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Decorating Do's and Don'ts for Home Sellers

Real estate author and expert Mark Nash defines what home sellers should do decorating-wise to prepare their home for sale. Commitment colors are out and forget trendy "visual veneers".

Nash serves his advice straight up to those looking to position their home in the post real estate bubble housing market. Nash's fourth book "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home" was first published in early 2005.

Today's savvy post-real estate bubble (it's only a correction) homebuyers require quality finishes and neutral color palettes in homes they ultimately purchase. If you are contemplating selling your home and need to decorate before placing your home on market remember that cutting-edge interior design and commitment colors ( strong, bold, trendy) are usually a red flag to home buyers. Buyers consider "visual veneer" a mask for defects in a home.

After a year of property showings and eight previous years on property searches with homebuyers as well as requests from consumers after the review of "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home" in The New York Times I've complied a list of home runs and strike-outs for those looking to sell to home.

Home Decorating Do's

  • Purchase the best quality carpet pad which can make any new carpeting "cushy", and home buyers love cushy. Stay away from shag styles, buyers know it won't be around long in style cycles.
  • Install bamboo floors in contempory settings, bamboo is out-pacing maple as the "new" light colored wood floor.
  • Forget parquet and veneered wood flooring. Parquet is still out-of-favor and buyers are aware that thin wood veneer over wood products can't handle many sanding's to change stain colors.
  • Take the time to paint walls, trim and ceilings. Keep adjoining rooms in the same color palette which will make your home appear larger and flow better. Clean up spills from messy painters. Hire professionals to paint mullions on windows and staircase spindles.
  • Slipcover mismatched furniture in a room that requires visual unification.
  • Streamline window fashions. Heavy drapes are in the minority. Think "let the light shine in" when placing placing blinds and shades. Light and bright can overcome other issues with home.
  • Test all door and cabinet knobs. Replace mis-matched or inexpensive hardware for a quick update. Buyers rarely can get beyond a knob that comes off in their hand as they attempt to use a door.
  • Freshen-up closets with closet organizers to maximize storage space and paint a neutral washable color. Make sure buyers can see the back of all closets and cupboards. Lighting is often overlooked feature in closets, but buyers will always turn on lights when viewing a closet, big or small.
  • Locate wall spaces for large and flat screen tv's. They are a "must-have" for the majority of homebuyers. Plasma tv's are quickly becommming the "Monet" over the fireplace.
  • Install technology wiring for high-speed Internet, cable, and wi-fi, if you have walls opened up. "Wired homes" are becoming one of the top whistle and bells buyers demand. Don't overlook the bathrooms!
  • Consider the appropriate level for finishes in kitchens and bathrooms. Buyers in a mid-priced neighborhood aren't looking for high-end finishes.
  • Clean every surface until it shimmers and shines. Clean can seal a deal. Don't forget the windows.
  • Polish and wax hardwood floors to brighten and blend an old finish.
  • Get rid of family and highly personal photos. Buyers can't visualize themselves in a home that's still territorially yours.
  • Edit your furniture and accessories in every room. Less is more, buyers are looking to purchase your real estate not your personal property.
  • Make sure there is balanced lighting in every room for dusk and evening showings. Dimmers help set the right tone.
  • Take the time to clean, organize and paint basements, attics and garages. Many a home buyer has passed on a home they otherwise liked because it had a "creepy" attic or basement.
  • Invite three full-time real estate agents to view your home before and after your interior design pre-market update.
  • Install new light switch covers. Most buyers interact with these on home showings. Worn or out-of-date covers lack attention to detail.

Home Decorating Don'ts

  • Don't install kitchen cabinets with the drawer fronts stapled on, buyers look for quality dove-tailed construction.
  • Don't assume everyone loves stainless steel appliances. Word-of-mouth says the cleaning requirements aren't for everyone.
  • Wallpaper. Buyers never have the same taste as decorators. Take it down (carefully) and paint.
  • Don't install inexpensive home-center light fixtures and use interior fixtures outside. The right fixtures say quality to buyers.
  • Don't use and do remove all mirror's placed as backsplash's in kitchens, dining room accent walls, bedroom ceilings (I see them way to much) and long hallways. Mirrored walls and ceilings say more about the homeowner than buyers want to know.
  • Don't block good room and house flow. Awkward furniture placement can make a room feel smaller than it is. Keep in mind that groups of people will be walking through your home together.
  • Don't overlook the front door. First impressions count. Paint the door, polish the hardware and illuminate the entry area and house numbers.
  • Don't stain newly refinished floors dark colors. Buyers if they want lighter floors will factor in refinishing costs when presenting an offer.
  • Don't forget to remove all dated and dusty sill flowers and plants. Budget for weekly fresh flowers and potted plants while your home is being toured.
  • Don't dismiss your location, southwestern looks out-of-place in most northern climates and contemporary is hard to pull off in a vintage saltbox colonial.
  • Don't install inexpensive laminate flooring instead of hardwood in living and family rooms. Buyers walking across it, hate the hollow noise that echoes up from it.

Mark Nash's fourth real estate book, "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home" (2005), and working as a real estate broker in Chicago are the foundation for his consumer-centric real estate perspective which has been featured on CBS The Early Show, Bloomberg TV, Fidelity Investor’s Weekly, Dow Jones Market Watch, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Universal Press Syndicate and USA Today.

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