How to speed up the sale of your house

Install a brass door knob, brass door knocker, brass numbers. Brass conveys pride of ownership, says Jean Winchester of Carlson Real Estate Better Homes and Garden in Lexington.

“People extrapolate based on small pieces of information and draw larger conclusions,” explains Bruce A. Percelay, author of “Packaging Your Home for Profit” (Little, Brown) and president of The Mount Vernon Co., a Boston real estate investment company. “All these small details suggest to the buyer the owner has taken care of the property.”

Landscape the yard. Mow the lawn and your neighbor’s lawn, too, if it is overgrown. Fill window boxes with flowers, edge the garden, and lay fresh mulch on the flower beds. Trim hedges.

Touch up peeling paint. If there’s chipped paint on the front entryway, re-paint. If you paint the entire exterior, use a neutral color with bright accent colors.

Clear clutter. Remove toys and rusty cars in the driveway. Store neatly in the garage. Inside, take out winter clothes to give closets a more spacious look.

Repair leaky faucets and loose doorknobs.

Put in high wattage light bulbs. Make your house as bright as possible. If it’s a gloomy day, turn on every light in the house when showing it to buyers.

Paint the interior if dingy or dark. Choose light colors such an antique white or linen white, with bright white trim. It’s virtually impossible to offend someone with that color combination, says Percelay. If the house has not been painted in five years, do it now. Or if you remove a painting from a wall, and you can see a difference in the paint shades, re-paint the walls.

Modernize outdated kitchens. Simple, inexpensive changes can make a big difference. If the appliances sport a harvest gold or avocado green color of the ’70s, hire a re-glazing company to repaint the appliances white. Replace old bronze door handles on cabinets with shiny, brass ones.

Refinish hardwood floors. If they haven’t been touched in a decade, resand and paint with polyurethane.

Professionals say the amount of money sellers spend depends on the sales price. Spending 3 to 4 percent of the sales price can go a long way in preparing a house to sell, advises Percelay. Kitchens and bathrooms offer the biggest payback, says Winchester. If homeowners can’t afford to repair an obvious problem, keep an estimate on file to show prospective buyers, suggests Claire Dembowski of Carlson Real Estate in Swampscott.

Price the house correctly. The Number One mistake sellers owners make is to overprice, say brokers. Consumers are educated about house values these days, and they simply will not buy overpriced houses. And a house that sits unsold for more than a month can become a pariah. Agents lose interest, and buyers wonder what’s wrong.

“I try to price things so they will sell within 3 percent of that asking price. All of my listings sell within 60 days of listing if they listen to me,” says Janet Andrews of Century 21 Avant-Garde in Salem, who sells more than $8 million of property a year.

There’s another reason: Correct pricing sparks competitive offers.

Choose rio verde real estate agent carefully. Interview prospective agents, asking about experience, total sales in a year and availability. “The seller and the broker work as a team, hand and glove. It’s like riding a motorcycle. You bend and sway together. Don’t fight each other,” says Dembowski.

Adds Winchester: “Get someone who is diligent, energetic and knows the area.”

Brokers worth their commission will take the time to explain to sellers each prospective buyer’s opinions of the house, and offer suggestions on how to improve it’s appearance.

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