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Makeover tips that can sell your home

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"It's a sales tool, especially in a buyer's market," says Davis.

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"If you have the inspection and show that these problems have been fixed, they're going to have a lot of confidence that you have the best home on the market."

To uncover the top age-appropriate home improvements and repairs, Bankrate asked Combs, LeForce, Davis and Wendy Patton (co-author of "Making Hard Cash in a Soft Real Estate Market") to share their suggestions for houses by era: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Here's what you should look for first to avoid a home makeover misstep:

Pre-'60s homes: add power, check pipes, remove carpeting
Vintage homes have many charms, but the ability to power modern appliances is not one of them. According to Davis, homes built before the advent of hair dryers, computers and monster TVs typically had between 60-amp and 90-amp electrical service; in the '70s, it increased to 100 amp. In the '90s, it jumped to 150 amp. Today's homes typically have 200-amp service.

How old is your home?

If you have an older home, upgrade to a minimum of 100 amps. If the electrical panel has not been replaced previously, you may have to foot that expense as well. And be sure to check the wiring, as older homes may have aluminum wiring that no longer meets code.

Plumbing is your second priority. If you're lucky, you have copper pipes; if not, you likely have galvanized pipes, which corrode over time.

"If it's galvanized under there, that's waving a red flag," says Davis.

Are you ready for some good news? Homes built before the 1960s often have a hidden advantage sitting right under that funky old carpeting: hardwood floors.

"Hardwood floors are a hot commodity today," says Combs. "In an estate property where the original owner put carpeting over finished floors, often those floors are in pristine condition."

Southern homes often have equally appealing tile or terrazzo hidden under the carpets. LeForce says you should leave those vintage fixtures in place.

"Sometimes the retro look can actually help a home sell if it's still in good condition," he says.

'60s homes: replace windows, update cabinets, evict termites
Single-pane windows are as dated as love beads, says Davis.

"If you've got the old, single-paned aluminum slider windows, absolutely upgrade those," he says. "Your heating and cooling bills are going to go down about 25 percent."

You can do wonders with a '60s kitchen by replacing dated cabinet hardware with stainless steel or nickel knobs, pulls and hinges. If the cabinets are solid wood, Davis suggests these steps before replacing them: clean, sand, stain or paint, and re-veneer. If that won't help, try replacing the doors, before getting all new cabinets.

Termites, if present, will have had sufficient time to cause significant damage to '60s homes in Southern states, says Patton. Her advice: Inspect immediately and treat annually.

'70s homes: update kitchens and baths, lose wild colors
Homes from the '70s really show their age, inside and outside. This was the era when, unfortunately, outlandish colors found their way onto everything from countertops to toilets.

You can lose the time warp quickly and easily with a fresh coat of paint. Modern epoxies can give new life to those puce or avocado bathtubs, showers and kitchen appliances.

Dated exteriors can be similarly transformed on the cheap, Patton says.

"The typical style during this period ranged from traditional brick exteriors to experimental architecture, especially in California," she says. "Sometimes the siding and brick can be painted to give the home a modern look, especially when the shingles are replaced at the same time to match the color scheme."

Next: "Wallpaper is another '80s trend that may date your home."
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