Real estate

5 tips to freshen-up a home you want to sell

March 28, 2012 at 8:00 AM ET

Home sales are slowly recovering, but it’s still a buyer’s market. Before you put your house on the market, you need to do a few things to make it more attractive to potential buyers.

“Most buyers aren’t going to have a lot of extra money, so they’re not looking for a fixer-upper,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “Take care of the little things to get your house in tip-top shape.”

Hicks says there are five areas where you should concentrate your efforts.

Paint the place

“This is a great thing to do and it will really freshen-up the house,” Hicks says. “It will make it seem a lot brighter and potentially bigger, especially if you’re transitioning away from dark colored walls.” When choosing a color, don’t go too wild. Hicks says earth tones are popular choices for both the interior and exterior walls.

Use landscaping to boost curb appeal

Most of us don’t go in our front door anymore. Potential buyers do. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to create a whole new landscaping plan. But make sure the grass and flower beds in the front yard look really nice. Add mulch. Remove weeds. Hicks' advice is to keep it “simple, clean and neat.” She says a well-landscaped yard can add 7 to 14 percent to the value of your home.

Spruce up the kitchen

If you’re going to make improvements to the house, this is a good place to start. Hicks says you can typically get an 80 percent return on investment for kitchen remodeling. But again, keep it simple. You don’t want spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lavish kitchen makeover. She suggests updating cabinets and countertops. New cabinet fronts are about 30 percent less than replacing the cabinets.

Bathroom makeover

This is another area that can turn off potential buyers because a bathroom remodel is expensive. Consider making simple improvements that have a good payback. For example, re-glaze an old tub. “That can make the bathtub look like new again without having to replace it,” Hicks says. And it should only cost a couple of hundred dollars.

Clean or replace carpets

Obviously, you’ll want to clean a dirty carpet. But if it’s badly worn or there are stains that won’t come out, you need to consider replacing it.

The bottom line

You want your house to be as good as or slightly better than the neighbors’ houses. But don’t go overboard. The most expensive house on the block is often the hardest to sell. In this market, a house that appears to be neglected is even worse.

Angie has put together a list of tips on how to hire a remodeling contractor: 13 Guidelines to Hire the Best Contractors

More helpful info:

Which Remodeling Projects Pay Off the Most?

Consumer Reports: Bathroom Remodeling Guide

Consumer Reports: Kitchen Remodeling

Consumer Reports: Paint

FTC: Hiring a Contractor

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