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Q: We are selling our home. What pitfalls should we avoid?

A: With a shortage of home inventory and prices on the rise, it is no longer the buyer’s market it has been in recent years.

In fact, in metro areas such Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle, typical home prices rose more than 10 percent from spring 2012 to spring 2013, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some major turnoffs that can make your home undesirable.

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The number one no-no is a dirty home. More than anything else, potential homebuyers are turned off by filth and grime. Put extra effort into steam-cleaning tile and grout, and replace the carpets, if necessary.

If your carpets are old and smelly, you’re dead in the water. You want your home to be neat, clean and free of debris.

Fatal error number two: odors from food, pets and smoking. Many realtors ask their clients not to cook fish or any fried or greasy foods while the house is on the market. That’s how critical it is.

You also need to eliminate all traces of your pets, and not just their odors. Keep pet paraphernalia out of sight, and have a plan for making sure animals are not around when the house is being shown.

That dog bowl or litter box will immediately turn off some buyers. Even if they like dogs or cats, they may worry about accidents the animal may have had in the house.

The same applies to smoking. Remove all ashtrays, clean all curtains and upholstery, and consider smoking outdoors while your home is on the market.

Next, look critically at your appliances and any outdated fixtures you may have. New cabinet hardware and doorknobs probably won’t cost you more than $400 —$500, but they can make a huge difference. The same holds true for dated ceiling fans, light fixtures and kitchen appliances.

Even if they are clean and in good shape, outdated fixtures and appliances can make your home seem a bit tired and poorly maintained, even if it isn’t true. A little updating can help you get the highest price possible for your home.

Shopping for a new home has been compared to shopping for clothes — buyers are trying on your home to see how it fits. But if your personal items are cluttering up your home, it will be nearly impossible for a buyer to visualize their own belongings there. Offer them a blank canvas by removing family photos, personal effects, children’s toys, clutter and religious or political items.

You may not want to have your home professionally staged, but pare down your decorative pieces and the amount of furniture in your home as much as possible.

A good rule of thumb is that closets should be no more than half-full, and nothing should be on the floor. Most people looking at your house have outgrown theirs, and showing them that there’s room to grow gives them a reason to buy.

One fun real estate agent’s tip: Place a mirror strategically in your home so people can actually see themselves. Believe it or not, it helps them envision living there.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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