Pre-retirement sale happens quickly

Name: Jean and Steve Kerr

The home: A five-bedroom, 4 1/2 bath home built in 1998

Where: Marietta's Lake Crest Estates

Why they sold: The couple had finished their beach home in March 2010 (They also have a home in the North Georgia mountains.). "Those will be our retirement homes," said Steve, 56, an intellectual property attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. "We said, 'Let's just test the market and see what happens.' Honestly, I thought it would sit on the market for a year."

Time on market: Four days

Original price: $810,000

Sale price: $785,000

What it took: When they bought the house seven years ago, the couple made changes that they believed would help it sell later. "The house was quality when we bought it, and we continued that, so the upkeep and maintenance for seven years was with the intent of selling it at resale," said Jean, 56, who has worked as a caterer. Already going for the home was the master on the main and sought-after Walton High School district, and the neighborhood had a pool and tennis courts.

When they bought the home, they looked at details of homes in the next price range and added those features. Updates in the basement, for example, included crown molding, a wine cellar and home theater. “My hobby is woodworking, so we were able to put a lot of sweat equity into the house,” Steve said. They also put new gutters on the house about three years ago and installed an outdoor lighting system and a deck with a hot tub.

A year before they put it on the market, they began to remove the clutter, which the Kerrs say should be the No. 1 thing for sellers to do. Their real estate agent, Al Maxwell with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, suggested they take down all their personal photos. “I removed everything that made it me,” Jean said.

Potential stumbling block: Some nearby houses were short sales, which the couple was concerned could bring down the appraisal. The home appraised for $785,000. The first offer -- the same day the house went on the market -- was a lowball attempt at $695,000. "We didn't respond to that offer at all. The next day, the offer that we accepted came in at $785,000," Steve said. They closed in June.

Seller's hint: Make updates that will help the home compete with more expensive homes. At closing, the buyer told them his wife had said she had felt a craftsman lived there and she could tell the sellers loved the home. "That was a very big compliment to me because I think that is important in selling a house. You have to love it to let it go," Jean said. The couple bought a town home in Atlanta's One River Place development (located inside I-285 on Powers Ferry Road).