Spruce Up for Profits

If you're putting your home up for sale, the right improvements can increase its value by $5,000 or more

get anything from it."

A new paint job became their No. 1 priority. "We bought the house new, but hadn’t painted in seven years," says Lori. "We repainted everything white, and that helped it look bigger." Victor, now a computer network engineer, had to take some days off from his then job as a policeman to do the work.

The couple also planted new flowers, sponge-painted the bathroom and got rid of the clutter. The process took eight to nine months and cost about $2,500. Although Victor says it was stressful, all the hairpulling and work paid off when the Franklin’s got the appraisal they were looking for and their asking price of $87,500.

In real estate, first impressions count and sprucing up never hurts. "The neater the home, the more appealing it is," says Lewis Taylor. Like us all, appraisers are struck by their first impression when they drive up to your home. Realtor Lois Blow suggests you start with the exterior. "Make sure it’s well landscaped. The next important item is the exterior maintenance of the property — paint, exterior trim, brickwork." She adds, "If it’s a wood house, get it painted."

As a mortgage lender, Carter counsels homeowners to make sure there is no debris in front of their home and to fix broken fences and scrape away and touch up any chipped paint. Take that same critical eye (and nose) indoors, as well. Carter says it goes without saying that you should throw out as much clutter as possible.

And, don’t forget the pooch. Appraisers simply "don’t want to smell the animal going in," adds Arnold. According to Janice Brown, an old real-estate trick is to bake bread or boil cinnamon sticks in water to give the place a warm, appealing smell.
Get involved

Ultimately, as the axiom goes, it’s location, location, location. An appraiser is looking foremost at the neighborhood where you live. It can be the best or the worst thing you have in your favor. Good schools, low crime, well-maintained homes and yards, and a sense of community are qualities that demand top dollar in real estate, so it’s worth your time and money to try to bring these about. Block associations and neighborhood organizations improve livability, bring people together and make your home a more desirable place to live.

Home Improvements That Pay

When does remodeling make financial sense? Of the 12 most popular home improvement projects, seven are expected to return at least 86% of their cost if the house is resold within a year, according to Remodeling magazine.
With mortgage rates low and home prices on the increase, now may be a good time to spruce up your home. The key is to tackle projects that complement or improve on the style of the property, with workmanship equal to that of the original house.

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