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25 Quick, Cheap and Easy Home Sale Tips

If you want to get a home sold quickly and inexpensively, you should review these sales and design tips.

Even with rising values and reduced inventory in certain markets, selling a home remains challenging. Buyers expect not just a shiny new stainless sink but pruned hedges, freshly painted walls, glistening hardwood floors, and more. Making everything look great can cost a pretty penny, and many sellers won’t be able to afford all the suggestions you might make.

You can help them prioritize based on the condition of what’s needed most, what buyers in the area typically request, what competing houses offer, and — of course — cost. Here’s a list of 25 affordable, easy-to-make changes from top design and real-estate pros:

  1. Add power outlets with USB ports in rooms that lack them, especially in the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms where they’re most needed. “Younger, more tech-savvy couples and individuals love them,” says Tyler Drew, broker and property investor with Anubis Properties Inc. in Los Angeles.
  2. Eliminate acoustic popcorn-style ceilings since they look dated and tacky.
  3. Remove exposed posts and half walls. Today’s buyers want more space, and partial walls and posts gobble up room. The only walls that should remain are those that offer privacy or conceal electrical wires or plumbing stacks.
  4. Update wiring for the Internet and flat-screen TVs. You don’t have to run CAT-5 through walls, which can be costly and require opening and closing and repainting walls. Instead, find a place to put a wireless router, Drew says.
  5. Clean carpets and wood floors since they’re often the first part of a room that buyers check out; you don’t need to replace them unless they’re in terrible shape. A good carpet steam cleaning or wood floor waxing can be relatively inexpensive, sometimes less than $200.
  6. Expand a small kitchen to make it work better and look larger. Two quick fixes: Change the backsplash by adding mirrors, stainless steel, or paint, which will introduce light and views; and add an island, which requires only 30” between counters and the island to pass through comfortably. If there’s not enough room for an island, bring in a rolling cart with pull-out shelves underneath and a wood top, says Libby Langdon, an interior designer, author, and expert with Liebherr Refrigeration..
  7. Clear out and clean a garage, a big selling feature.Power wash the floor or paint it if it’s in bad shape, remove dated cabinets, and remove all junk that’s been stored there, so prospects can see how much space they would have for their stuff.
  8. Change out corroded or dented door knobs and levers. The replacements don’t have to be expensive but they should look new and clean, Chicago architect Allan J. Grant suggests.
  9. Pay attention to landscaping, which can add 7 to 15 percent to a home’s value, according to principals Jessy Berg and Bonnie Gemmell. Focus on mowing grass, removing crab grass, and eliminating dead plants and tree branches. “I’d rather have dirt and the potential to paint a picture for the buyers’ mind than a backyard full of dead plants,” Drew says. But if you have extra funds, consider Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman’s ideas: Add lots of seasonal color through blooming annuals and perennial plants and remove problems like too much noise from traffic or neighbors by installing an inexpensive fountain with trickling water.
  10. Paint exterior windows, doors, gutters, downspouts, and trim, then go inside and paint the home’s trim, doorways, and walls that are in need of freshening. Don’t worry about the colors but consider those that veer toward quiet and comfort such as Benjamin Moore’s Yosemite Sand, Edgecomb Gray, or Carrington Beige. “Gray is a hot interior color now,” says Manchester, Vt.-based designer Amy Thebault. Painting rooms other, lighter colors such as white, yellow, and beige help to bounce and reflect sunlight and use more natural and less artificial light, according to Chris Ring, vice president at ProTect Painters, a professional painting source. But in cooler months, Ring says, dark colors such as deep brown and blue absorb sunlight, thereby reducing heating costs. And don’t forget ceilings, which can be a “fifth wall.” You can improve them with paint or old-style metal or faux-metal tiles, says Beverley Kruskol, a general contractor and owner of MY Pacific Building Inc. in Los Angeles.
  11. Remove outdated wallpaper, replacing it with paint and preferably a neutral color, says Shelley Beckes, ASID, CID, a designer with Beckes Interior Design in Los Angeles.
