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by Paul Schreiber

SBJ Contributing Writer

Getting top dollar when selling a home is largely a matter of presentation, according to local Realtors. The savvy seller understands that prospective buyers are enticed toward purchase by the appearance, upkeep, and features his or her home possesses.

The initial impression striking a buyer is the home's exterior and grounds. The external condition should exhibit "a home that's well-cared-for," said Max Perryman, broker at RE/MAX House of Brokers.

It is what's outdoors that draws people in. Inexpensive landscaping can capture a prospect's attention with flowers, a garden or colorful plants. "For not very much money you can really add a lot of curb appeal to your home," said Nel Cox, relocation director for Murney Associates.

Once inside, buyers should see the light. Brightening a home's interior with natural and artificial light enhances the property's look. "The smart sellers leave all their windows and blinds open, and they also leave their lamps on," Cox said. A residence "that's very light, open and airy will always get a more positive response from buyers," she added.

Any property modifications are best done with a view to later selling the home. Billy Long, president of Billy Long Keller Williams Realty, said home owners should remodel to "where 90 percent of the people who walk in are going to say, 'This will work for me."'

Sellers "should minimize their own personality in the home," Perryman said. His advice to sellers is "We want them (i.e. prospective buyers) to see the home as it will be for them, not the way it is now for you," he said.

Remodeling a home can net the seller extra cash when it's time to sell. The two most critical areas in which to make changes are the kitchen/living area and the master bedroom/bathroom suite, according to Perryman.

"You get the highest percentage of your cost in remodeling recovered in those two rooms," he added.

The appearance of these rooms is critical. "When it comes to a kitchen and a bathroom, buyers expect it to be immaculate," Cox added.

For any changes involving electrical or plumbing work, the owner should obtain building permits, seek licensed professionals, and see that a final inspection is completed, Cox said.

Homeowners should also consider what type of renovation is to be done before beginning. Highly personal changes, like a lap pool or a specially built hobby or collection room, may deter offers from home shoppers, Perryman added.

When upgrading a home, it is important to keep the house within the price range of the area where it's located.

Extensive remodeling that results in an overbuilt home for the area will make it difficult to fully recover that investment, according to Perryman.

"People are not apt to buy a $200,000 house for $200,000 in a $100,000 neighborhood," he said.

Cox said sellers sometimes think buyers have more "vision" regarding a property's appearance than is reasonable to expect. Comments like "When we move out, we'll clean the carpets and we'll paint this, so I don't want you to look at the dirty carpets now or the walls that need repainting," don't resonate well with prospective buyers, according to Cox.

"All of that stuff needs to be done ahead of time." It's "cheap money" to get a cleaning service if necessary, she added, for the benefit it brings when showing the house.

Arranging furniture so as to increase a home's spaciousness and removing clutter are two more simple ways that help sell a home.

Long has suggested that sellers "rent a mini-storage and take everything out of the house that isn't essential" to best show the property, he said.

All three Realtors agreed the property should be spotless at all times. If the seller owns pets, they should be boarded during listing, Cox said. "I understand sellers have to live in their home while it's on the market, but if they want top money, it's got to be market-ready and in top condition," she added.

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