1. First impressions count
It's wise to make a good impression from the moment a potential buyer pulls up to the house, experts say. First glimpses of the home will include the home's exterior, the shrubbery, the gutters and the front door.
Peeling trim could be a kiss of death. Paint the exterior of the home in an odd color and you could lose buyers before they come inside. Don't underestimate the importance of good lawn care, either.
"A lawn that looks good on the outside gives the impression that someone cares about that home," says Trey Rogers, professor of turfgrass management at Michigan State University and author of "Lawn Geek," a book of tips on how to maintain a lawn.
2. Neutralize and declutter
When it comes to preparing a home's interior, real-estate professionals worth their paychecks will advise a client to make a move to more neutral colors .
"People can't visualize beyond what they see,". Neutral colors, including beige and ivory, can also have an added advantage of making a room appear larger.
Removing a home's clutter is also extremely important in getting potential buyers to imagine their family living in the house, Mr. Gillespie adds. Beyond that, do some basic spring cleaning: Shampoo the carpets, rebuff hardwood floors and oil any wood cabinetry, Mr. Lupberger says.
3. Consider replacement projects
Sellers might also consider having a home inspection done prior to listing the home as a way to detect any overdue replacement projects, Mr. Gillespie says. A seller has the option of either fixing the problem or giving the buyer a discount to account for the needed repairs, but Mr. Gillespie is an advocate for making the necessary repairs before selling.
Home buyers recognize the value of a house that doesn't need major repairs, Mr. Alfano says. "The house is probably not going to move, or you're not going to get all the value out it, if the new buyer knows they're going to have to replace the roof sometime soon," he says.
In fact, according to the 2006 "Cost vs. Value" report from Remodeling magazine, a roof replacement for a midrange home had an average cost of $14,276, and returned $10,553, or 73% at resale. A vinyl-siding replacement had an average cost of $9,134, and returned $7,963, or 87% at resale.
4. Kitchens and bathrooms rule
It's no secret that buyers tend to be awed by updated kitchens and bathrooms.
"If the last time it was remodeled was in 1980, that's going to be points against versus another house that was upgraded even five years ago with sort of a modern look," Mr. Alfano says. "It's hard to go wrong with a kitchen or bath remodel unless you get a little too edgy with the design or the materials."
If kitchen cabinets are structurally fine but their exteriors are outdated, it might be worth it to reface them, Mr. Lupberger says. If counters are old, replacing them will add new life to the room.
5. Warranty coverage and documentation
Sellers can provide some extra peace of mind to buyers by purchasing a home warranty on their home that will cover such things as heating and plumbing should the buyer run into problems after closing. The coverage is getting a bit more popular nowadays, Mr. Gillespie says. Warranties can be bought from companies including American Home Shield and Aon.
Mr. Gillespie also recommends displaying the age of the water heater and furnace; if either one is on the older side, have it inspected for proof that it works correctly. Also, explain if any home improvements have produced a cost savings in terms of energy usage, Mr. Alfano says.