  12. Remove, store, or discard excessive accessories on tabletops and walls and in cabinets. “Less is more, and you want the house to be seen by prospective buyers without the distraction of too many personal items,” Grant says. Some suggest following the rule of three: Leave out only three things on any surface.
  13. Get the house inspected before it’s listed to know its condition and identify any structural issues that could derail sales. Many problems can’t be detected by an untrained eye, including those in a basement, crawl space, or attic, says BillJacques, president-elect of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “There might be roof damage or a plumbing leak. Many inspectors take photos and provide a detailed report,” he says. “And if home owners have repairs made, they should be handled by a qualified licensed contractor, so the home owner can get problems corrected.”
  14. Outfit closets for extra storage to make rooms look larger and less cluttered, but don’t redo all closets and elaborately. Top contenders for redos are an entry closet for a good first impression, kitchen pantries where storage is key, and a linen closet to keep sheets, towels, and other stuff neat, says Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer at California Closets Co. “The costs needn’t be excessive. A linen closet can be fitted with baskets and cubbies for between $500 and $600, an entry closet for between $400 and $700, each dependent on closet size and features,” she says.
  15. Tighten a home’s “envelope” to improve energy efficiency and savings. Put money and effort into well-insulated double-paned windows, sealed furnace ducts, energy-efficient appliances, the newest programmable thermostats, LED and compact fluorescent lights, and a smart irrigation box on a sprinkler to cut water usage, says Kate Latham, energy consultant with WattzON, a service based in Mountain View, Calif., which analyzes home energy use to pare costs. “After a few months, sellers can show buyers how costs have dropped. They also should put together a green manual to show which features they added,” she explains.
  16. Improve a home’s healthfulness by using paints and adhesives with low or no VOCs. Point out these changes to prospective buyers in another list or manual, Latham says.
  17. Use what you have, and arrange each room in a conversational way if possible. Don’t set all furnishings in a family room so they face a TV, since most potential buyers like the idea of an open-room milieu for socializing.
  18. Remove and replaced faded draperies, fabrics, and rugs, or leave windows and floors bare to avoid showing lack of attention, Thebault says. Slipcovers, which can cover worn furniture can also provide an affordable decorative feature, changed for each season, says Hugh Rovit, CEO of Sure Fit, a manufacturer and distributor of ready-made slipcovers and other accessories. The company’s slipcovers range from $49.99 to $149.99, based on fabric and treatment.
  19. Replace old, dated, or worn bedding. Before any showing, fluff up pillows and covers, and make all beds neatly. Affordable choices can be found at stores like Target and Web sites like
  20. Toss out old magazines. “You don’t want a People magazine from a year ago; it looks like nobody lives in the house or cares,” Thebault says.
  21. Check smells regularly. Besides getting rid of bad odors from pets and mildew, introduce nice fresh fragrances, but don’t go heavy on scents from candles. A light lavender or citrus spray is smart and inoffensive. Open windows before showings to bring in fresh air.
  22. Make rooms lighter and larger for showings with good lighting. Thebault prefers warm, cool colors rather than fluorescents. Additionally, 60-watt bulbs are a good choice, even though they’re not as energy-efficient.
  23. Go with plants rather than flowers indoors since they last longer, but either choice can add vivacity to a room.
  24. Pay attention to your bathrooms. Specifically, make sure you have freshly laundered towels, new soap in soap dishes, spotless mirrors, and no mildew in view.
  25. Be sure your house is priced competitively with the current market and homes in your area. In most regions, it’s still the No. 1 “fix” to sell quickly. Go a bit under the market price, and you may even bring forth multiple offers that are higher than expected, says Jill Epstein, a REALTORŪ with Nourmand & Associates in the Los Angeles area.


projects to boost home's value for resale


You've already decided to move rather than remodel, but now -- like so many others in similar situations -- you find yourself thinking abut remodeling anyway. Why? To make your house more appealing to would-be buyers, cut the time it takes to sell it and maybe even get more cash in hand when you sell.

