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  Shaping Up For The Sale - Back
Here are some tips from Mike Morris, former editor of one of the top home magazines, and the recent author of a home improvement encyclopedia, on how to shape up your house before putting it on the market.

When it's time to sell your home, think "curb appeal," through the eyes of a buyer. What first impression does your house make when a prospect drives by or comes up the driveway?

Even if you're nervous about the look or condition of some parts of the home or yard, keep in mind that you're out to make money, not spend it. Get the place well "spruced up," price it right, and it will move.

"Sprucing up" your home doesn't mean making costly improvements. Keep your lawn mowed and your hedges trimmed. Sweep sand into concrete cracks and chips, and roll on a coat of sealer if you have an asphalt driveway. Hose down patios, house walls and other outdoor surfaces. Repair any broken windows . Clean up any yard debris.

Some repairs justify the cost. Painting a home exterior to increase its curb appeal often reaps big rewards. According to the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, a new paint job returns a 60 percent profit above the cost of having it done professionally, and up to 100 percent if you do the work yourself.

Unlike major remodeling work inside a home to attract buyers, minor redecorating is recommended. For every $100 spent on interior painting, wallpapering or carpeting, sellers earn back $190 on average.

This doesn't mean major improvements count for nothing. If you have done substantial work on your home recently, it may be just what you need to clinch a sale. Among the highest rate-of-return items are kitchen remodeling, central air conditioning, and adding-on or extending a room. Some of the worst home-improvement investments are converting a basement and building a swimming pool.

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