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Originally published July 26, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Page modified August 2, 2013 at 12:45 PM

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HomeWork: Attract buyers by cleaning, decluttering and letting go

Even in a red-hot market, some tried-and-true techniques can help you sell your home quickly and bring in top dollar.

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Q: What advice can you give for preparing to sell a home?

A: With home sales and home values on the rise, many homeowners who held out during the recession are now considering selling their homes. Even in a red-hot market, some tried-and-true techniques can help you sell your home quickly and bring in top dollar.

Begin to think of your home as an item you want to sell, and not the emotional center of your family life. Some experts even recommend that you picture yourself handing over the keys to the new owners. This exercise will help enable you to see the house itself, devoid of memories, and allow you to be realistic about its true selling points and areas that might need work before putting it on the market.

Sellers often underestimate the importance of packing up all personal photographs and family heirlooms. If potential buyers see you and your family all over the house, it will be harder for them to visualize themselves in your home. They need to be able to picture the personal touches they would make and imagine their own photos on the walls. The goal is for each potential buyer to see the house as their dream home and not your former dream home.

If you love bold wall colors, consider giving the walls a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color. You don’t want to lose a buyer because of the dramatic, burgundy dining-room walls you love so much.

Pair down

Many of us amass an amazing amount of treasures or junk, depending on your point of view. Experts agree it is essential to declutter. Remove all books from bookcases and store the bookcases if you can. Pack away your knickknacks.

Remove everything from kitchen counters, except for fresh flowers or a plant. You can put items used daily in a special place in one of the cabinets or drawers so they are convenient but out of sight. The upside? You’ll have a head start on packing for your new home. And remember: Buyers love to snoop and will open closets, cupboards and cabinets.

Make sure you have no personal items in view and that everything is organized and tidy — it sends the message that the house has been well cared for. Consider renting a storage space so you can show your house with as little furniture as possible. It makes the space seem larger, and helps potential buyers imagine their own furniture and decorations in that space. Furniture shouldn’t block any walkways. Extra leaves should be removed from dining-room tables, and leave just enough furniture to show how the room can be used.

Replace favorite items

If you love your window coverings, fixtures or appliances and plan to take them with you, take them down now and replace them with something you can leave with the house. If a potential buyer never sees your favorite things, they are much less likely to want them included in the purchase price.

Fix flaws

Make all the minor repairs that you can. This includes patching holes in walls, fixing leaky faucets, replacing cracked floor or counter tiles, and replacing burned-out light bulbs. And it goes without saying that you should keep your house spotless inside and out with freshly washed windows, sparkling bathrooms, a squeaky-clean refrigerator, and polished faucets and mirrors.

Stand outside the house and look at it objectively. Does it have curb appeal? Has the lawn been mowed and are the bushes trimmed? Is the house number clearly visible? Then go inside and try to imagine yourself as a potential buyer. If you find it appealing, so will the right buyer.

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 homework@mbaks.com.

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