And hey, while you're expanding, why not tuck in a new master bedroom suite above the addition? You'll get all of your money back when you eventually sell your house, right?

Not so fast. While many home-remodeling projects are a great way to add value to your home, not all of them are ironclad cash-back guarantees.

Before you invest a significant amount of your precious home equity into remodeling projects, it's wise to do a little homework on what kind of payback you can expect for various home projects in your area.

A good place to start is the Cost vs. Value report published annually by the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, and Remodeling magazine. The report provides a synopsis of the top projects, the average costs of the projects and their average rate of investment return at resale. It also gives you a city-by-city guide on what various home projects will pay back at resale.

Real estate experts caution that these numbers can differ significantly depending on your state, city or even neighborhood. So use these numbers as a starting point, but consider getting the advice of a Realtor and/or remodeling contractor before you commit to a big home project. These experts can familiarize you with remodeling payback figures tailored to your city.

1. Upscale siding (new fiber cement) replacement.

Average payback: 103.6 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $10,393 for 1,250 square feet
National average resale value: $10,771

"Siding makes a huge difference in a house's resale value, because it's one of the first things you see. It really defines the condition of the home," says Moe Veissi of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami. "If other houses around you have old aluminum or vinyl siding and your siding is nicer and newer, buyers will notice you. With this project, you make your house more attractive -- you're not just improving your insulation value."

2. Midrange bathroom remodel. This includes updating an average 5-by-7 foot bathroom that's at least 25 years old with moderately priced fixtures, a double-sink vanity, a ceramic-tile floor and vinyl wallpaper.

Average payback: 102.2 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $10,499
National average resale value: $10,727

"Improving an existing, but outdated, bathroom is almost always a good investment," says Finley Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass. "An up-to-date bathroom makes your home look like it's been kept in good repair, and that's what all prospective homeowners are looking for."

However, Perry cautions homeowners not to try to personalize their bathrooms too much or spend megabucks trying to turn them into ultimate home spas. "Your home is a valuable asset, and you want to treat it respectfully whenever you remodel," he says.

In other words, think twice about adding a pricey imported soaking tub or three separate shower stalls for your growing family's convenience. Those renovations might not fit the taste of a buyer 10 years down the road. If that happens, the money you spent on your bathroom renovation is down the toilet, so to speak.

bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. "Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference in the look of the bath," says Moran.

Moran also suggests replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. "You may not even need to take up the old floor. You can install the new floor right over the old one," she says.

If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.

3. Minor kitchen remodel. This consists of giving a functional, but dated, kitchen a makeover. It includes new cabinet doors and drawers (with cabinet boxes left in place), a moderately priced wall oven, cooktop, countertop, sink and faucet and resilient flooring.

Average payback: 98.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $14, 913
National average resale value: $14,691

Along with bathrooms, kitchen updates are almost always among the smartest remodeling projects for resale value, say the pros. "Home buyers seem to gravitate to the kitchen first when they're looking at a house," says Joe Traynor, a real estate appraiser in Indianapolis. "And as appraisers, we do give extra credit to houses with updated kitchens.

"However, I've also seen homeowners go too far -- they might put granite countertops and top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances in a very modestly priced house," he says. "Those improvements aren't going to help the home's value in the long run, and the owner definitely isn't going to get his money back when he sells."

If your kitchen appliances don't match, order new doors or face panels for them. When Nicole Persley, a Realtor with Real Estate of Florida, in Boca Raton, was sprucing up her own home to sell, her mix-and-match kitchen bothered her. The room had a white dishwasher, microwave and wall oven mixed with other pieces that were stainless steel with black trim.

When Persley called the dishwasher manufacturer to see about ordering a new, black face panel, the customer service representative clued her in on a big secret: Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other.

"All I had to do was unscrew two screws, slide out the panel and flip it around. Sure enough -- it was black on the other side!"

Persley, who has remodeled numerous homes for resale, says that a more cohesive-looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer's mind -- and in the home's resale price.


Make your kitchen really cook. The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential home buyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated.

For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.

