Prep Your Home to Sell This Spring

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Spring may be the time when a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love -- but home sellers probably just want someone to buy their places before summer arrives.

After all, spring is historically the busiest time of year for home purchases, and the National Association of Realtors expects transactions to rise 7.7% this season after years of flat or declining spring sales.
Spring is well-known as the busiest time of year for homebuying, so home sellers should take steps to stand out.

" Spring is one of the best times of year to sell a home," says Paul Wyman, a NAR vice president who owns Kokomo, Ind.'s Wyman Group Realty firm. "There's no doubt that there are a greater number of buyers in the spring, as evident in the higher number of sales during this time of year."

The nice weather not only attracts more would-be home buyers, though, but also more would-be home sellers -- so it's essential to make your property stand out from the crowd.

"You have to realize that in springtime, you're certainly going to have more competition from other homes," Wyman says. "Not every seller focuses on lighting, cleanliness, first impressions and things like that, but the folks that do are most likely to make lasting impressions and receive offers."

Here's a look at six things Wyman says smart sellers will do this spring to get their properties moving:

Set a realistic asking price
Homeowners who insist on listing properties at prices they could have gotten during the housing boom shouldn't expect offers any time soon.

"If folks overprice their homes in the current marketplace, all they're doing is helping sell other homes in the neighborhood," Wyman says.

He recommends sitting down with an expert who'll suggest an asking price by analyzing how much comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for in the past year. "For sale by owner" sellers should check local newspapers for recent property sales, hit Web sites such as Zillow.com ( Z) for estimated values or pay a few hundred dollars for a professional appraisal.

Maximize curb appeal
First impressions really do count, so you want to make sure your home looks good from the moment house hunters pull up to the curb.

"When a home looks well taken care of, that gives the impression that the homeowner really cares about the property and has maintained it well," Wyman says. "Sprucing up the outside with some minor landscaping and painting will ensure good curb appeal and make a great first impression."

He recommends trimming shrubs, adding mulch, planting some inexpensive flowers and painting your home's mailbox and front door if necessary.

"You don't want to spend a tremendous amount of money because you won't be able to recapture those dollars," the expert says. "But you do want to freshen up the home's exterior to help sell the property."

Showcase kitchens and bathrooms
Kitchens and bathrooms tend to "sell" homes more than any other rooms, so make sure yours look great.

Wyman recommends seeing to it that everything is spotless and well lit, while also considering quick upgrades such as new kitchen-cabinet knobs.

"Kitchens are really important to families because they spend lots of time there, so highlighting your home's kitchen and making it a showcase increases the likelihood of a sale," he says.

Highlight unique features
If your home has nice archways, beautiful wood floors or other unique features, make sure would-be buyers know it.

"You want to make things very obvious if they're going to make your home stand out against other homes on the market," Wyman says.

That means doing things such as buffing hardwood floors to a high shine or picking nice throw rugs that accent the wood.

"The last thing in the world you want to do is have an old dingy rug on a nice hardwood floor," Wyman says. "That will ruin its appearance."

Declutter
Getting rid of excess paperwork, boxes and other things that crowd your home's floors or closets will make your house look cleaner and roomier.

Wyman recommends tossing out all excess clutter or renting a storage space to put it in.

"What you're really trying to do is make your home's rooms feel bigger," he says. "You want buyers to leave the home and say: 'Wow, that home had a lot of space.'"

Check your home's utilities
True, house hunters won't immediately notice if your home's heater has a dirty air filter or the hot-water tank is dying.

But anyone who actually makes an offer for the place will probably have a professional home inspection done.

That's why Wyman says you "want to make sure your home is in the best possible shape to close a sale. Making sure mechanical systems such as central-air units are ready to go is important before putting your home on the market."

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