Make Your Home a Creampuff

Creampuff is a well-priced, clean, spiffy, beautifully maintained house in a fine area. Every buyer`s dream house is a creampuff. And so is every agent`s dream house-because creampuffs sell fast.

After a day or many days of driving around with agents from one overpriced, nondescript house to another, buyers are feeling jaded and disillusioned, so a creampuff makes an entrance the way Michelle Pfeiffer would in a high-school musical.

To sell your house quickly, try to turn it into a creampuff. As one knowledgeable real estate authority bluntly put it, ”People will kill for creampuffs.”

Creating a creampuff includes setting a good price and gussying up the house through decorating. Here we`ll talk about making sure the house is in top-notch working order.

If you haven`t been maintaining your house properly, welcome to the club. House inspectors report that, all across America, our castles are becoming more and more like shacks. The two chief reasons are:

1. Both members of the family are working (that`s how they were able to buy a house in the first place), and when they come home at night, they are too tired, or too busy with children or work they’ve taken home, to inspect their houses properly and take remedial steps.

One house inspector says the typical homeowner these days wouldn’t notice a roof leak until the water had penetrated the floor of the attic into the bedroom areas. At least once every month, you should give the house the once- over, looking for water spots, corrosion, rust, discoloration, anything out of the ordinary.

2. A good repair person is hard to find. These days, repair people prefer big, expensive jobs to small, inexpensive ones, such as fixing faucet leaks, aligning doors, etc. They may give you an estimate, then never contact you again. Have you ever tried to get a house painter to paint only the side of your house that is exposed to the sun and is peeling?

Finally, from HouseMaster of America, the largest home-inspection service in the country, here are the ”most annoying” problems in houses for sale, based on more than 100,000 inspections:

Loose toilet bowls, a continually running toilet, poorly calibrated thermostats, water in the basement or lower level, low water pressure, inadequate electrical power and insufficient electrical wall outlets.

Also: windows that don`t open and close properly, doors that can`t close easily because of warping, kitchen appliances that don`t work properly, repeated clogging of gutters, squeaky or bouncy floors and stairs, and carpenter ants.

Also on the list are discovering where roof leaks start and the tracking the cause of stains on ceilings below bathrooms.

Here`s a troubleshooting guide from HouseMaster of America, with repair or replacement cost, of what to look for when you inspect your house for problems and flaws (and what buyers will look for).

Structural: Look for horizontal and vertical cracks in foundation walls, cracks in house slabs, missing supports, bowing walls. It can cost from $25 to patch a crack, $3,000 or more to re-support a wall.

Roofing: Faulty flashing is a common cause of leaks. Look for excessive roof wear, missing or broken shingles or slates. A bow in the roof may indicate a framing flaw, especially if there are more than two layers of roofing. To seal flashing can cost about $50. Expect to pay $3,500 for a new wood-shingle roof or $1,500 to $2,200 for asphalt roofing.

Heating and cooling: Check operation and cooling/heating effect, room by room. A new water boiler can cost $2,000 to $2,500; a new warm-air furnace, $1,500 to $1,800; a new air-conditioning compressor, $800 to $1,000.

Plumbing: Look for older galvanized/brass pipes (usually dull silver-bronze in color), poor water pressure and sluggish drains. They can signal the need for a major re-plumbing job. Stains or leaks in ceilings below bathrooms can mean a bad shower pan or the need for re-tiling, new fixtures or re-grouting. A new shower pan costs $900 to $1,600. Re-plumbing an entire house can cost thousands.

It can be a bad mistake to pay for expensive improvements before putting your house on the market. Only if your house has a deficiency that could prevent its being sold should you go the home-improvement route (for example, your kitchen is badly outdated, or your house is in the price range where buyers would normally expect a working fireplace). Improvements almost never pay for themselves, and here are some of the reasons:

1. The buyer may not want your improvement, such as a swimming pool or even a third bedroom. If only one person is buying, or a couple, or one adult with a child, the buyer might be especially interested in a two-bedroom house that`s being sold for significantly less than a three-bedroom.

2. It`s more expensive to add something to a house than it would have cost to put it there in the beginning. When a three-bedroom house is constructed, for example, the third bedroom doesn’t cost as much as adding another bedroom to a two-bedroom house. If you boost your asking price to cover the cost, your house will be significantly pricier than other houses originally constructed with three bedrooms.

3. A house originally built with three bedrooms isn’t structurally or aesthetically the same as a house built with two bedrooms to which a third has been added. The first house will be better proportioned, probably with more spacious rooms (it was constructed with a larger family in mind) and perhaps have more bathrooms.

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From ”How to Sell Your House in a Buyer`s Market” by Martin Shenkman and Warren Boroson (John Wiley and Sons Inc., $14.95).

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