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Getting Ready to Sell? Professional Advice on the Projects that Command Top Dollar

Getting Ready to Sell? Professional Advice on the Projects that Command Top Dollar

Tracy McLaughlin is a real estate agent who works with some of the nation's dreamiest of dream homes. (I admit to spending far too much time fantasizing about a certain listing: A multimillion-dollar midcentury with a blue lagoon pool, old-growth trees along with views of San Francisco and Sausalito.) But sometimes, even incredibly luxurious properties need a little extra help in finding a buyer —and that's where Tracy's talent for redesigning properties comes in handy.

Combining an eye for trends in the market and a knowledge of what improvements generate the most return, Tracy is able to pinpoint the design changes that help buyers see the real potential of a home. Even though she's working with luxury properties, her key changes often address such universal issues as color schemes (exterior and interior) and overall curb appeal. Tracy shared her expertise on the changes that will pay off the most, whether you're looking to sell this summer or a few years down the road.

- New paint provides the highest ROI, for interiors and exteriors.

It's worth it to go through the time, effort and expense. This is especially true for the exterior. If you're looking for the hot palette right now, Tracy recommends white on white. "It creates a very 'modern beach house' feel that people love because it is clean, sophisticated and timeless," she says. Just look at what a difference it made in the below property, along with paring back a bit of the landscaping.

The combination of a new color scheme, lighter landscaping and changes to the floorplan helped this home sell for well over the asking price.

- Speaking of paint: Interior walls should always be white.

"People are so particular about color that one colorful room can totally turn off an otherwise viable buyer," Tracy says.

- Install new wall to wall carpeting.

Believe it or not, carpet can be even more distracting to a potential buyer than a loud color on the walls. "It is very difficult for potential buyers to see past dingy carpet, and new carpet can automatically lift the life of a room," Tracy says.

- Stain blonde wood floors.

"This color is not at the top of most people's lists," she says. "Taking blood wood into either a darker gray or chocolate palette is relatively easy and provides a huge ROI as it helps a property sell much faster."

- Change your kitchen counters and cabinets.

However, this doesn't have to be too pricey. "People think that resurfacing counters is really expensive but it isn't," she said. "I find that resurfacing counters and painting out wood cabinets can go such a long way to modernizing the look and feel of a kitchen and providing a great ROI."

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