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Weekend #10: Finishing Touches

Lastly, before you open your house to buyers, be sure you’ve taken care of the details. Replace dated, yellowing or brass light switchplates with new ones.

Likewise, replace discolored brass doorknobs and hinges with something more up-to-date.

Top Dollar for Your Home in 10 Weekends

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Tips for Sellers

What You Need to Know

Fetching top dollar for your home in today’s tough market doesn’t require an $80,000 kitchen remodel or an expensive landscape redesign. Real-estate experts say your best bet is to invest a little sweat equity into a series of small weekend jobs — $300 or less — that boost your home’s appeal and eliminate buyers’ biggest objections.

By choosing to take 10 weekends out of your calendar, only a few dollars out of your bank account, and investing in a little sweat equity, your house will increase in value, sell faster – and for a much better price – than other similar homes that were not properly prepared for the market.

Here are 10 quick ways to add value to your home without emptying your pockets.

Weekend #1: Clutter Be Gone!

De-cluttering should be the first job sellers cross off their list before starting any other project, agents and real estate investors say. Most people get used to their clutter and don’t realize what a distraction it is for buyers.

Get a friend who won’t mind offending you to walk through your house and give it to you straight while you take notes. What is distracting? What needs to go?

Figure out a way to get your clothing, books, papers, toys, photos and all that other stuff under control. Jamming everything into cabinets, closets and the garage is not the answer. People will look there and think, "If they can’t fit everything in there, neither can I."

Pack things away in boxes and put them in the attic or put them in storage. Better yet, donate all that unused stuff to charity. You’ll get a tax deduction, you won’t have to move it to your new home and you’ll feel good about yourself.

Weekend #2:  Easy Kitchen Make-Over

The kitchen is the most important room in the house to get right and cabinets are often one of the biggest problems. But don’t panic! You needn’t reface or replace them to make your kitchen presentable. Just buy a couple of cans of paint and put a new finish on those tired-looking cabinets. White and other light neutral colors work best for most kitchens and bathrooms. If you have a larger kitchen that gets a lot of natural light, you could even try a dark chocolate brown or black.

And don’t overlook the finishing touch: the hardware. It’s the accent that people do notice. Choose something simple and modern for the pulls, preferably in a brushed nickel. Avoid brass, brightly colored glass or anything “cute.”

Weekend #3: Patch & Paint

A fresh coat of paint in the living room, kitchen and master bathroom – the most important rooms in the house – will pay big dividends. Paint is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to freshen up your home.

Just don’t try to jazz things up with bright colors, experts say. The most universally appealing shades are neutrals: yellow-based tones such as off-white, mushroom, medium brown or taupe. And stay away from anything too dark. What is dramatic to you might be depressing to a potential buyer.

A few more paint don’ts from the pros:

• Don’t try to experiment with accent colors on walls. Most people get this wrong.

• Don’t paint every room a different color. A satin wash of one color or a couple of related colors should flow smoothly from room to room.

• Don’t leave those wallpaper borders up when you paint. Their time has come and gone.

• When you’re finished painting, don’t ruin the fresh look by cluttering the walls with lots of framed pictures. And remove family pictures completely.

Weekend #4: Kick Up the Curb Appeal

One way to entice more buyers into your house is to spiff up what they see from the street. Spend a weekend cleaning or replacing your mailbox, putting up new street numbers that match the style of your house, cleaning your storm door and windows and touching up chipped paint on your front door.

Take a hard look at your landscaping and trim back unruly shrubs. Lose the lawn ornaments and toys. Clear out leaves and other debris, as well as those tools or construction materials propped against a fence.

Power-wash your driveway and walk (and the house, if you have vinyl siding). A tidy front yard makes buyers more willing to come inside for a look.

Weekend #5: Lighten Up

Update your lighting. You don’t have to go crazy here. Just replace anything that’s dated, damaged or distracting. Lose that Hollywood dressing-room lighting that frames your bathroom mirror, or at the very least, replace all of the bulbs.

Ditch that tacky, low-hanging chandelier over the dining table and replace it with a simple pendant lamp hung a little higher — at least four feet above the top of the table. Ditto for that energy-efficient, but oh-so-ugly fluorescent tube in your kitchen. You needn’t spend a lot on new fixtures – $100 or less – unless your house is priced in the upper tier of the market.

And consider replacing the light bulbs you have in your darker rooms with a higher wattage, just for the time you’ll be showing your house.

Weekend #6: Get Floored

Flooring is one area where staging experts disagree. So your safest bet is to spend very little and leave that choice to the buyer. You don’t want to invest in something that a buyer won’t like.

Instead, settle for a floor that looks spotless. If you have dirty carpet, rent a steam machine and get out the stains. If you have hardwoods, buff and polish them. And if you have a vinyl floor that is dated or damaged, consider putting down some self-stick vinyl squares in a light color to keep it from becoming a distraction.

If you are handy and can find a bargain, you might even install laminate or cork flooring in a small kitchen.

