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It’s no mystery that listings that are in great shape usually sell for more than those that are in sub-prime condition. But, is it really necessary to fix up your home for sale? Won’t the buyers want to fix up the house the way they want it?

Sellers are often resistant to the notion of investing time and effort in a property that will soon no longer be theirs. Yet, time and again, sellers who properly prepare their homes for sale reap the benefits in terms of a faster sale and a higher sale price.

Before embarking on a fix-up-for-sale project, you need to mentally move beyond the idea that you’re fixing your home up for someone else. The sole purpose of sprucing up your home before selling is to net more money for yourself from the sale.

Can you sell your home without fixing it up for sale? Yes, but you’ll be selling to a more limited market. Most buyers have a difficult time envisioning what a home might look like with an updated decor, or a relandscaped yard.

To get the highest price possible for your home, you ideally want your home to appeal to the broadest market possible. Today’s homebuyers have little time to spare. So a turnkey home that can be moved right into without having to do a lot of fix-up work has broad appeal.

Fixing your home up for sale needn’t cost you a lot. But, you must know how to effectively spend your efforts for maximum results. For example, kitchens are important to most buyers. An outdated kitchen can lower the market value of your home. However, to completely remodel your kitchen before selling is usually not cost effective. In many parts of the country, you’d be lucky to get your money back. On the other hand, a cosmetic face-lift at minimal expense could payback many times over if it creates the desired effect.

Recently, a couple sold their Montclair, Calif., home. The kitchen had an old linoleum floor, old appliances, Formica countertops, dark wood cabinets, dated light fixtures and old aluminum sliding doors leading to the yard. Without remodeling, the sellers created a salable kitchen by painting the walls a color that minimized the linoleum and Formica, painting the cabinets white and adding modern pulls, replacing the light fixtures with contemporary halogen track lighting, and replacing the sliding doors. Ultimately, the buyers will do a major kitchen remodel. But, the seller’s efforts created a kitchen that the buyers could comfortably live with in the meantime.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: It’s a good idea to meet with your real estate agent before you start your fix-up work to find out what projects make sense from a sale standpoint. This way you won’t spend time and money in vain.

Removing clutter–which costs little or nothing–will enable buyers to see what your home has to offer. It will also make your move easier. Paint is one of the most cost effective improvements you can make. Changing outdated floor coverings, window coverings and light fixtures can also make a big difference with a relatively small investment. Your real estate agent should be able to recommend tradespeople who can assist you for a reasonable price.

Many sellers bemoan the fact that their home never looked better than it did when they sold it. Keep this in mind when you move to your next home. Plan to fix it up for yourself so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor before you move again.

THE CLOSING: An additional benefit of this approach is that there will be less to do the next time you sell.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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