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Dress up your house for a successful sale -- Page 2

"You want a house to feel open," says Trafford, adding that storage is a primary concern for buyers and a cluttered house gives the impression that space is an issue.

10 easy and inexpensive projects
"There are certain things that potential buyers don't want to see," he stresses. When Trafford scrutinizes a house, he's on the lookout for scuffed walls, stained ceilings, chipped sinks -- the little things he insists make a big difference.

"It's a lot of common sense stuff that people often don't see for themselves."

Trafford has 10 tips for do-it-yourself primpers:

  1. Touch up scuffed or chipped walls and staircases.
  2. Ensure windows are spotless.
  3. Shampoo all carpets.
  4. Make sure every light switch has a matching plate.
  5. Cover outdated kitchen and bathroom floors with peel-and-stick tiles.
  6. Update kitchen cabinets with new handles.
  7. Re-caulk around tubs and sinks.
  8. Give old tiles a facelift by scrubbing grout.
  9. Invest in a new shower curtain.
  10. Paint, paint and then paint some more.

Handy hints
"Paint is the No. 1 thing to improve the look of a property, inside and out," seconds Paul.

Warm, neutral walls have wide appeal, but why stop there? Give a concrete basement floor new life and update kitchen or bathroom cupboards without the expense of new cabinetry.

"Dated for a home buyer spells work and it spells money," warns Paul.

Trafford also recommends replacing stained countertops and worn broadloom, while Wardle advises returning a converted room to its expected use. The third bedroom may function as an office, but buyers want to see a bedroom -- oust the computer in favour of a bed and night table.

Finishing touches -- such as new towels in the bathroom, a mirror strategically placed to open up a narrow hallway or fresh flowers in a drab room -- all play a role in selling a house.

Consider the curb appeal
Pay equal attention to a home's exterior. Keep it tidy (i.e., don't clutter the front porch with garbage and recycling bins) and take on simple projects to set the house apart.

Red cedar chips transform a boring front garden, while flowerpots, a new mailbox and a freshly painted front door send house hunters the right message.

Spend money to make money
Whether following these tips yourself or hiring a stager for a thorough makeover, prepare to spend money to make money.

Investing 1 percent of the asking price into fixing up a house is a general guide, says Paul, who charges anywhere from $150 for a consultation and five-page report to $3,000 to dress a house fully with furniture and accessories. (Painting and repairs done by a third-party contractor cost extra.)

While no one can guarantee a house will fetch a specific price or sell within a certain time frame, experts insist primping has a positive influence.

Paul cites a Victorian house in Toronto that sat on the market for six months at $569,000, but sold for $612,000 within a week of a detailed overhaul that included staging the dining room for an elegant (but imaginary) dinner party.

It goes back to encouraging house hunters to buy into a dream, and in the process, buy the house.

Michelle Warren is a writer in Toronto.

-- Posted: Dec. 10, 2004
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