Weekend #7: Dress It Up

Once your house has been cleaned, patched and painted, it’s time to think about the best way to show it off. Home stagers say it pays to spend a little to "dress" your house.

In the bathroom, that means replacing your old shower curtain with a new fabric model with a liner. Buy a new bath mat that is simple and not too bright — one like the type found in hotels is great. In fact, the look of an upscale hotel bathroom is what you are going for, because it looks peaceful and doesn’t make you think too much about the people who have used it. Adding fresh rolls of toilet paper before you show the house helps with that effect. Buy a set of towels that actually match and hang them from a nice-looking towel bar. Clear the counters and make sure accessories such as the toothbrush holder or soap dish are coordinated and elegant.

In the bedroom, evaluate your comforter. Is it stained, ripped or dated? If so, consider buying a new duvet cover or spread to keep the focus on the room.

And take a good hard look at your window treatments. Keep it light, bright and simple. Tie back dark or flouncy curtains, or replace them with simple panels.

Weekend #8: Space Program

Most people are willing to pay a premium for a little more breathing room. But of course, you’re not going to build an addition just to sell your home. One way you can give buyers more livable area is to spruce up your garage or basement. Organize the tools, sporting goods and other items in your garage and get them off the floor, as much as possible. Make sure there’s adequate lighting and clean or polish the floors. You want it to be a space where people can imagine spending hours tinkering on some project.

Likewise, if you have a basement, spend some time clearing and cleaning the floor, installing adequate lighting and shelving, and sprucing up the stairs and entrance. You could even try out a sealant for concrete floors. People see these as extra rooms they want to finish.

If you don’t have a basement, consider creating a sitting area in the backyard, with some pavers, outdoor seating and a few large potted plants, a flower bed or water feature.

Weekend #9: The Little Things that Count

Instead of spreading out those annoying minor repairs over several months or a year, why not take care of them all at one time?

When you show your house, little problems such as a leaky faucet or a cabinet door that sticks can be distracting. These minor repair issues put doubts in people’s minds about whether they are buying a good solid house. You want the attention to be on your home’s potential, not its problems. So make a list and invest a not-so-fun 48 hours in fixing those broken drawer slides, replacing moldy caulk around the bathtub and fixing that cracked tile.

Why List with Blue Ink? Can’t I Sell My Home?

As an alternative to working with an experienced real estate agent, you might consider selling your home yourself; however, if you choose this option, be prepared to follow these steps:


Know Your Property  If you are not already, become familiar with such facts about your property as property taxes, zoning, lot size, square footage, etc. Look at the terms of your existing loan.


Research the Current Market and Property Laws in Your Area  How much are properties similar to yours selling for? What are the terms of the sales? What property disclosure laws do you need to take into consideration?


Set the Price  Once you know the specifics about your home and have checked out what similar properties in your area are selling for, set a realistic price.


Determine Financing Alternatives  Contact lenders in your area to determine what the options are for your prospective buyer. You want to be informed before they ask, or your lack of knowledge may turn them off from dealing with you?


Perform a “Walk-Through” of Your Property  Look at it from the perspective of both the prospective buyer and the inspector. Take notes on all items that need to be repaired or replaced. Things to consider include:


Does it need a new coat of paint (either because the old paint is obviously cracked or faded, or because of an uncommon choice in color that might turn off prospective buyers)?

If a house with a yard, is the lawn and landscaping attractive and well-kept?

If it is a condo, you can’t do much about the building, but is the front door (and balcony, if there is one) appealing?

Are the windows and doors attractive and in good condition?

Are the roof (and the gutters) in good condition?

Is the grass nicely cut, are the hedges trimmed, are the leaves swept up? Are all toys put away such as bikes, scooters, etc.?

Are the interior paints and finishes in good condition (recently updated), or do they need to be freshened up? This is one area with the best ratio of least expensive to most desired. For a minimal investment, you could possibly make or break a sale by having your home look well-kept and inviting.

Are the appliances in good working order and of recent vintage?

Are the plumbing and electrical systems in good condition? Are they fully functional?

Are the carpets or other floor coverings clean and in good condition? Like the paint, are they attractive and well-kept? Floor coverings are worth paying for so that your home makes a good impression.

Are the sealants (sink, shower, tub, windows) in good condition?

Are all light fixtures working properly, and is there good lighting in each room so that prospective buyers won’t think you’re hiding something?

Purchase and Install a “For Sale” Sign  This should be well-designed, attractive and weatherproof. The sign must be placed where it can clearly be seen from the street. If you are working with an agent, he or she will most likely provide the sign to you.

Prepare a Fact Sheet  Design a single sheet description of your property listing the features and benefits that will draw in prospective buyers. This should be attractive and professional looking. Don’t skimp on this. If you don’t know how, hire a professional. Have enough copies on hand to give out at open house showings.

Purchase “Open House” Signs  Make sure that they include a place to write the address of your property and the date/time of the open house. In addition to one for the front yard, you’ll want to place several in conspicuous locations around the neighborhood, such as main streets leading to your house. For these, directional arrows can point prospective buyers to your house even if they don’t know the area. Make sure that you take these signs down as soon as the open house is over. You don’t want people showing up on your doorstep at all hours of the day and night.

