Memberships Since 1995
(buy, sell rent, rebates)

Small home fixes with big impact: Palm Beach County experts offer tips

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Oct. 19, 2009 – When Randy Bianchi couldn’t find a tenant for one of his rental homes, he realized the house needed an edge to lure a renter in an overcrowded market. He made some interior repairs, then hit on the idea that finally attracted a tenant.
View Original Article

For $1,100, Bianchi built a patio with enough room for a small dining table, then framed it with palm trees.

The new tropical oasis reinforced a lesson the West Palm Beach real estate agent has learned from a market saturated with short sales and foreclosures.

“You have to offer something better than the competition,” said Bianchi, who owns Paradise Properties.

Often, a few inexpensive fixes such as a pretty patio or a freshly painted interior are all that’s needed to make a house stand out in the crowd.

We asked Bianchi and two other professionals – a contractor and an interior designer – for simple ways to upgrade our homes for less than $2,000.

Each said the most important upgrade is also the least expensive: a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering. Busy people with jobs and kids may find the hardest task is keeping the house clean and tidy for weeks or months while it’s for sale, but it is essential, say our experts.

“Leave your home every morning thinking it might be shown that day,” Bianchi says.

Here are some more expert tips.

Randy Bianchi, Paradise Properties, West Palm Beach

The basics: Your home always should be spotless, and that includes the windows and carpet. If floors are worn, cover them with a new area rug. Have tile grout professionally cleaned. Do whatever it takes to make your house look fresh.

If you can’t paint the entire interior, paint an accent wall in a main room. Outside, enhance curb appeal with neatly trimmed grass and shrubs. Add some fresh mulch.

“You want to give the appearance of a house that’s been well-maintained, even if it’s dated,” Bianchi says.

Kitchens and baths sell houses, Bianchi says, so spend your money there, particularly on new counters. He recommends Silestone as a less expensive alternative to granite, but even new laminate counters will help.

“If you’ve got 20-year-old Formica, refinish it with a new color or pattern, but keep it neutral,” Bianchi advises.

Standout move: Give prospective buyers an outdoor spot to enjoy our subtropical climate. An al fresco entertainment area also yields one of the best returns on investments of all home improvement projects.

Don Cameron, contractor and HomeVestors owner, West Palm Beach

The basics: “We visit a tremendous amount of homes in a week, and most homes are so cluttered you can’t get a good view of the house,” says Cameron, who says he buys 75 to 100 houses a year and sells them within three or four weeks, after a quick rehab.

After removing the clutter, invest in a few quick upgrades that Cameron says always attract buyers. Install new faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms, then change interior doorknobs to new lever-style door openers to give a home “a little pizzazz.”

Keep walkways swept and the front door clean and freshly painted. When Cameron and his partners are ready to market a house, they always install two things: plug-in deodorizers and a new welcome mat.

Standout move: Offer a one-year home warranty to give buyers peace of mind, particularly first-time home buyers. According to Cameron, a warranty that insures a home’s major appliances as well as electrical and plumbing systems against failure costs $300 to $400 for an average-size house.

Gil Walsh, Gil Walsh Interiors, Riviera Beach

The basics: “Warm up your house with color,” instructs veteran interior designer Walsh. “Paint rooms soft neutrals such as celadon greens, taupes and creamy whites to outline the shape of windows and make everything look fresh and clean.”

Get rid of dingy old carpet. Replace it with creamy white or beige cut-pile commercial carpet, available from big box stores, then layer it with colorful area rugs from discounters or consignment stores. Rugs also will hide damaged wood or tile floors.

“Layering elements adds richness and depth,” Walsh says.

Give your kitchen cabinets a face-lift with new or re-faced doors, but don’t get too elaborate, Walsh warns. Opt for a simple raised or recessed paneled door, or, if your house is contemporary, a flat door style.

Nothing says “out of date” like old light fixtures. Update chandeliers and wall fixtures with newer styles.

Standout move: Hire a consulting interior designer to give you professional advice, which Walsh says should cost about $100 to $150 an hour.

“In one to two hours, the designer can give you a list of what needs to be done, then you can take care of it yourself,” Walsh says.

Copyright © 2009 The Palm Beach Post, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.