Learn how you can improve a house to make it sell quickly. Find out how buyers are most concerned with kitchens, baths and decks, and how to make your space look larger and more practical.
LESLIE: Ruth in Rhode Island listens on WPRO. And you’re thinking of moving , huh?
RUTH: Yes, I’m trying to help out my son. I helped him buy his first house and he’d like to move on in the spring. However, being a buyer’s market, we’re a little concerned because the builder – it was a spec home  and he forgot to build a dining area or an eat-in kitchen.
TOM: How do you forget to build a dining area? (chuckling)
RUTH: Well, he – really, seriously, he built stairs to go down to the basement …
RUTH: … which is finished. However, there’s just no place in the kitchen for a dining area.
RUTH: The living room – it’s a 38x24 50s ranch. It has – the living room would be invaded if you put like a dining area in there. It would look strange.
RUTH: So, should he – if he goes to sell it in the spring, should he advertise it as a two bedroom and try to make one of the bedrooms into a dining area? Or what (inaudible) …
TOM: So what you’re saying is that you don’t have a formal dining room. You have a kitchen but you don’t have a formal place for a dining table?
TOM: Is it possible that you could create …
LESLIE: Yeah but …
TOM: … for example, like a pass through; where you have like a half-wall and an extended kitchen counter  where people who could kind of sit up against that?
LESLIE: Yeah, I mean open plans are so much more popular these days. And if you do sort of separate an area – even with a half wall, like Tom is suggesting – just to, you know, delineate the two rooms.
RUTH: The living room is kind of long and narrow. He has – they have those like the see-through window through the kitchen to the living room.
RUTH: However, that really isn’t an option because there’s really no area to put a dining area. He’d have to cut out the wall going into the next room.
TOM: Well look, I would – there are certain things, Ruth, that you do that give you a good return on investment  and certain things that you don’t do. Obviously, your son bought the house. It wasn’t a big deal for him. There are going to be people out there, buyers out there that are just fine with the fact that it doesn’t have a dining room.
TOM: What you might want to concentrate – or rather than spend your money in there – is on some more of the basics; especially in a tough market. First of all, the improvements that give you the best return on investment and that buyers are most interested in are kitchens , baths  and decks . So you want to make sure your kitchen and your bath certainly are in good, clean, workable condition. The next thing that you want to do is make sure that you eliminate as much storage as possible in the house before you put it on the market in a tough market like this because people are looking for homes that have a lot of space and if your house is crowded because you’ve outgrown it, that’s not going to be very attractive.
LESLIE: Along those same lines, Ruth, if you – if you’re able to have the furniture out of the house …
LESLIE: … so that that living room is just open and then as you advertise and as you show the house say, “This is the living room/dining room” and allow the new owner to sort of figure for themselves …
TOM: Yeah, good point.
LESLIE: … how to divvy up the space because – I mean every apartment I had before I bought my own, we split the living room, you know, regardless of its size, to be …
LESLIE: … a formal dining area and a living area, whether or not the couch backed up – you know, faced its back to the dining area and just sort of created two separate spaces with a walk-through in the center. You know, there are ways to set up furniture in a smart way.
RUTH: That sounds very good.
LESLIE: So if you sort of give it a blank slate, you’re, you know, already suggesting, “This is the two rooms in one and …” you know. And if they ask, you know, just come up with a plan how you’d laid out the furniture.
TOM: And the other thing that you might want to think about doing, Ruth, before you put it on the market, have a professional home inspection  done because the new buyer is certainly going to do that. And if you have the inspection done up front, you’re going to be able to determine any problems that need fixing before you have a buyer under contract. And also, you can hand that report, gladly, over to the new buyer. It’s kind of like a pedigree that says that the home was properly constructed and well maintained.
RUTH: Thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re very welcome.