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Advertising costs, signs, other fees if you plan to sell by owner.

Attorney, closing agent and other professional fees.

Excise tax for the sale.

Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, home owner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.

Any other fees typically paid by the seller in your area (surveys, inspections, etc.).

Real estate agents deal with transactions every day and can give you a very close estimate of seller closing costs.

Establish a Marketing Budget  How much are you willing to spend to sell your house?

Know Your Neighborhood  Most prospective buyers will want to know about the local schools, shopping, parks, transportation, etc. Be prepared so you can knowledgeably answer their questions.

Investigate Local Publications  What will get you the most “bang for your buck?” Are there “throwaway” (i.e., free) real estate publications in your area that accept ads from individual sellers? In the local paper(s), is it better (in your area) to run a text-only classified, or do they have “photo boxes” where you can run both text and a photo of your property?

Don’t Forget the Internet  As you have probably noticed from this website, most agents have their own website, which includes their clients’ listings as well as the entire MLS search. If you work with an agent, your property will most likely be placed on their website and on the full MLS search as part of the services they will offer you. In addition, some newspapers automatically (or for an extra fee) offer Internet advertising tied in to their traditional print ads. Learn the rates and deadlines for each publication, then decide which one (or more) is best for you and your market.

Establish a Marketing Plan  Now that you know what advertising will cost, create a plan on how to best (within your budget) reach prospective buyers, both local and out-of-town. Since many people do relocate from a distance, be sure to include Internet advertising in your plan. If your town is large enough, the “local” newspaper might have a national edition that you want to place your ad in, at least periodically.

Design and Write Your Ad  At the very least, you will need a well-written few sentences that will run as a classified ad or a photo box ad. In addition, you might decide to run a larger, custom-designed ad in the paper and/or to use as flyers to hand out at open houses (or anywhere else you might meet prospective buyers). Don’t skimp on this. A professional, well-crafted ad can attract buyers while a poorly designed and executed one can turn buyers off to your property.

Set Up a Schedule of Open Houses  While most are held on the weekend, this is not convenient for all buyers. Make sure that you coordinate your print advertising to include information about your next open house.

Get Your Forms in Order  A number of forms are required for the legal sale of your property. In addition to the contract of purchase and any counteroffers, there are approximately 20 other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer. It is necessary to review the contract carefully to determine when these forms/documents are due and what the buyer’s rights are once they receive the document. The form and content of many of these documents are prescribed by state or federal law and must be adhered to in their entirety.

Negotiate the Final Terms of the Sale  Buyer(s) need to come to an agreement (in writing) regarding the following:

Price

Inspection contingencies

Financing terms

Date of closing

Date of possession

It would be prudent for you to have an attorney review any and all contracts before the deal is finalized

Set Up a Schedule of Open Houses  While most are held on the weekend, this is not convenient for all buyers. Make sure that you coordinate your print advertising to include information about your next open house.

Get Your Forms in Order  A number of forms are required for the legal sale of your property. In addition to the contract of purchase and any counteroffers, there are approximately 20 other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer. It is necessary to review the contract carefully to determine when these forms/documents are due and what the buyer’s rights are once they receive the document. The form and content of many of these documents are prescribed by state or federal law and must be adhered to in their entirety.

Final Walk-Through  When both the buyer(s) and a witness can be present, schedule a final walk-through before you complete settlement in order to determine that the property being conveyed meets the expectations of all parties involved.

Find and Purchase the Home You’ll Be Moving Into  Unless you have already built or bought a new residence, you’ll need to be the “buyer” for a new property while simultaneously being the “seller” for your current one. If possible, schedule both transactions to close at the same time, or else close your purchase shortly before closing your sale. You need to be moved out before the new owners take possession.

Selling Your Own Home is a Lot of Work!  It can and has been done, of course, but if you don’t have the time and energy to commit to it (or need to sell in a hurry), this option is probably not for you.

Nine out of ten times, most homeowners do not have the time or the resources that a real estate agent may have. That’s where we at Blue Ink Real Estate come in. We are fully committed to selling your property, have access to a wide variety of resources and we’re focused on getting the highest price possible for the sale of your property.

What they’re saying ...

What they’re saying ...

“Teresa is a very wonderful person, to work with. My husband and I were very impressed with her professionalism, as well as, her sincere desire to help. If you want a hardworking, caring, as well as friendly, agent, we highly recommend Teresa.”

– Marvin & Theresa O.


“Lyle helped me purchase my home and I could not have asked for a better realtor! As a first-time homebuyer I was nervous and overwhelmed going into the process but Lyle made all my fear and anxiety melt away. She really heard what I wanted in my house and she was on a mission to find the perfect house. House hunting can be stressful, but with Lyle’s enthusiasm, the process was exciting and fun. I recently had the chance to start my own business and Lyle is the only realtor that I trusted to secure the property. Whether you are looking to purchase a home or commercial property, Lyle will take care of you and make the process as stress free as possible.”

– Jordan H.