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House Calls: Are Buyers Picky?

Edith Lank on

Ms. Lank: I will be selling my mother's house that my folks purchased in 1965. They also built it. It was our family home. I need to know whether it will sell better with new interior paint on the walls, door frames, crown molding, etc. Do buyers get that picky?

When I bought the house, it was brand-new. I have lived in it for over 30 years, so I have never bought or sold an older home. -- J.

Answer: Yes, the little stuff is important. Here are suggestions you may find useful, with the doll-ups that don't cost anything listed first:

Start by parking across the street from your home and considering potential buyers' first impressions. Could the lawn benefit from a little fertilizer? Are the bushes trimmed? Is the garage door kept closed? Might a couple of showy annuals add sparkle when in season? Are fences and gates in good repair and newly repainted? Are the address placards, gutters and downspouts firmly attached?

No matter how attached you may be to your flamingos, whirligigs, decorative eagles or artificial flowers, take them away. Your exterior will look more spacious and serene without them. And move any trash cans out of view.

At your front door, check that the overhead light and doorbell are in working order. Scrub any paw prints off the screen or storm door. Even if you don't repaint anything else, consider freshening the front entrance. A bit of black paint can do wonders for a worn threshold.

In the front hall, remove out-of-season clothing and storage items from the closet.

In the living room, stage a fire in the fireplace; consider whether the carpet could use a shampoo; and remove unnecessary pieces of large furniture. Pack away trophies, family pictures, and religious and political items, even though you might cherish them. You want potential buyers free to picture themselves living there.

You must not cover up current problems, but you can remove evidence of old ones. Be sure to repaint any water stains on your ceilings; they will make buyers nervous about your plumbing.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, so start by attending to leaky faucets or sink stains. Remove almost everything from your counters. Clean the oven -- even if you're not leaving the stove, someone will absent-mindedly open that door. If you want to invest a modest amount of money, try bright, inexpensive curtains or new cupboard knobs.

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