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While homes are bought and sold all through the year, it seems that spring is the time most people ready their houses for the market. What should sellers do to generate interest and encourage buyers to make offers?

Patrick Bolger, Realtor and owner of the Bolger Realty Group of Oconomowoc, says the value of the house determines which home improvements should be undertaken, and that buyers expect updates in houses above a certain price point.

"Kitchens and bathrooms - especially the master bath - should be updated," Bolger says. He adds that while every home used to have oak cabinetry, it now makes a house look dated,; instead, maple, birch and cherry are the woods of choice. "Another option is to paint the cabinets. While it may take multiple coats, painting cabinets white gives the room a look that is airy, clean and tasteful. Removing the gold hardware is also a good idea and replacing it with hardware in gun metal or oiled bronze."

Replacing the kitchen appliances gives a dynamic look to the kitchen and is a quick makeover. "Add stainless steel appliances - people can get great buys on the whole set [stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and built-in microwave]," says Bolger.

Cosmetic changes in the bathroom - replacing outdated tiles and worn grout or installing new faucets or showerheads - make the room look pristine.

Bolger has another idea: "There should be [at least] one room that will knock your socks off - the great room, family room - one room that will sell the house." This sets the tone and allows buyers to see just how the entire house could be transformed. He also suggests the use of a stager, a design professional who would work with existing decorations and add a few choice pieces in order to show the house to its best advantage.

Depersonalizing a home has been touted as a "must" before selling a house, but Bolger does not agree. "People that buy your house are like you," he says. "You don't want it to look cluttered, but you do want to have a few photos of your family enjoying life in the house." Buyers substitute their own families in those pictures and "take mental ownership of the house."

If time or budget is a concern, there are a number of easy, quick updates that can be made.

Realtor Marilyn Burns of Shorewest Realtors Inc. in Mukwonago says that cleanliness is most important. Curb appeal gets the buyer into the home, but it must not stop there. "From the front door, the eyes will go to the corners of the room," Burns says. "There should be nothing obstructing their view."

Don't let the colors of your house age it. "Painting is one way to get the most money back; make the house look as up to date as you can," Burns says. "For door and cabinet knobs, shiny is out and the brushed look is in."

Lighting is another easy, yet dramatic fix. "Lighting fixtures are not too expensive, yet easily replaced," Burns says.

It is also a good idea to make basic home repairs. "While some people are into rehabbing, most people don't want to do the work; they want it as close to turnkey or to a model home as possible."

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