Sellers have to do something to make their homes stand out from the competition, real-estate and home-staging professionals say.

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Sellers have to do something to make their homes stand out from the competition, real-estate and home-staging professionals say. A home needs to be priced right and look its best if it’s going to attract a buyer.

Price it right

Pricing a home right is the most important strategy to selling a home quickly, said Davis and other real-estate agents.

Sellers need to look at how much comparable homes in the same neighborhood sold for within the past 30 days to be attuned to current market conditions, Davis said.

For example, if neighboring homes of similar sizes and types sold for $600,000, don’t price it at $675,000, even if comparable properties fetched that price a year ago.

Fix ‘er up

Once homes are priced right, sellers must be willing to make repairs, spruce up landscaping, clean, paint and even remove items from their homes to win buyers’ attention, professionals said.

“The way you live in a home and the way you market a home are two different things,” said Dan Keating, president of the Orange County chapter of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

“Most people don’t understand [that] when they put their house on the market,” he added. “They [need] to make it show like a model home.”

Davis estimates that do-it-yourselfers could get their home ready to show for as little as $1,500 to $2,000, but the sky’s the limit for how much homeowners end up spending.

Hiring painters to do the work could add $2,500 to that price.

Installing new kitchen floors could cost $1,500 to $4,500, according to Davis’ book. New kitchen appliances could cost up to $2,800, he estimated. But if you’re careful and stick to upgrades that match other homes in your area, you should recover most, if not all, of your investment when you sell.

Davis advises sellers to hire a home inspector to go through their residence and put together a checklist of problems to fix — from leaky faucets to light fixtures. Save their receipts to use as a sales tool, he said.

Declutter and clean

“You’d be surprised how many homes out there are messy, dirty and smell bad,” Davis said. Dishes need to be put away. Laundry needs to be folded.

“You want your house to be white-glove clean,” Keating said. “Every nook and cranny. If a house looks well taken care of, buyers believe it’s well maintained.”

Excess furniture and belongings should be packed up and put into storage.

Anything that personalizes your home — photos, trophies, knickknacks or a golf ball collection, for example — should be removed so your residence appeals to buyers with a wide variety of tastes. Keating’s wife and partner, Karen, noted that homeowners should want buyers to notice their house, not their belongings.

Boost curb appeal

If the home and landscaping don’t look nice from the street, buyers won’t even get out of their cars, Davis and Keating said.

“That’s where people make their first impression, and you don’t get a second chance,” Davis said.

The lawn should be in perfect condition: fertilized, watered and mowed.

Sellers should plant flowers, fix fences, prune bushes and shrubs so that they’re no higher than first-floor windowsills, and remove dead plants.

Bare dirt should be covered with bark.

Keating said the front of the home should have a nice paint job, adding that some real-estate agents recommend replacing dilapidated garage doors.

Freshen the front door

The door needs to have fresh paint or stain, and the doorbell needs to be in good working order.

“There’s nothing worse than going up to a front door and finding the doorbell hanging by the wires,” Davis said. “That’s the kiss of death.”

Keep interiors spotless

The entrance hall has to be attractive, with flooring in good shape. Throw rugs and other floor coverings must be in excellent condition, cleaned or replaced, Davis said.

The home must have a super paint job, with no dings, scratches or holes in the walls. Davis recommends light-colored paint since you want the home to be as neutral as possible. If your home has bright colors, paint it white, he said.

“Nobody can criticize vanilla,” Davis said. “It’s the best-selling ice cream out there.”

Kitchen and bath

The kitchen and bathroom are the most important rooms in your home and should look good, professionals say.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2006 Cost vs. Value Report, homeowners typically get back 85 percent of what they spend on a minor kitchen-remodeling job when they sell their home, and they recover 77 percent of their bathroom remodeling costs.

Floors, appliances and countertops need to be in good condition. Davis recommends taking a floor-tiling class at a home center and putting in a new tile floor in kitchens.

Don’t install granite or other high-end countertops unless that’s common for homes in your neighborhood, he said.

Old and dingy kitchen cabinets should be sanded and refinished or sanded and painted gloss white, he said.

Bathroom fixtures must be in good condition and sparkling clean.

The mirror should be replaced if it’s dingy, and the bathroom must have good lighting and an attractive shower curtain if one is used.

“The smart money is in kitchens and bathrooms,” Davis said. “You can do all this for cheap.”

Laundry and garage

Invest a small amount in making your washer-dryer area attractive. Buyers like clean, well-lighted laundry rooms, preferably with storage, nice flooring and fresh paint.

Garages should be clutter free.

Davis suggests having a garage sale or putting excess possessions into storage or in a storage shed until you move.

“Nobody is going to do all this stuff,” Davis said. “This will put you ahead of the game.”