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Touch-ups make a difference when selling

Smart Moves columnist Ellen James Martin offers pointers for home sellers
BY ELLEN JAMES MARTIN Published: May 5, 2012

A couple in their mid-50s with grown children are eager to sell their 3,800-square-foot contemporary house in favor of an easy-to-maintain apartment nearby. If they could free their equity, they'd have funds to travel the world and pursue their passion for jazz.

But after six months and no offers, they're dispirited. They've cut their price twice and now are offering their place — located in a popular suburban neighborhood — for less than similar homes nearby.

The agent is urging them to remove furnishings that reflect their quirky tastes, such as the futuristic neon orange sofas in their living room. She wants them to take down art reflecting their favorite pastimes, including a couple dozen posters of jazz artists. And she advises them to pack away the many family photos they have on display.

“People buy houses on emotion, not logic or reason. When you have all that personal stuff around, like all your kids' pictures, they can't get beyond that to visualize their own family living there,” said Sid Davis, a longtime real estate broker and author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.”

Here are a few pointers for home sellers:

• Add style to your home with classy moldings.

It's no surprise that in their model homes, builders make extensive use of decorative interior trim, including crown moldings, chair railings and wainscoting. That's because these decorative touches give a home a finished quality that exceeds the cost of the work, said Dorcas Helfant, a real estate broker and former president of the National Association of Realtors (

“Some people who are truly handy can install their own moldings. But most sellers are better off hiring a trim carpenter. For just a few thousand dollars you can get a tremendous amount of woodwork done by a pro,” Helfant said.

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