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Q:  Marsha, my wife and I are ready to put our house on the market. We disagree about what improvements to make. She wants to upgrade the kitchen and master bath. I want to do nothing and put it on the market. Who do you think is right?

A:  I think you are both wrong. Your wife wants to over-improve and spend unnecessary money and you want to under-improve and leave money on the table. Now that the decision has been made to put your home on the market, every dollar counts. Now is not the time to do the pet projects you always wanted to do, but there are some key improvements that can help you get the best price possible. Here are the projects to do before you present your home to the market.

De-clutter your home. You want your home to be warm and comfy but empty enough that the buyers can see themselves in the home. Take down family photos, your children’s artwork and all the cat collectibles. Remove excess furniture. Buyers today want an open, light, and airy space. Too much furniture will make buyers claustrophobic.

Clean your entire home inside and out. Buyers judge a book by its cover and your house begins at the curb. Make your landscaping appealing: remove the weeds and re-energize your garden. Spruce up the porch and entryway. Put out some colorful fresh plants and a welcome mat. Go around the property and remove all spider webs and dirt. And please, no dead cars on cinder blocks in the driveway.

Have the home professionally cleaned. This includes carpets and all flooring. Wash the curtains, or better yet throw the window coverings out if they are old and dated. Natural light in the home is uplifting. Make the kitchen and bathrooms shine.

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After you have de-cluttered and cleaned the home you are ready to paint.Painting provides dramatic results with little investment. Buyers prefer neutral, off-white, or beige colors. Plain white is too stark and dark colors will shrink your home. Fresh paint makes a home feel new and modern.

Have a pre-list home inspection so that you can make necessary repairs before the buyers have their inspection. This undermines the buyer’s ability to re-negotiate the price after their inspection. Add new life to the kitchen and bathrooms simply by re-caulking, deep cleaning and replacing tired old fixtures and faucets.

The only major expenses should be utilitarian upgrades if necessary. Buyers expect water heaters and furnaces to work. If your home inspector indicates these are a problem, seriously consider replacing them.

Finally upgrade your lighting. This is an inexpensive and subtle improvement. Replace dated fixtures with contemporary lights. Good lighting adds to the open and spacious feel of a home.

So don’t throw money at a new bathroom or kitchen, but spend a few well-placed bucks, and you’ll sell your home for the best price in the shortest amount of time.

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for over 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps her clients buy and sell homes and with lending services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or

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