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.
In the bathroom, take a good look at your shower curtain. If it needs replacing, buy a new one in a solid neutral color -- white is always acceptable. Consider replacing a chipped toilet seat as well. Remove tub mats. Hang a last-minute set of solid-colored towels. And clean out the medicine chest -- someone will open that door as well.
Throughout the house, replace burnt-out light bulbs. Wash doorknobs and light switches. Check staircase treads, and tighten railings. Make it easy for house hunters to use your clutter-free attic and basement stairs. Hose down the basement floor and garage. Clean cobwebs off the electric box.
Don't worry about major improvements. For most homes, you wouldn't recoup your outlay in a higher price anyhow.
However -- to finally answer your question -- in most cases, the best return for your investment is in repainting the interior. Take a tip from those who present new model homes and paint every room the same color to make the house look larger. Chose a light neutral tone that will go with anyone's furniture, and don't forget to do the inside of the closet, too.
If you are what agents tactfully call a "casual housekeeper," consider calling in a professional cleaning service. Trust me: A cluttered house that needs cleaning and tidying stays on the market longer and can sell for thousands less than it's really worth.
Same Opinion Again
Dear Edith: To the man asking about replacing a hedge with a white plastic fence: Do the homes within a block or two have white plastic fences? If not, they might not be well-regarded in your area.
White plastic sticks out like a sore thumb. It reminds me of a horse farm. It's not something I want to see on the corner of a block.
Also, some materials tend to get green algae and black mildew spots in the areas that don't get sun, so they aren't always maintenance-free. I say no, no and no to that fence. He should pay someone to tend to the hedge if he needs to. -- S. J. S.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at email@example.com or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.
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