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For Sale: Your Extraordinary Townhome
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Minnesota Community Living July/August 2010

For Sale: Your Extraordinary Townhome

By Tony Poetz, Spectrum Home Services

Selling your condo or townhome in a buyer’s market can be challenging. According to the current Minneapolis Area Association of Realtor’s Housing Supply Outlook, townhouse prices are down -10.2 percent with an April 2010 average sale of $155,744. Condominiums in general are at -18.2 percent from last year with an average sale price of $170,784.

Because housing prices are lower, a seller often loses a bit on the house they sell then gains when buying a property at a reduced price. That means, buying a new place without selling your old place is ideal right now. Of course that last step also means coming up with a down payment then renting out your old place for awhile until the value increases. Coming up with down payment money can be tough, and most people don’t like the idea of managing a rental property with an already overloaded schedule.

So how do you unload your place at a good price without spending a ton on upgrades? Here’s some advice from the experts.

Mandatory Maintenance
According to Kathy Boyes, a Service Specialist at 33rd Company in Woodbury, "any evidence of deferred maintenance, even minor, is a slippery slope. If a perspective buyer hears a squeaking front door, sees walls with marks or notices dripping faucets…they would leap to question if the furnace has been maintained, if the basement has stayed dry or if the insulation is adequate.”

  • Slowly walk through the home and make a list. Many of the items will involve an easy solution.
  • Clean the utility appliances like the furnace and water heater.
  • Have the user manuals and maintenance records available in an organized folder.

Curb Appeal
A green, healthy lawn portrays the TLC put into a home. It also helps buyers envision their family relaxing and playing in the yard. Re-seeding or fertilization may get you to green. New sod does even more. If you install, it’ll run 20 – 30 cents/sq ft; professionally installed doubles the price.

  • Colorful, simple bushes are focus points that are inexpensive and simple to install.
  • Fresh paint makes a home more inviting even if it’s just the entry door or trim on the front.
  • Windows will reflect on the rest of the home. Clean or dirty, their condition WILL be noticed. Pros charge around $5 to clean both sides of the pane and the sills.

Keeping up with the Jones’
Buyers will compare your home to the rest of the neighborhood. If you’re one of the few without a deck, consider installing one or a similar, less expensive alternative like a stand-alone pergola. If every home on the block has two bathrooms and you’ve got one, you may want to get an estimate on a ½ bath in the basement.

The idea of keeping up with the Jones’ is more than just neighborhood perception. Real estate professionals call these comparables, or "comps.” Appraisers arrive at your home’s value by comparing to the recent sales in the neighborhood. If you’ve got a 3BR, 2BA similar to the one down the street that sold last month, your price will likely be in that ballpark. This information will offer a guideline and help you decide whether a new screen porch is "keeping up” or over-improving.

The Center of the Home
Kitchens sell a home. Families spend important time here. Breakfast time gets the kids off to school. Dinner may be the only time of day the whole family is together. Birthday cakes, Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas cookies are strong memories generated in the kitchen.

Before you list, consider one of these kitchen upgrades:

  • A tiled back splash behind the sink and/or range adds form & function. You can also get a nice piece of stainless steel at the hardware store that works just as well.
  • Stainless steel appliances are eye-popping upgrades. Save hundreds on a fridge that has a nice scratch on the side that’ll be hidden in your kitchen.
  • The brighter the better. New light fixtures range from simple to elaborate and are rather easy to install. SHUT OFF THE BREAKER FIRST! Match to the existing décor.

Selling in a buyer’s market can be challenging, but a few budget-friendly improvements can change ordinary to extraordinary and separate your townhome from the five others for sale in the complex. Research your own neighborhood and call a real estate professional for up to the minute advice.

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