Selling a House

by Gail Enochs

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Want to sell your house but don't have a lot of cash or time to spruce it up? Can't afford a professional to do a major renovation? I'll target some of the more common trouble spots with a few suggestions for quick and easy fixes.

The most important thing you can do is absolutely free and that is to declutter! Remove everything you don't absolutely need until after the house is sold and either pack it away neatly out of sight or put it in a rented storage facility. Then rearrange your furniture to showcase your home's best features (fireplaces, nice patio doors, picture windows - don't block the views!). If you have too much furniture, then put some of it in storage while the house is on the market. Remember, you are marketing the house to a potential buyer, not your belongings. You want them to be able to picture themselves and their belongings in the house. Clean the windows and any glass doors. Remove pet bowls from the kitchen and temporarily store your trashcan out of sight. Have everyone start putting coats and shoes and backpacks away in their closets instead of dropping them in the foyer as they come in. Keep this area clean and tidy as first impressions are made here and can make or break a sale.

Freshen up the paint. This is generally inexpensive. I personally never buy expensive paint, especially in a house I am going to sell or rent out. Keep in mind that the buyer will most likely change the paint anyway. Neutral colors are best. I would cover any exceptionally out of the ordinary colors like Easter-egg purple or coral pink with a more neutral tone because these colors are not going to appeal to most buyers and might turn most people off. However, if you have a gold or red-toned or olive-green wall and it goes well with your furniture, I wouldn't necessarily change it if it works well and looks up-to-date because those colors are currently hot and appeal to a wide range of buyers. Just tone down anything that is overpowering, such as an entire red room or a busy-patterned wallpaper. Also check the paint section of your local discount or hardware store. Many of these stores sell "mis-mixed" paint at a fraction of the normal cost. Someone else's mistake might be just the color you are looking for.

Clean the carpets. Either borrow a steam cleaner from a friend or rent one. Many grocery or discount stores rent these for a low price. They aren't very expensive to buy these days either, especially if it is something you think you will use a lot. This will serve two purposes. It will clean your carpets and make your house smell better. If you have hardwood floors underneath and your carpet is in really bad shape, then consider removing the carpeting to reveal the flooring underneath. Hardwood floors are back in a big way!

Take a good look at your kitchen cabinets. Are they outdated and a little dingy? Try cleaning them. How about a coat of paint? If they are really old, this might be the best option with a light sanding and a fresh coat of white paint. You can even paint the hardware in many cases. There are lots of metallic finishes in spray paints. A $6 can of spray paint is a lot cheaper than replacing all the hardware on your cabinets.

Clean and organize your bathroom using baskets, small boxes and organizers. It is usually inexpensive to replace the flooring in this room because most bathrooms are fairly small. Peel and stick tile comes in many varieties now. Some even come with the feel of stone tile. New towels, throw rugs and shower curtains are inexpensive and can really change the look without much effort at all. You can update old glass shower doors easily with frosted glass spray paint. You can use masking tape to tape off strips or other designs on the glass.

Be sure to clean and organize your closets. Buyers will open your closet doors. An organized closet will look more appealing to a buyer. Give away anything you haven't worn in the last year. Pack away anything you don't wear on a regular basis and put it in storage until after you have moved. Make sure beds are made and clothing and other items are put away every day. Keep your house ready to show on a moment's notice.

If you have a four-bedroom house, then you need to show the house with four bedrooms. If you use one as an office, you might get by with showing the house with one bedroom used as an office space as long as it is neatly organized. But don't show a house with the extra bedrooms used as "junk rooms." If you don't have beds for all the rooms, then use air mattresses either stacked up or on frames and dress them just as you would a regular bed. No one will know the difference. It's a lot cheaper than buying a bed frame, mattress and box spring. You can even borrow air mattresses from a friend if you don't have them. It will only be temporary anyway. Use small tables and lamps from another part of the house beside the bed and you are set. A bench or trunk at the end of the bed can be an excellent place to store out-of-season clothing or toys. If you don't have bedding, check discount or dollar stores, your local resale or Goodwill shop, borrow from a friend or try a neighborhood garage sale. Remember, you are just staging for an Open House. You are not going to be using these items forever, but pick something neutral and tasteful.

Listen to what people are saying when they walk through your house. If something about your house keeps getting negative feedback, then it might be worthwhile to invest the money to update it. That might be what is hindering the sale of your house. However, only you can decide if it is feasible to make the changes that might help your house to sell.

Gail Enochs, a working wife and mother, is a home-improvement addict.

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