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Small home improvements can make big difference when it's time to sell

Standing out in a crowd can be good (you were voted prom king!) and bad (you wore your crown to a job interview). • When it comes to selling a home, standing out is essential, especially in a depressed real estate market. • With a flood of homes available, buyers can afford to be choosy, and small deficiencies easily overlooked when the market was hot can become deal-breakers. • That sagging backyard fence you've been meaning to get to? Now's the time. Been putting off the pressure-washing? "Cleanliness leads to a closing," says Steve Stocks, store manager for Lowe's in St. Petersburg. • If you're soon to put your house on the market — or just want to freshen up the home you have — here are some quick and relatively inexpensive projects.

>> Pick a paint

"Repaint your home," Stocks says. "It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of effort and it can pay off big." Realtor Janet Caramello of St. Petersburg agrees but adds, "Never paint a home white; it will be too cold and is not appealing to buyers. Pick a neutral color: pale yellow, sage green, light taupe."

>> Swap it out

While a full-scale kitchen or bath remodel can add a lot of value to a home, it also can cost a lot. Instead, pick a smaller job that will resonate with buyers.

"If you don't have money for a full kitchen or bathroom remodel, replace just the faucets or sinks," Stocks says. Brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze finishes are popular choices.

Another option, says Caramello: "Granite, granite, granite! The prices have gone down so low that it is a great investment to put in granite for kitchen countertops." You can outfit an average-sized kitchen with solid granite or granite squares for about $2,000 to $4,000, she says.

In the bathroom, "take down those medicine cabinets and replace with framed mirrors," she says. Other quick fixes: Update countertops and light fixtures, repair grout lines or add a linen shower curtain.

m Lighten up

"Replace old, outdated light fixtures for a great, inexpensive facelift," Caramello says. "A new light fixture can take an '80s house and make it look more like a house for the 2010s. Dome ceiling in the kitchen? Remove it and put in overhead can lighting. You'll need an electrician and maybe someone to do drywall and could cost $1,000 to $2,000, but it will pay off with a higher offer."

Pay attention to exterior lighting as well, Stocks says. "Having a good front door light and some motion lights makes people feel safe and secure."

>> Keep it clean

Pressure-wash your home and your fence (you may even find out you don't need to paint after all). "A lot of times people knock the dust and the mold and mildew off and it looks better," Stocks says. "It brightens it up a lot."

n Love your landscape

A lot of inexpensive projects can boost the oh-so-important curb appeal. Weed the yard and add mulch for starters. Flowers are a quick way to add color, and "heartier colored plants are better than flowering plants in most cases for longevity," Caramello says.

B Buckberry Joyce can be reached at bbuckberry@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8113.

Small home improvements can make big difference when it's time to sell 02/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 3:30am]

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