Home selling tips: How to lure young buyers to your old home

The 307-year-old Mill Neck Colonial on Beaver Brook The 307-year-old Mill Neck Colonial on Beaver Brook Road in Mill Neck, was being listed for sale in January 2013 for $3.275 million. Photo Credit: Kevin J. Wohlers

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Selling any home can be challenging, depending on the market. But if you have an old home and want to appeal to buyers in their 20s and early 30s, you may need to take some extra steps.

First, you'll need to assuage the fears of those young buyers about maintaining a home that was around during the real "Mad Men" days. Second, you'll need to showcase the features that have the most appeal to young couples and families. The following eight tips won't cost a lot of money, and they could reap you an early offer.

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1. Pre-inspect your home. One of the most difficult decisions for home sellers is to figure out how much to spend on home improvements before putting the house on the market.

"I always recommend paying for a home inspection, especially if the owners are elderly and have not had the money or energy to keep the house in good repair," says Lane Tharp, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dunwoody, Ga. "An inspection will help determine if there's anything that absolutely must be done before putting the house on the market."

In addition to a general home inspection, Debby Strott, manager of Weichert Realtors' Morristown West office in Morristown, N .J., recommends that homeowners get the heating and air-conditioning system cleaned and inspected. She suggests having septic systems pumped.

2. Buy a home warranty. Strott recommends that sellers buy home warranties that cover repairs for the systems (electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling) and appliances in the home. Most home warranties are available as one-year policies and provide coverage while the property is on the market and after the closing.

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A home warranty costs around $300 to $400 and reassures buyers that they won't be faced with a major repair expense in their first year of homeownership, Strott says.

3. Offer a possible expansion or renovation plan. "Most Realtors know a contractor, so it would be fairly simple for a Realtor to get a ballpark estimate of sample fit-and-finish renovation projects such as replacing the flooring or renovating a bathroom," says Scott Lacey, a renovation specialist with Weichert Financial Services in North Providence, R.I. "Younger buyers don't always realize that everything they see can be changed with a renovation."

Sellers can pay for simple drawings that show some renovation options that would work well with the home's configuration and its lot.

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4. Provide renovation-loan information. Mortgages are available that allow homebuyers to borrow money to buy the home plus money to pay for renovations. The most popular renovation-mortgage program is called the FHA 203(k). The loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

"Younger buyers who are looking at homes that are 20 or 30 years old are likely to look at the kitchen and baths and want to renovate," Lacey says. "A seller can provide information about an FHA 203(k) loan with their marketing materials to show buyers that they can wrap renovation costs into their mortgage."

5. Offer a credit for repairs. "Sellers don't always have the money or the energy to make repairs themselves, and besides, some buyers will want to do renovations their own way," Strott says. "You can offer a credit back for repairs, and suggest to buyers that your home could be an opportunity for them to make it reflect their own personality."

While repair credits are often part of the negotiating process, if you know some things will need fixing, you can provide information about the credit upfront to prospective buyers, so they know they won't have to pay for a new furnace as soon as they move in.

6. Lighten and brighten your home. "Homes that were built decades ago are darker with smaller windows, so to compensate for that, you need to remove the heavy window treatments and clean the windows to make sure as much light as possible is coming in," Tharp says. "Use the brightest light bulbs you can and update your light fixtures."

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Trim shrubs covering windows, remove old carpet from hardwood floors and remove dark, heavy furniture.

7. Highlight neighborhood amenities. Younger buyers often are interested in schools, even if they don't have children yet, Tharp says.

"Your marketing materials should mention everything that appeals to young couples and families such as the location near commuter routes or public transportation, swimming pools, tennis courts, a gym, or nearby shops and restaurants," Tharp says. "You need to think about what young buyers are most interested in, and then market your house accordingly."

8. Paint your home in neutral colors. The old rule of thumb used to be that sellers were supposed to paint their rooms white in order to appeal to all buyers. These days, white rooms tend to look boring, especially to younger buyers. Tharp says buyers like neutral colors other than white.

"Young buyers like what I call Pottery Barn colors," says Strott. "Check out their stores or a catalog, and you'll see the palette has soft earth tones, off-whites, beige and pale gray. You don't want superpersonal color choices, but you can go with a neutral and a contrasting trim color."


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Mortgage rates fell the week of Feb. 28, 2013 after Italy's inconclusive election results shook financial markets around the world.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 7 basis points to 3.73 percent. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 6 basis points to 2.96 percent. The average rate for 30-year jumbo mortgages, or generally for those of more than $417,000, fell 11 basis points to 4.1 percent.

The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell 8 basis points to 2.68 percent. With a 5/1 ARM, the rate is fixed for five years and adjusted annually thereafter.

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