10 tips to prep your home for the spring homebuying season

Home Improvement Ideas to Save Money, Boost Your Home's Value

If you want to sell your home during this year's spring selling season, now is the time to get moving. Sellers can rest assured that if there's no snow on the ground, homebuyers are already looking.

Today's buyers, particularly younger ones, have high expectations. They are looking for a home in excellent condition, with all its best features showcased.

"It's the HGTV effect," says Tiffany Hardgrave, owner of Masterpiece Staging and Design in Washington, D.C. "People want to walk in and have everything perfect."

With these preferences in mind, the most important things you can do are deep clean and declutter, removing big pieces of furniture. Next comes trimming foliage and sprucing up outdoor areas, including planting flowers if it's not too early.

"As things are turning into spring, it's time to power-wash the house and repaint the front door," says Madison Hildebrand, president of The Malibu Life Team and founding partner of Partners Trust Malibu. He also appears as a real estate agent on "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles" on Bravo. "Your color can pop at the front door," he adds.

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10 tips to prep your home for the spring homebuying season
Whether you're knitting, painting, working on a stamp collection or want more room to work on your favorite hobby, a craft room can be converted in a week or two for a few hundred dollars. "All it takes is a little motivation, some ingenuity and in a few weeks, you could have your dream space," says Brian LeBow, a real estate agent in Arcadia, California.

The biggest flatscreen TV you can afford, a comfortable couch and a nice stereo system can be just the beginning of a place to get comfortable and read or watch a movie.

"This is a private space for those who live in the house, where you can spend time by yourself or with a loved one," says Michelle Workman, a celebrity interior designer. "It also allows you to get the television out of the living room and turns that space into a conversation and entertaining room."

"I would get the most comfy sofa for this room, and an ottoman as a coffee table," Workman says, along with a chaise for reading, a basket for throw blankets, book shelves to create a library feel, and a TV on the wall and home stereo system.

It can be done in a weekend. Costs will vary depending on the quality of products you want, or you may have an old sofa to re-upholster or one that's not being used.

If you've collected too many books over the years and have no place to put them, a library can be a good use for a spare bedroom. It can also be used as a designated "quiet room" to meditate and relax in.

Judy Crockett, a retail management consultant in Manistee, MI, says she converted the smallest bedroom in her new home into a quiet zone painted in a warm, gold color and put a soft area rug on the floor. A small desk and home office supplies were put in a closet with the closet doors removed and curtains added. A bookcase and overstuffed chair were added.

"The real treat in this room is a small electric fireplace and mantle that we purchased at a yard sale for $30," Crockett says. "We added a scented candle and a salt lamp to give the room a spa feel."

"While I often work from home from this room, I can simply pull the curtain to close off the office desk and workspace to get my spa area back again," she says.
If you don't want to share a home office with a quiet library or spa room, turn one spare room into an office. If you have enough spare rooms, give each person their own office, as Richard W. Hayman, 69, of Rockville, MD did in his home. Hayman says they replaced carpet, painted walls, added lights, furniture and built-in for desks in just a few days at $4,000 each. Your costs can be a lot less if you already have most of the office decor.
Instead of a cramped home gym, turn a spare room into a yoga studio and save money by not going to someone else's studio. "Find a large mirror, bring in a fan, your favorite yoga mat and you're ready to go," says Ryan Hart, 28, an architectural consultant. "Want to take your home studio to the next level? Add hardwood flooring, a small TV to follow along with yoga instruction videos, and a radio."
Whether you're using a spare room to store wine or drink it, it can be a good place to set up an informal bar and entertain guests. You can add a small refrigerator and store drinks -- or a keg of beer -- and keep your beer cold without having to run to the kitchen.
A New Jersey homeowner who was a client of Denise Baron, a real estate agent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, turned a spare bedroom into a room just for her cats to play and live in. It's a way to keep the pets from destroying other parts of the house, and is a spot to put their playthings.
If a craft or media room isn't for you, a game room with tables and comfortable chairs where you can play board games with your grandchildren or cards with friends (poker) can be an easy conversion of a spare bedroom. You may want to add some comfortable furniture for lounging, and good lighting to better view the games.

In addition to getting the house in top condition, you'll want to think about your selling strategy. Are you going to use a traditional real estate agent, sell it yourself or use one of the do-it-yourself services that have sprung up in recent years?

Even if you're thinking of selling yourself, it's helpful to get listing presentations from several agents, along with suggestions on what they think your home needs to be ready to sell. If homes like yours are selling the moment they go on the market, in good or bad condition, putting your best foot forward is less important than it is if your home faces heavy competition.

You also don't have to wait for the real estate agent to consult a staging professional. For $200 to $300, you can consult with an expert who will make recommendations on how to show off your house using the furniture and possessions you already have inside it. Or, for $3,000 to $5,000, you can get a stager to bring in all new furniture and accessories for an empty house. "Invariably, the cost of a stager is much less than the cost of your first price reduction," Hardgrave says.

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Whichever option you choose, you'll want to make sure your home gets in front of the maximum number of prospective buyers, which means posting it on all the online portals (some are free while others require a fee if you post yourself) and maybe even creating a website. You'll also want your home on social media, with both you and your agent doing the sharing.

