When Realtor Alison Socha, with ReMax Heritage in Melrose, Mass., recently took a listing of a bungalow-style home, she was bothered by the uninteresting façade of the home. While redesigning the home was unrealistic, she realized that adding an inexpensive metal wall hanging in the blank space between the windows would ramp up the home's curb appeal.
"While most people know they should edge their shrubbery and plant a few flowers or add flowerpots to the front steps, they should take it a little farther and stage their front porch with splash of color from a rug and wicker chairs," says Socha.
Primp and paint
Socha recommends several ways sellers can improve the appearance of their home.
"While everyone knows that paint can be the cheapest quick fix, I want to emphasize that people need to take the time to prep their walls and get rid of nicks and holes before they paint," says Socha. "Paint the risers on the stairs, the door frames and the front door, because these are areas that get dirty easily and get noticed."
Paint, flowers and wall ornaments are all available for under $50 or $100, but Socha says one of the most important improvements is free: de-cluttering.
"I tell sellers they must follow this simple rule: only one item is allowed per surface," says Socha. "That works to get rid of a lot of stuff."
George Weissgerber, a senior vice president with Case Design/Remodeling, Inc. in Bethesda, Md., says sellers can tackle a variety of projects themselves if they have even a little experience working with a few simple tools.
"Starting outside, they should fix any sagging gutters and downspouts, which often just requires a screwdriver," says Weissgerber. "If the storm door is sticking, they can get rid of it or replace it for less than $200. They just need to be able to measure their door and remember to figure out which side the hinges are on."
Weissgerber says that if a screw turns and turns in the socket of your front door hinge or in any other place in your house, you can break up toothpicks and put them in the hole to tighten it. A front door that sticks can be sprayed with cooking spray or sanded down a little across the bottom.
"Hardware stores sell so many great products, like 'Top and Bond', which is a cement mix that easily fixes any loose or chipped front steps," says Weissgerber. "'Rock Hard Water Putty' is something my grandfather used and it works great to patch holes before painting."
Weissgerber says buyers might be suspicious of obvious fresh paint, wondering what the sellers are hiding, so he suggests buying odor-free low VOC paint.
Most homeowners can easily replace doorknobs, light fixtures and switch plates to update their home, all of which are inexpensive, yet will freshen up your home.
"For $150 to $200 you can swap out your brass chandelier and other lights for something in brushed nickel," says Socha. "You should also take down your window treatments and leave them off or replace them with something minimal for privacy, because this brings in more light and looks modern."
Socha says homeowners can spend $75 for solar lights to line a driveway or front walk to make the home look more inviting in the evening.
Simple kitchen and bath fixes
"For less than $100 or $200, you can buy floor tiles to cover a linoleum floor," says Socha. "This will look new and be something buyers can live with for a few years before they redo the kitchen. Another quick fix is to purchase sheets of small glass tiles for a modern-looking backsplash."
Socha recommends replacing kitchen hardware for as little as $30 to improve appearances. She also suggests purchasing a curving shower rod for about $80 that gives a modern look in the bathroom, along with a fresh shower curtain.
"Homeowners can easily replace the faucets at their kitchen and bathroom sinks for as little as $100 each," says Weissgerber.
Adding value to your home
The amount of value added by these simple fixes can be difficult to measure since it depends on the current price of your home and the value of the other homes in your area. Socha says preparing your home for a sale and presenting it on the market only when it is completely done can add thousands to the sales price.
"Sellers need to make sure everything they do to prepare their home builds toward creating an experience for potential buyers," says Socha. "Sellers need to set things up almost in a theatrical style so that their home becomes a stage set that buyers can use to fantasize about living in the home."
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Michele Lerner is a freelance writer with twenty years of experience writing articles and web content for newspapers and magazines on topics related to real estate, personal finance and business. Her clients include The Washington Times, Urban Land Magazine, NAREIT's Real Estate Portfolio, and numerous Realtor association publications. Michele's first book, "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time" is available now at Amazon.com or from www.MicheleLerner.com.