If you've got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. "Rather than spring for a whole new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into hiring a refacing company," says serial remodeler Gwen Moran, co-author of "Build Your Own Home on a Shoestring."

"Many companies can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, then add brand-new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint over the whole set, your cabinets will look like new."

If you're handy, you can order your own replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe's Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself.


4. Midrange siding replacement. This more modest variation of the No. 1 ranked project (upscale siding) includes replacing 1,250 square feet of siding with new vinyl siding and trim.

Average payback: 95.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $7,239
National average resale value: $6,914

The value of this project is in its immediate curb appeal: New siding cleans up a house quickly. However, Perry points out that vinyl may not be appropriate and could actually detract from a home's value in historic neighborhoods or upscale areas where traditional wood siding is still the preferred material.

5. Attic bedroom remodel. This entails converting unfinished attic space in a two- or three-bedroom house into a finished bedroom and bathroom with shower. It includes a new shed dormer, new windows and closet space in the eaves.

Average payback: 93.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $39,188
National average resale value: $36,649

Because this is a relatively expensive undertaking, real estate experts suggest you do an attic renovation only if you're going to live in the house for a while (preferably five to 10 years) and enjoy the reclaimed space yourself. Over the long haul, this project adds significant value to your home because it creates brand-new living space and isn't just a cosmetic improvement.

Keep in mind, though, that attic remodels don't make sense in every neighborhood and part of the country.

"In Florida, most of the attics aren't big enough to stand up in, so remodeling them wouldn't make sense at all. Plus there's the heat issue -- these rooms would be sweltering hot for us and very expensive to cool," says Viessi, a Miami Realtor.

"This is a good example of a remodeling project that would be wise to discuss in advance with a Realtor who's familiar not just with housing in your area, but in your specific neighborhood," says Viessi. He says good Realtors are always happy to spend time talking with you about the wisest renovation projects for your home -- even if you're not planning to sell your home anytime soon.  This includes those projects that really would be required just to bring the house up to market quality.  Going over market quality will depend on where the ceiling is in that market.

Other top resale projects from the Cost vs. Value report ranked by percentage of cost recouped at resale, include:

upscale bathroom remodel: 93.2 percent.

major kitchen remodel: midrange, 91 percent; upscale: 84.8 percent.

deck addition: 90.3 percent.

basement remodeling: 90.1 percent.

window replacement: 89.6 percent.

bathroom addition: midrange: 86.4 per cent, upscale 85.8 percent.

roofing replacement: 84.7 percent.

family room addition: 83 percent.

 master suite addition: midrange 82.4 per cent; upscale 80.1 percent.

a home-office remodel: 72.8 percent.

While a good return on your investment is important in every remodeling project, experts say that the most important factor in your decision should still be whether the project improves the way you live in your home now.

"The fact of remodeling is that you never get your money back instantly," says Perry. "If you're undertaking a project because you're going to stay in your home awhile, and it will enhance your lifestyle, then great -- do it. It's tough to put a price on the happiness many young families get from fixing up their house and truly enjoying it for the next 20 years."

When planning a home improvement project you may have favorite "must do" projects, but it pays to design with resale in mind. Try these seven quickies:  Select neutral colors: It creates a blank-canvas effect for potential buyers.  Upgrade your kitchen first: It's the one room buyers use consistently to determine how well a house has been maintained.  Paint, paint, paint: It's the quickest and most inexpensive makeover technique. If the exterior paint is faded or weather-beaten, a fresh coat of paint is a cost-effective sales tool.  Hide those flaws: Textured wallpapers and faux wall finishes hide a multitude of surface flaws.  Focus on floors: Whether wood, tile, laminate or vinyl, make sure they're inviting, not cracked or discolored. Again, neutrals sell best, natural wood best of all.  Cost-cutting ideas: Use wood or tile to dress up laminate countertops; stencil that backsplash instead of installing tile; consider marble sheets instead of ceramic tile for that tub surround.  Keep all options open: One man's workshop is another man's wine cellar.  Don't eliminate options when you remodel rooms.



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