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Smart Moves: Spruce up your house before you sell

Expert contends that sellers reluctant to make even the most essential improvements are acting against their own interest.
Published: March 1, 2014

Sid Davis got his broker’s license in 1984. Since then, he’s listed and sold around 1,800 houses. Yet he’s always surprised when would-be sellers balk at doing even minor upgrades to make their property more saleable.

“They don’t want the hassle of making any changes to their house. All they want is to show up at closing to pick up their check,” Davis said.

As the author of several books on real estate, Davis said that most sellers fall into one of three categories. Roughly one-third are highly resistant to doing any work on their property and want to sell “as is.” Another third will do the minimum necessary to make the sale possible. A final third are highly motivated. Davis prefers this last group.

He contends that sellers reluctant to make even the most essential improvements are acting against their own interest.

Here are a few pointers for home sellers:

Redo brightly colored rooms.

Debra Attman, a long-time real estate agent affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists (, said that she’s met a number of sellers so devoted to their sports teams that they’d painted a room or two in the team’s colors.

“I’ve seen deep purple, bright red and even orange and black stripes,” Attman said.

Given their enthusiasm for their favorite teams, she said some sports fans vehemently resist the need to tone down their colors to make prospective buyers more comfortable.

Also, she said some female sellers cling to favorite decorator colors — such as pink and lavender — that make a property less marketable. Rooms painted in such colors should be neutralized, with a soft taupe, say, before visitors start trooping through.

“You don’t want to risk offending someone with your paint colors. There are enough obstacles to selling real estate without doing that,” Attman said.

Invest in a few minor bathroom upgrades.

Kitchen improvements typically give sellers the greatest payback. But bathroom improvements can also help sellers maximize their return for a small investment.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a bathroom for under $1,000. For a very reasonable price, you can get a new vanity, bathroom mirror and light fixtures,” Attman said.

She also urges sellers to ensure they remove any mold that’s accumulated in and around their bathroom tub or shower. Those who are unwilling to do this laborious job themselves should hire a professional tile service.

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