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    Putting Your Home’s Best Foot Forward

    Unless your house is nearly new, chances are you’ll want to do some work to get it ready to sell. What type and how much work depends largely on the price you’re asking, the time you have to sell, and of course, the present condition of your home.

    As a general rule, stick to light, neutral colors. Keep your yard and all rooms free of clutter. Remember, when a buyer looks at a house, he or she is trying to imagine living there. Create as clean a canvas as possible. Here are a few low-cost ways to present your home in the best light:

    • “Curb appeal” is the common real estate term for everything prospective buyers can see from the street. Keep two key words in mind: neat and neutral. New paint, an immaculate lawn, picture-perfect shrubbery, a newly sealed driveway, potted plants at the front door…put them all together, and drive-by shoppers will probably want to see the rest of the house.

    • People may look behind closet and crawl space doors, as well as those to the bedrooms and bathrooms. So get rid of all clutter; have that garage sale and haul away the leftovers.

    • After you’ve cleaned, try to correct any cosmetic flaws you notice Paint rooms that need it, re-grout tile walls and floors, remove or replace worn-out carpets. Replace dated faucets, light fixtures and handles on your kitchen drawers and cabinets.

    • Clear as much from your walls, shelves and countertops as you can. Give your prospects plenty of room to dream.

    Certain higher-cost home improvements have proved to add value and/or speed the sale of houses. These include:

    • Adding central air conditioning to the heating system

    • Building a deck or patio

    • Finishing a basement

    • Doing some kitchen remodeling

    • Adding new floor and/or wall coverings, especially in bathrooms

    Improvements that return less than what they cost are generally items that appeal to personal tastes, like adding fireplaces, wet bars, swimming pools, or converting the garage into an extra room.

    Investing in Repairs and Renovations

    You’re unlikely to sell for more than 15% above the median price of other houses in the neighborhood, whether you do $1,000 worth of work or $50,000. That’s why you might want to ask your broker’s opinion about the viability of recouping the cost of any major renovations before you start the work.

    For a complete list of people who can help you make smart updates to your home, especially for larger jobs involving mechanical systems (heating, electrical, plumbing) or local building codes, contact a licensed home improvement company.

    This is particularly important because if the buyer’s inspection reveals major problems with your home’s structure or mechanical systems, they can negotiate to have them fixed properly. Sometimes, repairs may be required before the transfer of title takes place. This is especially true in sales that involve financing insured or guaranteed by the government (FHA/VA loans, for example).

    You may have also heard about lawsuits involving sellers who failed to disclose problems before the sale, such as an addition to the house that wasn’t built to code or the presence of lead-based paint. Most states maintain very specific disclosure laws and require sellers to provide buyers with a completed and signed Property Condition Disclosure Form.

    These are just a few reasons to retain a lawyer or agent who knows as much about the condition of your property as you do. It’s also a good idea to get the buyer’s written acknowledgment of any major problems when you accept their offer.

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