Major renovations, strong photos attract buyers

092712 Atlanta,GA: Stanford andJoanne Miller(cq) sale story home photo: 995 Arbor Forest Way, Marietta.(Christopher Oquendo/Special)



092712 Atlanta,GA: Stanford andJoanne Miller(cq) sale story home photo: 995 Arbor Forest Way, Marietta.(Christopher Oquendo/Special)

Name: Joanne Miller

The home: A three-bedroom, two-bath home built in 1988.

Where: Marietta's Arbor Forest neighborhood

Why she sold: Miller bought the ranch home in May 2012 and worked with Bruce Chastain of Chastain Contracting to renovate the Cobb County property. They turned a "not-so-nice, dilapidated house" into a home that they expected would attract a young family or older buyers who are downsizing. "Our goal is to take a distressed property and turn it into the move-in ready home," Miller said.

Time on market: 69 days

Original price: $175,000

Sale price: $170,000

What it took: About $50,000-$60,000 in renovations that included knocking down walls to redesign the kitchen and bathrooms. They also installed a new roof, heating and air conditioning system, hardwood floors, carpet, low-flow toilets, landscaping, windows, and plumbing and light fixtures. Granite countertops, new cabinets, stainless steel appliances, self-cleaning ovens and travertine backsplash in the kitchen, as well as tile in the bathrooms and marble on the fireplace in the living room, helped the existing property look like a new home. The home's level of finishes was a couple of steps up from builder-grade materials found in new construction, Miller said.

Although they didn’t have much furniture in the home, they did some simple staging. Accent pieces such as towels and candles created a spa-like feeling in the bathroom, and in the kitchen, they brought in flowers and place settings at the bar. “Definitely the kitchens and bathrooms had that wow effect,” she said.

Potential stumbling block: The timing. They finished renovations and put the property on the market in August, after school started. "I think probably the best time is spring and summer so people can get into the school system they want to be in," she said.

When they dropped the price to $170,000, they received multiple offers in mid-October 2012, and sold the home in November 2012. The buyer they chose presented the best offer, in terms of only asking them to pay $2,000 in closing costs. It also was “endearing” to hear from the Realtor how the buyer’s children were so excited about it possibly being their home that they were running around the home, she said.

Seller's hint: Use a professional photographer. Their agent, Virginia Moran of Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Perimeter, made sure the images for the brochure and online listing were compelling to buyers. The photos should reflect the home at its best, so clean the rooms and even put down the toilet seat when taking photos in the bathrooms.