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Making the house sell
5 Tips: Easy renovations before you sell
March 15, 2004: 5:03 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Trying to sell your home? You may be kicking yourself for not putting it on the market sooner.

Let's face it, homes practically sold themselves over the past few years. Low interest rates and strong demand pushed home prices up 7.5 percent on average last year, but are forecast to go up just 4.6 percent this year.

So how can you get the best price for your house and maybe a little bit more? Here are five low-priced renos that will help get the price you want in this spring's market.

1. Curb appeal.

If we were suggesting landscaping to be enjoyed by you and your family, we'd probably say spend your dough on the backyard where you can hang out this summer and enjoy yourselves.

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Gerri Willis shares five tips on affordable home renovating that will help you get the price you want.

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But selling a home means making tough decisions and you'd be better off putting your money into your front yard. Remember, when you're selling your home, it's all about curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal. Now, if you don't want to spend a fortune, then simply adding potted plants at the front door and painting your door or refinishing it may be enough.

But the big trends -- and the items that will really get the attention of shoppers -- are winding sidewalks paved in stone, not concrete and small ornamental trees that flower. Don't forget the hardware. Simply upgrading the porch lights around your front door can go a long way to boosting your home's appeal.

2. Add a kitchen island.

Okay, you could spend $70,000 for a complete kitchen renovation (that's the average) or you could pay $700 for a kitchen island from one of the big do-it-yourself warehouses.

For the most resale appeal, splurge on a granite countertop. Granite is durable and burnproof unlike laminate which can chip and stain. Granite can cost $120 to $180 a square foot. The kitchen island is pretty easy to install without even having to rip up your flooring.

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One caveat: you'll need plenty of space, about 70 square feet to make it work, giving you at least 42 inches of clearance on all sides. Another plus, by adding an island, you're turning your kitchen into somewhat of a lounge area where people will be able to congregate.

If you don't have enough kitchen space for an island, consider boosting the value of your home by ditching your old linoleum kitchen floor and replace it with some ceramic tiling. You can expect to pay about $300 for ceramic tile for a typical 10-by-12 kitchen. Also, it can't hurt to consider replacing the cabinets with new wood or laminate doors. These will set you back about $120 each.

3. The bathroom overhaul.

Depending on how much you have to spend, it is possible to go to town on your bathroom and create a virtual mini-spa complete with a separate closet for the toilet and steam room. For this you'll need at least $25,000.

If your budget is a bit more modest, it is possible to give your bathroom a reno for as little as $500. Simply buy some mirrors and lighting fixtures. It's a very affordable way to accomplish a change of feeling.

Another place to start is the tub. For about $30 you can make it look as good as new with a fresh layer of epoxy glaze. Epox is the gold-standard brand. You'll usually need about one quart. Also, make sure to open a window. The glaze has a very strong odor which explains why homeowners may be happy to hire someone to do it for them for about $300.

Second, why not some new floors and walls? Assuming your bathroom is about 5-by-7, using ceramic tile will cost you roughly $350. The big thing to remember is not to be afraid to think small. Replacing a lighting fixture, adding a towel rack, even painting the bathroom can brighten its image.

While colors such as yellow and red can set the mood, you may be better off going with plain old white. You depersonalize the space by using white and it gives the room a sterile, airy and refreshing feeling. It also can make small spaces feel more spacious.

For more advice on improving your bathroom or other rooms in your home visit and

4. Get rid of the damp basement.

Nobody wants to walk down into a musty, damp basement. Fortunately, this is one of the easier problems to cure. Simple defects like poor grading around your house can cause water to drain into your basement. Fix the grading and unblock your gutters.

Do it says there are essentially three general approaches to resolving a wet basement problem: controlling surface water, sealing basement walls, and installing drain systems.

Think about your house and when rain falls, determine how it is channeled. Be aware of the paths and channels rain water follows. There should be no standing water anywhere in the yard. Ideally, during a rainstorm water should flow down the roof and into the gutters, and from the gutters to a spot draining away from the foundation of your home.

Keeping your gutters clean is one of the easiest ways to reduce ground water. Do it also says that while controlling surface water is always a good thing to do, it won't always solve your wet basement problem. You may also consider sealing your basement walls.

5. Spend your time, not your money.

In the main living areas of the house, you'll definitely want to think about de-personalizing the space. That means getting rid of any bright wall coverings, and color-saturated paint (even though you love the Chinese red walls in your kitchen). Repainting a warm white is always a good idea.

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The goal? Helping buyers imagine their own furniture and possessions in your space. Smart "stagers," that is people that prep homes for sale professionally, often recommend taking out most of the framed photos of family and friends for the same reason.

And here's a strategy that pros always recommend: Don't pile your messes in the closets. Closets are a favorite place to peek for shoppers -- and if your closets are messy, they'll wonder if you've failed to maintain other parts of the house. If you have to, rent a storage space to stash your overflow till you hit your new threshold.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also is co-host of CNNfn's The FlipSide, weekdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (ET). E-mail comments to  Top of page

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