Existing home sales are on the rise, up 9 percent from last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. Now that buyers are back in the market, read these practical tips to add value to your home so you can get the best possible sale price.
Stage your property
According to a NAR report, 81 percent of real estate agents agree it's easier for a buyer to visualize a staged property as a future home. The median cost of staging a home is just $675, so it might be well worth the investment for many home sellers.
You'll receive the biggest bang for your buck by staging the living room, followed by the kitchen, master bedroom and dining room, according to the report. The bathrooms, children's bedrooms and guest bedroom ranked lowest in priority on the report's list.
Create a digital home history
Buyers today seek homes that are move-in ready and well-maintained. New online services like HomeZada allow a seller to create an online digital footprint that details a home's maintenance records, floor plans, warranty documents and homeowner's association information. If you have properly maintained your home, an online digital footprint can enable you to showcase your efforts while allowing potential buyers to fully appreciate the home's maintenance history.
Boost your curb appeal
How a home looks from the outside has a huge effect on how many potential buyers walk through the front door. Carrie-Denise Cheshire, owner of the Home Staging Institute in Portland, Ore., suggested inexpensive outdoor improvements like a freshly painted front door (she likes red), a new mailbox and well-maintained landscaping. She also recommended power washing the sidewalks and driveways, clearing any clutter from the front porch, and removing any decorative flags or affiliate signage.
Upgrade your kitchen
A minor kitchen remodel offers a high likelihood of recouping the investment, according to a 2015 study by Remodeling Magazine. The most important kitchen features for home buyers include new appliances and an eat-in arrangement, NAR reported. Granite countertops and stainless steel kitchen appliances also ranked high.
"Kitchens sell homes," said Cheshire. She suggested updating window treatments as an inexpensive remedy for a dated kitchen. "I recommend natural wood blinds, which you can custom order for $100 or less for most windows," she said.
She also suggested a coat of glossy, white paint to liven up a dark kitchen or dated wood cabinets as well as inexpensive new flooring options like tile or bamboo. "New flooring can make a dramatic improvement," she said.
Create a clutter-free oasis
Organization and cleanliness give off the impression a home has been well-maintained. An unmade bed, cluttered toy room or dusty drapes can give the opposite impression. Tidy rooms also appear larger.
Kelly Hager, CEO of The Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Service in St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo., said the house should be spotless before any showing. "Wipe down your baseboards, wipe down your cabinets, and dust everything, including cold air vents," she said.
Make your walls pretty
Many homeowners are so used to looking at the walls of their homes that they often don't even realize that their wall treatments have become dated or faded. Most wallpapers and bright paint colors also can be turnoffs for many buyers.
"If you have wallpaper in your home, remove it," said Hager. "Buyers do not like wallpaper." Instead, consider an option with a broader appeal, like a neutral-colored paint.
Old carpet can be an eyesore for prospective home buyers and a potential hazard for those with allergies. Hardwood floors are preferred by many home buyers -- 54 percent are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring, according to data from the NAR -- but other hard surfaces can fare well, too.
Ceramic tile flooring does well in hot climates, and, for homeowners on a tighter budget, laminate can give the look of hardwood without the hefty price tag. For homes with hardwood floors already installed, refinishing them can add value to the home and yield impressive results; the cost depends on the size of the space and condition of the flooring.