores Wolfe, interior designer; or Kris Keith, designer with Classic Cabinetry.

Consider hiring a pro to look at your home and offer advice.

One morning spent with a home inspector, real estate agent or designer can give you insight into what potential buyers will see when they lookome.

Trapp: We live in our homes every day, and we become blind to things such as marks on the wall, blinds that are dirty, spots on the rug, light bulbs that need changing. Those are things other people will pick up on immediately.

A seller can call a Realtor and get free advice. A good thing to do is get a home inspection done on your home before you put it on the market, which averages about $400.

Invest early in good landscaping.

A beautifully landscaped yard with mature shade trees can be a big selling point. Make planting a priority early on.

Trapp: If you have time to do that, it's a great idea. But if you have a new house and your landscaping hasn't had years to develop, you can't.

It's more important to have your grass cut, shrubbery trimmed, everything looking good.

Power-wash paths and siding.

Giving your home's exterior and paved areas a power wash can be nearly as dramatic as repainting, for a much lower cost. Rent a machine from your local hardware store if you do Great idea. We don't realize how much pollution there is in the air and how pressure-washing your siding and sidewalk, even a brick exterior, can make it look brand new.

Maintain green lawns.

Sad, neglected lawns are a major turnoff to potential buyers.

Trapp: I think maintaining your yard is very important. If you can afford to do sod, it always makes it look good. But a lot of people can't afford that, so just make sure you fertilize and seed like you should.

Upgrade exterior doors.

Curb appeal will help sell your house; it's as simple as that. The way your home looks from the outside depends a lot on the condition of your front door and the garage door if it's visible from the street.

Trapp: That's a good point. That first impression is very important. If people don't like the house from the outside, they are not going to go in.

It doesn't always require putting in a new front door. Sometimes just painting the front door, replacing the hardware or putting in a new kick platplace a garage door if it's broken or dented. You might as well replace it before the house goes on the market because the home buyer is either going to ask you to do it anyway or deduct that cost from the sales price.

Remove eyesores.

Outdated wallpaper, tacky light fixtures, stained carpets and popcorn ceilings are all good candidates for updating. Replacements need not be high-end; just think clean, simple and contemporary.

Trapp: With all the do-it-yourself shows on television, you can get lots of ideas from them. Go to the big-box stores, get a light fixture or gallon of paint. It's not hard to do, and it makes a huge difference.

People have grown accustomed to seeing smooth ceilings whenever they go into new construction. A popcorn ceiling is not as desirable as a smooth ceiling, but I wouldn't ask a seller to take down a popcorn ceiling.

Minor kitchen renovations bank the biggest return.

If your kitchen is fairly current, you may want to leave it alone. Smaller updates sefinishing cabinets that are still in good shape, or upgrading to Energy Star appliances, can refresh your kitchen's look at a fraction of the cost.

Trapp: Those are all good ideas. Make sure the appliances are in good working order and are clean. A home buyer will open the oven to see how big it is, and then they see whether it's clean or not.

Keith: Countertop replacement, going from laminate to granite, is a quick way to update. Also, replacing hardware on cabinets. Hardware is like the jewelry of the cabinet. We like to mix knobs and pulls to give more of a furniture appeal.

Tearing out soffits, adding moldings and installing tile backsplashes are other ways to update kitchens without doing a full remodel.

French doors add more than light.

If you are looking for a special feature to add to your home, consider replacing a door or several windows with French doors. Not only will they let in more light, but the open feel they provide makes the whole space feel larger.

Trapp: That's a nice stad probably true, but sometimes you don't have wall space to put in French doors. Those can be expensive, too. I don't think this is something you have to do.

Choose current paint colors.

A fresh paint job in modern neutrals, such as gray or putty, shows off your home to best advantage. An overly bright or badly chipped exterior paint color may need refreshing, too.

Trapp: The exterior makes your first impression; it's that curb appeal. If your exterior paint is chipped, the home buyer may think if you don't take care of the outside, what does the inside look like?

Wolfe: Grays and taupes are excellent colors right now, standards in design trends. If you didn't want gray, choose a color with a little more cream in it. With white woodwork, gray or taupe will make that pop and look so much cleaner.

Go ahead and paint and have it ready to sell. If a home buyer has a neutral backdrop like that, they can put any color with it for the time being when they move in until they have time to choose their and decor.

Build in extra storage.

A great investment is to add built-in shelving or cabinets in garages or anywhere you have the space.

Trapp: Absolutely. You can go to Home Depot or Lowe's and buy shelving you put together, or call a closet organizer.

Home buyers are looking for storage in the garage, laundry room, bath; they love to see closets that are organized. Once you get shelving installed, don't clutter it up. Keep it neat, keep it organized.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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