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Sellers can move property faster and make more money with some inexpensive improvements

With the real estate market slowing in many communities, sellers who spend a small amount of time and money it takes to put their property in top condition can be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher price.
With the real estate market slowing in many communities, sellers who spend a small amount of time and money it takes to put their property in top condition can be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher price. Staff

DEAR MR. MYERS: What does it mean when a home is advertised as a “red ribbon” deal?

ANSWER: In most areas, a home that’s called a “red ribbon” is in such near-perfect condition and so pretty that you could figuratively tie a ribbon around it, put a big bow on top and leave it under a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush.

With the real estate market starting to slow in many communities, sellers who spend the relatively small amount of time and money it takes to put their property in top condition can be rewarded with a faster sale and a top-dollar price.

This means giving the home a fresh coat of paint both inside and out, and shampooing the carpet — if not replacing it altogether. The landscaping should be well-manicured, and the house must be sparkling clean.

Turning a house into a red-ribbon property also means fixing all those little problems that sellers have simply learned to live with but that can be big turn-offs for prospective buyers. These include a leaky faucet, a cracked window pane, or doors that squeak or don’t close properly.

Sellers who are using an agent to market their property should ask the agent for a list of suggested improvements, and then make them.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Officials in New Zealand have approved a law that prohibits foreigners from buying homes or other types of residential property in their country, hoping that the ban will curb the sharp increases in values there and instead make homes more affordable for its own citizens.

DEAR MR. MYERS: The closets in our home always smell musty and stale this time of year. I’ve tried just about everything to try to solve this problem, but nothing works. Do you have any ideas?

ANSWER: I used to have the same problem in my house. It happens when warm, humid air gets trapped inside a small enclosed space, such as a closet, unused bedroom or even a basement.

I’m no expert when it comes to solving such issues, but Carolyn Forte is. She’s the director of Good Housekeeping magazine’s GH Cleaning Lab and admits that she, too, has had similar problems.

Forte suggest that you try cracking open the door to your closets so that cooler air can circulate, and that you remove any clothes that you rarely use to allow for better airflow.

To eliminate mild odors, place an open box or a bowl of baking soda on a shelf and replace the powder monthly.

For stronger smells, Forte says, you’ll need a closet dehumidifier. Small, nonelectric ones are available at most homeimprovement stores and big-box retailers for as little as $10.

Forte is fond of the Willert airBOSS Dry Zone dehumidifier. It’s a sleeve of calcium chloride beads that turn to gel as they absorb moisture. Just place the beads on a shelf or hang them on a rod; when the beads disappear and turn to gel, simply slip in an inexpensive refill.

DEAR MR. MYERS: If we want to refinance our current mortgage, would we be required to use the bank that gave us our original loan, or could we use a totally different lender?

ANSWER: You can select any lender you want to handle the refinance. You aren’t required to use the same bank that gave you the loan to buy the home.

Nonetheless, you should at least call your current lender and see what kind of deal it will offer. Most lenders today are anxious to retain their existing customers, and they’re willing to make special money-saving offers to keep a borrower from choosing a different bank to handle a refinance.

My sister recently took advantage of an unadvertised refinancing offer from her current lender that allowed her to cut her mortgage rate by more than one full percentage point without paying a single penny for closing costs.

The deal trimmed nearly $150 off of her monthly payments, but she wouldn’t have known about the plan if she had not contacted her original lender first.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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