Staging 101

During the real estate boom in Portland, Maine, no one really cared about staging — the act of preparing a home before putting it on the market so it can sell quickly and for top dollar. Back then, homes practically sold themselves. Sellers would get their asking price (or in many cases MORE) even if the place was dirty or filled with clutter.

Today, staging has become especially important in this highly competitive Maine market, where traditional sellers are up against foreclosures and short sales (so-called distressed properties) that can offer rock-bottom prices for bargain hunters. And that’s what today’s buyers crave — a bargain.

But a nicely staged property offers that “move-in ready” appeal that buyers are willing to pay a bit more for. They want to see that the current owner is taking care of the home, not allowing it to fall apart, like the abandoned foreclosure down the street. If they see a fixer-upper, they’ll offer a fixer-upper price.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on home improvements or hire a professional stager to reap the benefits of a staged home. There are simple, inexpensive things you can do, including:

1) Clear out the clutter. If you don’t use it, sell it, give it away or throw it out. Hold a garage sale, donate it to Goodwill or post it on Craigslist. People are always looking for free or cheap stuff. If you simply can’t part with something that’s taking up a lot of space, like your winter clothes, pack it up and put it in storage.

2) Clean and repair. Cleaniness is next to godliness, especially in real estate. And be sure to fix what’s broken, including a squeaky cabinet door, leaky faucet or a torn screen door. If you like, replace outdated hardware and fixtures. They’re inexpensive and add that shiny new feel buyers love.

3) Make room and lighten up. Remove extra furniture or use a smaller couch or bed if they’re too big. Cramped rooms give buyers the impression that your house is small and lacks space. Store some of your clothes so your closets look bigger. Choose window treatments and lighting that brighten each room.

Information from HGTV

Home Improvements That Pay You Back

If you’re planning to sell your house any time soon, home improvements that build property value should be on your to-do list. In Portland, Maine it’s a buyer’s market, and between tighter purse strings and plenty of properties to choose from, shoppers want homes that are move-in ready and free of the need for home improvement projects that will add to their own bottom lines.

Here are the top 10 Home Improvements that pay you back.

1. Front Entry Doors: Curb appeal is the first step in a successful home sale, and installing a beautiful, high-quality entry door is a simple home improvement that delivers impact both in buyer drive-bys and online listings. A new entry door will also help lower home energy costs and stand up to weather extremes.

2. Attic Bedroom: Converting an attic into useful living space is a smart way to add value and attract those shopping for multigenerational family homes.

3. Decks: Building a deck is one of the least-expensive ways to extend your living space. Composite decking is a great low-maintenance option, and even building a deck from pressure-treated wood can bring a return on investment of up to 80 percent at the time of sale.

4. Siding: A tight, tidy home contributes to curb appeal and takes major home improvement worries off a potential buyer’s list. Spruce up your home’s exterior by repairing or replacing siding for an eye-catching, protective finish.

5. Kitchen: The kitchen is a major selling point for a home, and its appearance and layout can often be a deal-breaker. Improving your kitchen doesn’t have to be a huge investment, however: just replacing countertops, key appliances or cabinet hardware can transform a kitchen’s look and impact.

6. Windows: Installing replacement windows is a pre-sale home improvement that pays for everyone, with the seller earning valuable energy tax credits and the buyer enjoying lower home energy bills.

7. Additions: If done wisely and in a way that won’t price your home out of the local market, additions are valuable home improvements

8. Basement: Make the most of this bonus space by finishing it for use as an apartment, office or entertainment zone ─ more great ways to appeal to multi-generational households.

9. Bathroom: Along with kitchens, bathrooms tend to age easily, so neutralize potential design objections by replacing the vanity, installing efficient fixtures and choosing hardware that facilitates easy access for all.

10. Back-up Power Generator: With the aging electrical grid becoming less reliable, access to backup power is essential for a home. Gone are the days of bulky, smelly, portable gas-powered generators: You can now have a neat, compact standby generator installed outside that can repower most of your home within seconds of losing electricity from the utility.

Thought: Of course you want to be pleased with the way your home looks while you’re in it but you don’t want to put in things that are extremely personal. For instance, choose colors that are neutral. Not everything has to be beige and bland, but you don’t want to pick colors that the average person isn’t going to like.

Information from MSN Real Estate & Remodeling Magazine.