Real estate pros offer tips on boosting home values

Monday, August 15, 2011
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Those working the Cape Girardeau real estate market say it's more important than ever for sellers to boost their home value.

"It matters a lot to the sellers. As I go into a home, I make suggestions as I see them," says Laura Ritter, broker/sales with Century 21 Ashland Realty in Cape Girardeau. "There's a lot of inventory on the market, and less available qualified buyers," she explains -- and that means there's more competition for buyers. "You want to show off your home above the others."

Whether your budget is big or small, there are plenty of easy ways to make that happen:

1. Create curb appeal. "Some people will drive up to a house and they don't want to go inside based on the outside," says Ritter. Raelenna Ferguson, broker/sales with Realty Executives of Cape County, and Rick Sample, owner of Distinctive Home Solutions in Cape Girardeau, have also found this to be true. Keep the lawn and bushes neatly trimmed, add fresh mulch and touch up any chipped paint. Potted flowers will add a nice touch to the front porch, says Ritter. "It's not expensive, but it makes a huge difference in curb appeal," ads Ferguson.

2. Clean, declutter and freshen up. "You want to show off the house, not your stuff," says Ritter. Think about moving your coffee table in order to improve the flow of a room, and organizing all of your closets -- because potential buyers always want to peek inside, she says.

Before Ferguson put her own house on the market last year, she rented two storage units to stash personal belongings like her kids' toys. "It was completely worth it to get the storage units," she says. A clutter-free space makes a home look bigger and more attractive to potential buyers, she says, and you'll recoup the price of the unit when you sell your home.

Painting is another affordable way to boost your home value, inside and out. Opt for neutral, modern colors.

"I personally think that the No. 1 thing that can help -- whether you're considering a resell or just want to modernize -- is paint. Really, it's the truth," says Ferguson. "It's worth it to spend a few hundred dollars on paint to neutralize and modernize."

When you're all done, give the house a thorough cleaning, including a carpet shampoo.

3. Make upgrades where you can. "Any upgrading you do will help prepare your house to sell," says Ritter. "There are a lot of things you can do that aren't particularly costly." Ritter says a new toilet seat and faucets, fresh caulking and a matching shower curtain and towels make a big difference in the bathroom. In the kitchen, install new hardware on the cabinets and make sure there's plenty of light.

"If you know your place is going to be shown, open the blinds before you leave," says Ritter.

If you have more money in your budget, Sample says it would be wisely spent in the kitchen and master bathroom. Install granite countertops, ceramic tile and new cabinets in the kitchen, and invest in some new, high-end appliances. In the master bathroom, add luxurious new fixtures and upgrade to a tile shower.

"The kitchen and master bath are where I put a lot of effort in when I build. I don't skim there at all," says Sample. "You'll get your money back if you do that."

Sellers who can create more space will add "a ton of value" to their home, says Sample. He suggests finishing the basement, adding a bathroom or even removing a wall to create a more open layout.

4. Make repairs. Most buyers are looking for move-in ready, low-maintenance homes, says Sample. Whether it's a leaky pipe, a damaged roof or a broken light fixture, buyers and appraisers are going to see it as a necessary repair.

"The more you can do yourself and have it ready, the better the price you'll get, and the quicker the sale will be. You always want to be better than your competition," says Ferguson.

Top sells

Here's what most buyers have on their wish lists, according to Ritter, Ferguson and Sample:

1. Basement

2. Main-level laundry

3.Master bedroom with its own bathroom

4. Ceramic tiles

5. Granite countertops

6. Hardwood floors

7. Garage

8. Closet space

9. Open floor plan

10. Neutral walls and floors

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