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Based on the book: 

Keeping Your Home Market-Ready: Where Should the Money Go?

As a specialist in both home sales and Masters rentals, I visit MANY homes in the Augusta area. There are key features I am looking for during each visit, features that make a home both inviting for the current owners and easily marketable for a weekly rental or a permanent sale. Your home is your most valuable asset. So where should your money go?

1. Upkeep. Fix things as they break. Don't let a leak, a broken oven, a dripping faucet sit there. Replace ceiling bulbs as they go out. Tackle carpet stains as they happen. It is easy to get complacent in one's living space, but backtracking on dozens of fixes is much harder than keeping on top of them.

2. Curb appeal. Is your yard in order? Bushes trimmed? Grass cut? Siding mold free? Front door washed? Dead plants removed? I am always surprised at how many homes greet visitors with moldy paint and dying plants. Make it a once a month task to look at your front porch and wash down any moldy areas. Replace your welcome mat when it becomes tattered.

3. Your Kitchen. Not all of us can have showroom style kitchens, but there are some affordable changes that can update a kitchen and make it sparkle. If you can't afford granite countertops, look into some of the newer 3-D laminate countertops, which are a cost-effective way of updating an old kitchen. Add a tile backsplash to your stove area. Paint older cabinets and update them with modern handles. Keep your surfaces clutter free by clearing out what you don't need on hand. Holiday platters and once a year cooking tools can be stored in an attic or garage until needed. Remember that your cabinetry needs to be wiped down regularly for fingerprints, grease spatters, and crumbs.

4. The Master Bedroom. This area is easily updated with little cost. Keep abreast of modern colors and bedding. A neutral wall color and neutral bed linens can immediately update a room. Clear the room of unnecessary clutter. Store off season clothing in roll out tubs under your bed. Organize your drawer space so that there is little on dressers and nightstands.

5. The Master Bath. Most homes have baths that need updating...and it occurs in places most homeowners aren't looking. Replacing dated faucets and lighting is a good first goal. A 50.00 bath faucet and 75.00 light fixture will immediately update a bath. Pair that with a new modern mirror for 50.00 and the room can look brand new. Add in fresh towels, pretty organizers for soaps, etc...and new bath mats and a room can look instantly updated.

6. Your backyard. Today's trend is to have an outdoor room which draws the eye from inside into a welcoming world outside. You don't have to spend a fortune to create this. Walmart and Lowes have reasonably priced outdoor seating areas. Choose basic colors that compliment the interior of your inside and perk up the scene with decorative pillows and potted plants. Think about what is seen from inside. Could you move a swingset to a less noticeable part of the yard? Could you add a pretty umbrella that picks up the colors of your indoor areas and draws the eye out? What "pictures" of the outdoors are your windows creating from inside?

Walk your home as a visitor. How could it be more inviting? Keep a list of things that need to be tended to. Keep a second list of things you wish you could do and watch for sales, watch DIY shows, but most importantly, keep your home in working order, as up to date as your budget allows, and inviting....even if it's just for you. You deserve it.

Laurie Easterlin is a home stager and professional Masters preparation specialist. To learn more about her services, please visit:

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