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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Home seller Melisa Bennett, left, has readied her Draper home for sale with help from real estate agent Angie Domichel Nelden.
Before sale sign goes up, home’s clutter must go poof

Real estate » As spring nears and sellers re-emerge, cleanup should begin today.

First Published Jan 18 2013 08:07 am • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:33 pm

Even as snow blankets much of the Utah landscape and frigid temperatures keep many folks inside, potential sellers who have had cold feet about putting their homes on the market may be warming to the idea.

But for those ready to make the big move, Realtors and others in the industry have some key advice ­— although winter is not the best time to sell, anyone who’s looking for a home right now is probably serious about it, and second, if you plan to cash in on the popular spring buying season, now’s the time to start the prep work that will get your home ready to show to take advantage of improving market conditions.

At a glance

Selling your home in winter

Crank up the heat » If potential buyers shiver at your open house, they aren’t likely to stick around, let alone make an offer. Keep the thermometer at least at a steady 70 degrees.

Get shoveling » Keep the walkways clear. And make sure at an open house that people have a place to park. Don’t clear just the driveway — shovel out some spaces on the street, as well.

Build a snowman » With a Frosty in the front yard, you could even dress him up with a real-estate T-shirt or put a for-sale sign in his hands.

Become a weather freak » Be prepared for outside temperature changes when planning for an open house. If a big storm is headed your way, reschedule or push a morning open house into the afternoon.

Decorate, but don’t go overboard » If your house is cold, empty and sterile, you could be sending the wrong message. Focus on a few light, classy seasonal touches.

Source: Bankrate.com

Checklist to sell your home

Make minor repairs:

Replace cracked floor or counter tiles

Patch holes in walls

Fix leaky faucets

Adjust doors that don’t close and drawers that jam

Replace burned-out light bulbs

Consider painting walls neutral colors

Make it sparkle:

Wash windows inside and out

Pressure-wash sidewalks and exteriors

Clean out cobwebs

Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks

Polish chrome faucets and mirrors

Clean out the refrigerator

Vacuum daily

Wax floors

Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures

Bleach dingy grout

Replace worn rugs

Hang up fresh towels

Clean and air out any musty-smelling areas

Curb appeal:

Keep the sidewalks cleared

Mow the lawn

Paint faded window trim

Plant flowers or group flower pots together

Trim bushes

Make sure your house number is visible

Source: homebuying.about.com

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Not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer homebuying season to plant that "for sale" sign, according to the consumer financial services company BankRate.com. So although it’s true that you’ll probably have fewer potential buyers during the winter, you’ll also have less competition from other sellers — meaning it can pay to make your home look like a refuge from the weather.

As you prep, those who sell homes for a living and those who’ve recently bought suggest you keep these thoughts top of mind — declutter, sweat the details, depersonalize and clean like you have never cleaned before.

Start by thinking that you’re already in the process of moving, said Angie Domichel Nelden, with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Midvale.

"Pack up your valuables," she said. "And I can’t stress enough that if there’s something you don’t need or you aren’t using, box it up. People don’t mind boxes stacked in storage rooms or the garage, but spaces in the home must be free of clutter."

Declutter and declutter some more, she said. Closets and pantries shouldn’t be crammed with stuff. Homebuyers open closets and pantry doors to check on space.

Also, concentrate on the kitchen and bathrooms, which are among homes’ biggest attractions, she said. Store appliances you’re not using, and put out fresh towels and mats.

"Make sure your home is light and bright," she added. "Open blinds and clean the windows. If there’s a dark room, turn on the lights so that people don’t have to look around for the switch. Light and bright is welcoming."

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Details matter • Megan Holland, who spent eight weeks looking for a home this winter, was disappointed to see messy kitchens, unfinished bathrooms and a leaky roof.

Holland was surprised to see how many homes were in disarray during showings. One homeowner even left dirty dishes on the table.

"The worst house had old cat litter," she said. "There was a terrible odor."

The Sandy home she and husband Wes chose has everything they were looking for — an open floor plan, spacious yard, and there was no need for repairs.

"Getting your first home is like magic," she said.

After sellers have decluttered, to make a house feel more like a home, they should focus on the details. But remember, no amount of money that’s put into a home to fix it up will be fully returned, so seek professional advice before throwing tons of cash into what may be unnecessary home improvements.

Realtor Joshua Stern of Keller Williams Salt Lake City notes that remodeling projects typically generate returns of no more than 50 cents on the dollar, "so what kind of an investment is that?"

Rather than spending $10,00 to $15,000 to remodel a small kitchen, he advises staging the area instead. Clear off all flat surfaces, horizontally and vertically, such as walls and counters, getting rid of pictures, refrigerator magnets and any other visual clutter.

"[They] should be cleared of everything, other than decorative items, and those should be kept to a minimum," he said.

Also, step out of yourself and try to see your home as a buyer would, Stern added. To do that, sellers must suppress emotional attachments to their dwelling, and look at other homes that are for sale, again in an attempt to visualize their home through the eyes of a buyer. The goal is to get your house looking like a model home.

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