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Small investment to get home in top shape can bring big return

Taking time to get a home ready for the marketplace can make a big difference in how quickly it sells, as well as the price it commands. With a large inventory of homes available, buyers can be choosy, and sellers need to pay attention to details.

“Quit thinking of your house as a home and think of it as a product instead,” says Terri Bersach, president of the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches.

The first impression is vital. Often, it can be the only opportunity a seller has to impress a buyer. “Curb appeal is very important, so take time to make the outside look attractive,” says Jodi Macken, owner of Macken Realty in Aventura. “Inside, you want to create a clean, sparkling, inviting environment. Look at your home realistically. If you were a buyer, would you want to move forward? Remember that small things add up.”

Getting a home into the kind of tiptop shape that will appeal to buyers may require some financial investment. The trick is to find ways to make improvements that won’t cost more than the value they add. “For spending a few thousand dollars, you may get a significantly higher price,” Macken says.

Preparing a home for sale also means removing obstacles, even perceived ones, that may slow or block a deal. Buyers have a wide variety of choices, and a savvy seller makes it as easy as possible to sail through the purchase process to closing. Here are some tips from the experts.

How to ready a home for sale

• Take time to visit the competition. Attend some open houses at other homes in the area. Look at what they have to offer and what the listing prices are. It can make it easier to be realistic about what may be required to make a sale, and to determine an asking price.



• Do a permit search. Many homeowners don’t realize they have an open permit pending, and a buyer may perceive it as a potential problem.



• Have a professional home inspection done. A buyer will almost certainly hire an inspector, so a wise seller will find out in advance if there are hidden problems. Otherwise, the seller may negotiate a price and then have to pay for unexpected repairs to move the deal to closing.



• Consider offering a home warranty covering features such as appliances, electric and plumbing. It can be relatively inexpensive – Bersach estimates it typically costs less than $400 – and can provide the buyer with peace of mind.



• Landscaping the front of the home can increase curb appeal so more buyers are likely to take time to come inside. If the lawn is weedy or pocked with brown spots, new sod may be in order. Some colorful flowers in a neatly weeded and mulched bed can make almost any front yard more inviting.



• Pressure clean the front sidewalk and the back patio.



• If the home has a pool, it should be clean and in good condition. A stained or cracked basin is a buyer turnoff. Redoing the marcite or fixing broken tile can be worth the cost.



• Be sure everything is freshly painted, inside and out. Keep colors neutral. The goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Bright or deep colors can be distracting to some people.



• Kitchens are a major selling point. If cabinets are outdated or dinghy and replacing the old ones is too expensive, try refacing them and adding new hardware. It is less costly than new cabinets, yet it gives the kitchen a major facelift.



• If the home has tile floors or countertops, be sure the grout is clean.



• Shampoo carpets, and replace any that are badly worn.



• Depersonalize the home by getting rid of clutter, family photos and knickknacks.



• Throughout the process, try to view your home with detachment and see it as buyers see it.



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