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Ready for sale: Prepping the place you call home

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When your plan involves the sale of your home, the first order of business is to prep your house. A fluctuating housing market allows buyers to be more selective and requires sellers to do more than straighten the closets and dust the furniture. Review the four questions we think you need to ask yourself in order to begin preparing for your big move.

1. Does your home have curb appeal?

Curb appeal is essential, since potential buyers may make their decision before stepping inside. Spruce up any landscaping and entryways, and repair chips in concrete. Perhaps you should replace the door or some siding with manufactured stone. Property photos that show foliage in different seasons are a plus.

2. Do you need to remodel or replace?

The three most popular rooms for this are the kitchen, living room and master bedroom. Replacement jobs – such as door, window and siding projects – typically generate a higher return than remodeling projects. Focus on projects that offer low maintenance and energy efficiency while not being too costly, says

Quick fixes that pay off include painting the rooms using neutral colors; cleaning curtains or buying new ones; replacing dated light fixtures, door handles and cabinet hardware; fixing leaky faucets; cleaning grout; and getting closet doors on their tracks.

3. Is your kitchen updated?

A kitchen upgrade can make a difference in how long it takes to sell your home. New countertops and appliances are expensive, but buyers may knock thousands off their offer if the kitchen is dated. Pay attention to flooring, fixtures and cabinet hardware. If money is tight, consider replacing just one appliance.

4. Did you de-clutter?

The most important step is getting the house ready so buyers can truly see it. Remove all distractions including keepsakes, family photos and hobbies. Remove half of what's in the closets and organize the rest. Rent a storage space for all that stuff and most of your books. Wash the windows and clean carpets. Because buyers will look, you should clean out drawers.

Staging a home has become a popular option, in part because buyers have online access to property photographs for easy comparison before shopping. Recommended by many real estate agents, a professional stager can rearrange furniture and recommend changes to maximize space. The three most popular rooms for this are the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.