Tips on fixing up the house before the sale

Q: We need advice about fixing up the house for sale without spending much money. We are limited. What really matters? — A.

A: Some brokers feel the condition of a house can make a difference of as much as 10 percent in the eventual sale price, or at the least determine how long it’s likely to stay on the market.

You aren’t going to conceal any defects, but your home deserves a doll-up, same as you’d give to a used car.

If you have a real estate agent, ask for suggestions. If you’re doing this on your own, get frank opinions from a friend. You may have learned to compensate for that broken front step and no longer even notice it, but a fresh eye will see spots that need attention.

An agent may park across the street with prospective buyers. Sit there in your own car to get a first impression. Depending on season, are the walkways snow-free? Could the lawn use a little fertilizer? Are the bushes trimmed? Is the car garaged and the garage door closed? Are the rusty toys removed?

No matter how attached you may be to your flamingos, wooden whirligigs, decorative eagles and artificial flowers, they’re a matter of personal taste. Your exterior will look more serene without them. And keep trash cans as concealed as possible.

By the doorbell

Then, stand at the front door, as prospective buyers will, and look around. Is the overhead light and doorbell working? It goes without saying that your screen or storm door should be in good shape and any muddy paw prints should be scrubbed. The glass panels in the door should sparkle, as should every window in the house. And a bit of black paint can revive a worn threshold.

Your front hall should be free of clutter. In the closet, remove out-of-season clothing and dead storage. All your closets will look larger if they are orderly and uncrowded.


In your living room, remove distracting personal possessions like trophies, family pictures and political and religious items. You want a space in which buyers will picture their own furniture. Large pieces and excess items can be packed away — after all, you’ll be doing that when you move anyhow. Pack-rat homeowners have been known to strip a crowded house of half their possessions and stow them in a rented commercial locker.

Even if you don’t repaint your home’s interior, you must attend to cracks and water stains in the ceiling. The stain may go back five years to the time Uncle Erwin let the tub overflow, but even if you were to explain, buyers would still remain nervous about your plumbing. You must not hide current problems, but you also do not owe buyers a history of your troubles with Uncle Erwin.

Small cracks in walls and ceilings may have been there for years, but some buyers will feel sure they indicate imminent collapse. Cracked windowpanes should be replaced before the house goes on the market.

Kitchens and baths count

Kitchens and bathrooms traditionally sell houses. It seldom pays to remodel in anticipation of selling, but you can check a number of items. Fix leaky faucets and bleach stains in the sink. To show off your expanse of kitchen counters, remove most items, leaving only one or two decorative pieces or basic appliances.

Even if your stove is not included in the sale, someone will be sure to open the oven, so keep it spotless. A greasy oven is a real turnoff, and the impression will extend to the rest of the house. Glass doors on the oven, toaster oven and microwave should shine.

Looking at other people’s bathrooms can be unappealing, so make it as easy as possible. Replace shower curtains with sparkling, inexpensive new ones in a solid neutral color. Consider replacing a chipped toilet seat as well. Bring in a potted plant. Check grout around the tub and shower. Remove tub mats. Buy a set of solid-colored towels and washcloths to be set out at the last minute.

This is a good time to clean out the medicine chest — you’ll be doing it soon anyhow. Perhaps the interior could use a coat of white paint.

In bedrooms, straighten closet clutter; use your best bedspreads; and remove crowded furniture if possible. Check light bulbs; wipe doorknobs and light switches; and tighten handrails. Hose down the basement floor.

And if you are prepared to spend some money on a fix, your best investment — after soap — is probably paint. Like developers of new model homes, choose a light neutral color to make the rooms seem larger.

And enjoy the adventure!

Contact Edith Lank at, at or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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