Spring's here, and that means potential home buyers are out and about. In fact, the unseasonably warm winter had them out early, according to statistics compiled by the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors.
LBAR president Mary Anne Simmons said the number of times Realtors opened lockboxes on properties for sale increased 11 percent in February compared to the same month a year earlier.
So with more and more homes on the market in the coming months, what should potential sellers do to spruce up their residences?
Simmons and Katherine Davis, an interior designer-turned-Realtor with Rector-Hayden Realtors, offered these tips.
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"The first thing to know is obviously first impressions really count," Davis said.
She said the exterior of your home is of great importance because "a lot of people drive by a house before they call their Realtor to go look at it."
"The exterior and the front door is just like the smile on your face," she said. "It should be clean and attractive and very inviting."
Simmons suggested putting down fresh mulch, and, of course, keeping the lawn mowed.
"When the yard doesn't look good, it kind of gives us a clue what the house is going to look like," she said.
Simmons also said a yellow wreath on the door or a red pot of flowers can be eye-catching.
Another important aspect of the outside is painting. "We went to one home ... and it looked like they had just come outside and painted over peeling paint," Simmons said. "The windows still needed to be painted. And when you looked at the outside, you could see it was chipping.
"If you're going to do it, do it right. Now all the new paint and old paint has to be scraped off."
Floorings and walls
For homeowners looking to do some substantive work before putting their houses on the market, new paint and flooring offer "the biggest bang for your buck," Simmons said.
New carpet can be laid down, and if that's not affordable, at least have the existing carpet cleaned, she said.
Davis emphasized having neutral colors on walls. "You can have red walls or orange walls in your home for your personal taste, but when people come through, if it's neutral, they accept it," she said. "They may want to paint it green or orange later on, but to market and sell your home, you should neutralize."
And Simmons suggested removing wallpaper.
"Do you know the reason they make a zillion kinds of wallpaper?" she asked. "Because nobody likes the same wallpaper. You need to go ahead and get it off the wall."
Getting rid of clutter in a home is a must for those preparing to show, Davis and Simmons said.
"Put your stuff up, put it in the garage, put it under the bed or put it in a storage unit," Simmons said.
But, she cautioned, don't put too much in the garage.
"If you can't park a car in the garage, one of a buyer's first thoughts is they must not have much storage space," she said. "It's better just to get it off site.
"If you're cramped for storage, don't show it."
Davis said it's not a bad idea to just move all of the clutter out. After all, "you need to pack and move anyway," she said.
Effects of pets
While pets can be beloved members of a household, they also can leave their marks.
"There are a lot of people who don't want animals inside the house," Simmons said. "You don't need to walk in somebody's house and have the smell knock you down.
"If you have a pet, you need to go out of your way to get rid of the smells. ... An odor from an animal is not the same as a flower or cookies baking in the oven."
Kitchens and baths
Kitchens and bathrooms can really help sell a home, Simmons said.
"You really have to have those rooms clean and sparkling," she said.
An updated kitchen is a strong selling point, but if that's too expensive or time-consuming, "at least have it as clean as possible," Simmons added.
Add color: "Every room should have a little spark of interest like maybe a flower on a table or a bowl of bright yellow lemons," Davis said.
Add some greenery: "You need things that are alive and green," Davis said. "That all adds interest to the house and makes it warm and cozy."
Inexpensive upgrades: Buying new light fixtures pays dividends, Davis said. "Old light fixtures really date a place," she said. So, too, does brass hardware on doors and so forth. "You might want to change it to newer finishes," she said.