For-Sale Sign First Aid

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The house for sale in Farmington had much work done before it was listed for sale. The exterior was painted a slate gray with white trim and a bright red door. The hardwood floors were sanded and refinished. The lawn was reseeded, and mulch was spread in all the flower beds.

But that still couldn’t overshadow the glaring problem with the 3,300-square-foot home: the outdated 1980s kitchen and master bathroom. Buyer after buyer who toured the home, originally listed at $685,000, said the same thing – the house needs too much work.

An updated kitchen and renovated bathrooms almost always enhance a home’s appeal, but never is that more true than in a slowing real estate market where a rising inventory of homes for sale means buyers have more selection, and so can be more picky, in their home purchase.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean spending tens of thousands of dollars before putting your home on the market. Experts say there are ways to make your kitchen and bathrooms more attractive to potential buyers without spending a lot of money.

“Your kitchen doesn’t need to be state-of-the-art to be attractive,” said James Walsh, an agent with RE/MAX Central Connecticut in Windsor. Walsh’s first recommendation to improve kitchen and bathrooms is simply to give everything a thorough cleaning. That means scrubbing down walls, the inside and outside of cabinets, the floors and kitchen appliances and removing all signs of soap scum from the bathroom.

“You should also consider low-cost improvements which can make a big difference, such as a coat of paint, fresh wallpaper or a new floor covering,” Walsh said. “And be sure to keep the kitchen sparkling when the house is being shown. That means no dirty dishes in the sink or moldy cucumbers in the refrigerator.”

Renovating kitchens and bathrooms are among the most popular home-improvement projects – and also can be the most expensive. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recently reported that 10.3 million bathrooms and 7.4 million kitchens were remodeled in the United States in 2006. This accounts for an as-tounding $265 billion in total revenue, exceeding revenues from Hollywood, the recording industry and pro-fessional sporting leagues combined, the association said.

But real estate agents and local renovation experts offered a few tips to help home sellers save money.

Look for used appliances, or those offered at an outlet store. High-end refrigerators that cost $1,500 or more are usually discounted by a few hundred dollars at an outlet store. Deeper discounts are available on dented or scratched appliances, or those that have been returned and repaired.

Kitchen cabinets can be brightened with a fresh coat of paint, inside and out. White enamel paint is a popular choice. Some companies also will professionally reface kitchen cabinets at 30 percent to 60 percent of the cost of buying new cabinets. And don’t forget to buy new cabinet hardware.

Although granite is still a popular countertop choice, new laminate products mirror the look of granite but without the high price. You can also use two separate counter products – splurging on a smaller piece of granite for a kitchen island, for instance (look for a remnant piece that will fit and save even more money) and using a cheaper laminate product for all the other work surfaces.

Sometimes a small change can have a big impact. An older bathroom sink can look more modern with a new faucet. Changing lighting fixtures and older mirrors with contemporary products also can freshen a bath-room.

A tired-looking bathroom can be brightened by refinishing the bathtub and re-grouting the tile, at a frac-tion of the cost of replacing both. A tub reglazing costs about $500, while re-grouting the tile could cost $400 to $800 depending on the size of your bathroom. Both remove the wear-and-tear and grime that make older bathrooms unattractive.

Possibly the best way to make your outdated home more attractive is simply by reducing the price.
That outdated 1980s home in Farmington, for instance, includes a $25,000 credit to the new buyer, a price concession that acknowledges the need to update in the kitchen and bathroom.

But Nuala Griffin, an agent with Prudential Connecticut Realty who has the listing, said even that was not enough to attract a buyer. So she also brought in a remodeling expert to tour the house with one potential buyer, so they could discuss the price and scope of any renovations.
The $25,000, Griffin said, “wasn’t enough to impact buyers. Now, with a consultant coming in telling you exactly what needs to be done, there won’t be any surprises.”

The strategy may have worked.

Mary Luciano recently toured the Farmington home with the design expert. Although no deal has been closed, Luciano said she likes the home’s location, in the upscale Devonwood development, as well as the chance to get a lower price because of the work needed on the home.

“The price is attractive, but we want to know what it will take to upgrade the kitchen and baths,” Luciano said. “Part of what’s attractive is it’s an older home and it has to be sold at a reasonable price, but it has the potential. There are some incredible possibilities here.”

via Hartford Courant
Copyright © 2007
Syndicated with permission.

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