"You want everybody to know you home is for sale because that's how you get the highest price," says Sissy Lappin, a veteran real estate broker in Houston, and founder of ListingDoor.com, which provides marketing tools to sell your home without an agent. "People want the information, and they want it in 15 seconds or less."

Here are 10 things you can do to prepare your home for the spring selling season:

1. Fix all the small stuff. You may or may not want to have your home inspected before you list it, but know that the buyer will have an inspection before the sale is finalized. If they find small problems, they will worry that there are larger maintenance issues that they can't yet detect. "They don't expect to find problems, and when they do they really start to become wary," Hildebrand says. "That can kill a deal."

2. Get rid of oversized and excess furniture. The less furniture you have in your house, the larger it will appear when buyers are touring it. Sell or donate pieces you don't plan to move to your new home, and store large or ugly pieces. You can rent storage pods, fill them yourself and have them delivered to your new home.

3. Clear out all the clutter. That can be everything from magazines on a side table to the kids' boots in the hall to your blender on the kitchen counter. The home needs to look sleek and minimalist. Put everything you can away, but don't overfill closets because prospective buyers will look there, too. "If we have too much stuff around and too much clutter, people want to walk out," Hardgrave says.

4. Depersonalize. Your home may reflect your life, but you want new people to visualize it as their home. That means removing all the family photos, trophies and any political or religious décor items. Strive for a clean slate.

5. Deep clean your home. Everything needs to be cleaned thoroughly, inside and out. You'll want to clean out closets, wash all the windows and have the carpets cleaned. Moving your out-of-season clothing elsewhere will make your closet look twice as big, Hildebrand says.

6. Update and freshen your décor. Many of today's home sellers are baby boomers, while the buyers are millennials, making them essentially a generation younger. Wallpaper, salmon-colored décor and heavy drapes all appear dated to the younger generation, which prefers minimalist and modern. An easy fix is putting brighter light bulbs in all your fixtures to create more light. "This is not the time to be energy-efficient," Lappin says.

7. Focus on curb appeal. Most buyers drive by before they ever ask to come inside. It's time to trim trees, clean gutters, clear out dead landscaping and add new sod and flowers. Consider resurfacing your driveway, getting a new mailbox and numbers and painting your front door. "It's a huge first impression," Hildebrand says. Make sure your home is lighted at night in case prospective buyers drive by after work.

8. Repaint in neutral colors. Builder white and beige look dated, with warm neutrals such as soft gray or pale taupe preferred, Hardgrave says. "Everybody likes their red dining room, but the buyers cannot picture themselves there," Lappin says. If your home is already painted in neutral colors, consider a fresh coat of paint.

9. Get professional photographs. If your home doesn't show well in the photos, people won't bother to visit. Some real estate agents provide professional photos as part of their marketing package. Photos taken with a phone or tablet aren't acceptable, and you may want your stager at your photo shoot. "Great photos don't happen by accident," Hardgrave says.

10. Create a story. Write a paragraph about why you love your home and post it with the listing. Put together information about improvements you've made. Lappin's company hires professional writers to do home descriptions. "Happy homes bring more money," she says. "The power of the story is incredible."

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18 States Americans are moving out of
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10 tips to prep your home for the spring homebuying season

Total people moving in: 891

Total people moving out: 1121

Net Flow: -230

Percent of Moves Outbound: 55.7%

Total people moving in: 222

Total people moving out: 280

Net Flow: -58

Percent of Moves Outbound: 55.8%

Total people moving in: 418

Total people moving out: 528

Net Flow: -110

Percent of Moves Outbound: 55.8%

Total people moving in: 968

Total people moving out: 1236

Net Flow: -288

Percent of Moves Outbound: 56.1%

Total people moving in: 274

Total people moving out: 355

Net Flow: -81

Percent of Moves Outbound: 56.4%

Total people moving in: 131

Total people moving out: 175

Net Flow: -44

Percent of Moves Outbound: 57.2%

Total people moving in: 579

Total people moving out: 778

Net Flow: -199

Percent of Moves Outbound: 57.3%

Total people moving in: 1548

Total people moving out: 2164

Net Flow: -616

Percent of Moves Outbound: 58.3%

Total people moving in: 1859

Total people moving out: 2713

Net Flow: -854

Percent of Moves Outbound: 58.3%

Total people moving in: 1175

Total people moving out: 1591

Net Flow: -416

Percent of Moves Outbound: 57.5%

Total people moving in: 2256

Total people moving out: 3196

Net Flow: -940

Percent of Moves Outbound: 58.6%

Total people moving in: 1240

Total people moving out: 1810

Net Flow: -570

Percent of Moves Outbound: 59.3%

Total people moving in: 1240

Total people moving out: 1810

Net Flow: -570

Percent of Moves Outbound: 59.3%

Total people moving in: 170

Total people moving out: 250

Net Flow: -80

Percent of Moves Outbound: 60.0%

Total people moving in: 152

Total people moving out: 229

Net Flow: -77

Percent of Moves Outbound: 60.0%

Total people moving in: 2193

Total people moving out: 3535

Net Flow: -1342

Percent of Moves Outbound: 61.7%

Total people moving in: 2543

Total people moving out: 4107

Net Flow: -1564

Percent of Moves Outbound: 61.8%

Total people moving in: 65

Total people moving out: 106

Net Flow: -41

Percent of Moves Outbound: 62.0%


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