#35: DeclutterPeople won't buy a house if they can't see the square footage, so clear it out and clean it up. "Clutter gives the perception that there's not enough storage in the house," says real estate expert Shannon Freeman of the L.A. team.
A basic rule of thumb to decide whether or not something is clutter is "if you can't sit on it, it's not decoration, and you can't eat it, it's clutter," says designer Lisa LaPorta, also of the L.A. team.
#34: Clean Up to Clean UpNo one wants to buy a dirty house, so take care of things like grimy shower doors, mold and dead bugs in light fixtures. "The cheapest thing you can do when getting your house ready for the market is to clean," says designer Monica Pedersen of the Chicago team.
"It costs nothing, it's easy to do and it will make the difference as to whether or not you'll sell," adds designer Lisa LaPorta.
A common place for dirt buildup is in kitchen tile, so carpenter Steve Hanneman of the L.A. team offers this great tip: "All you have to do is get yourself a little scraper, scrape out the old grout, and then you just kind of glaze it over with some new grout and wipe it down with a sponge."
#33: Fix It or Forget ItComplete unfinished projects so as not to scare off potential buyers. "Deferred maintenance — for example, large cracks in your sidewalks on the way up to the door — send red flags to buyers," says designer Monica Pedersen.
"It costs you less to fix it than buyers might deduct from their asking price. So do the math, and fix it yourself," adds designer Lisa LaPorta.
"I think what intimidates most homeowners is the scope of what they make it. Let's say for instance a floor. You can replace damaged pieces of plank by buying the same stock and cutting out little sections of it, securing it with a few brad nails and refinishing it to match your existing finish," explains carpenter Deus Xavier Scott. "It's easily done — it probably takes only a couple of hours."
#32: Go NeutralBold wall colors reduce offers, so go with neutral paint colors instead. "Painting your home has got to be up there on the chart rundown of tips because it is something we can all do," said host Clive Pearse.
"Paint is essentially money in a can," adds designer Lisa LaPorta.
#31: Design to SmellNothing is worse than a smelly home, so make it fresh. "Before an open house, open up all of the windows and air the house out. Boil cinnamon, bake cookies, bake bread — do anything you can to have the air smelling fresh and clean,"
advises designer Lisa LaPorta.
Carpenter Chad Lopez offers another idea for bringing in some pleasant scents: "You can actually buy, from the paint store, scent packets, which you add to the paint before you paint the walls. As time goes by, they will gradually release a scent."
#30: Clear It Out and Clean It Up"I would say just generally, across the nation, springtime is the best time to sell your house," says real estate expert Shannon Freeman of the L.A. team.
"Especially in a city like Chicago," adds real estate expert Bethany Souza of the Chicago team. "We've been hibernating all year, and the second there's buds on the trees and spring weather comes out, people want to get out and they want to buy homes."
#24: Fire up the Fireplace"Once you've cleared your yard, it's just really important to get those planter beds full and to have bursting color everywhere you can, as much as you can afford," advises designer Lisa LaPorta.
"We do our show on the East Coast, so it's a good idea to have alternative suggestions for things that you can do in the winter," adds designer Taniya Nayak of the Washington, D.C., team. "It's a good idea to use red mulch around a tree to really emphasize the tree and add a punch of color."
#28: Embrace Your Architecture"If your home has historical or architectural significance, work with it," says designer Monica Pedersen. "We did a great Chicago bungalow. When we improved the curb appeal, we had very little to do, but what we did was keep within the Chicago bungalow guidelines. What we were then able to do was to have it certified. We put a plaque on the wall — huge selling point in this town.
#27: Opportunity KnocksMake a good first impression with your front door.
"Since the front door is the first thing that buyers touch, it's important to have yours in tiptop shape," says host Clive Pearse.
#26: Deck It OutImproving your backyard and deck will lead to big bucks. Make it feel like a room that just happens to be outside.
"People are buying square footage, so tend to your backyard and make it a usable space," advises designer Toniya Nayak.
#25: Have Them at HelloYou have 10 seconds to make a first impression, so make it count. "Selling a home is a lot like getting a date," says host Michael Johnson. "That first impression is big and just like that, it could be over — just like dating."
"Make sure nothing hits them in the face but good things," says real estate expert Donna Freeman of the L.A. team.
"What a seller needs to do is stand at the threshold of their front door, and it's really difficult, but sellers really need to be objective and really judge themselves as a buyer would," adds daughter Shannon Freeman, also of the L.A. team.
#24: Fire up the FireplaceMaking this important feature standout will put money in your pocket. One simple way to do this is to paint just the fireplace wall an accent color, says designer Lisa LaPorta. The color should complement the material of the fireplace itself.
"At the end of the day, if I can come home and sit down in front of a roaring fire, then I'm in a whole new happy place," Carpenter Robert North.
#23: Furnish for SellingGood furniture placement can help show off a room and makes a huge impact as a buyer walks through, says real estate expert Terry Haas from the Washington, D.C., team.
"If you want to make a room look bigger, pull the furniture off the wall because people are allowed to see the perimeter of the room, and it creates the illusion of a larger space," adds designer Lisa LaPorta from the L.A. team.
#22: The Money's in the DetailsCrown molding and other details add character and value to your home. "Crown molding is a great thing to do to a room. It's relatively inexpensive — you can spend as little as 50 cents a lineal foot — and it really adds a lot of value, so it's worth it," notes designer Lisa LaPorta.
"People are not going to make an offer and say 'I like that house and I'm going to buy it because it has crown molding,' but it's just one of those little unspoken things that make your house just above the pack," adds real estate expert Donna Freeman.
#21: Design to DineCreate a well-defined space for eating. "The best way to define the space (is to) bring in your table and chairs, naturally, and then bring in a light fixture. Bring in a chandelier, something different, something special," advises designer Monica Pedersen from the Chicago team.
#20: Know Your CompetitionScope out other houses for sale in your neighborhood. "If you want to get top dollar, you better be the top house in the neighborhood. The only way you're going to know that is if you go out and you actually go to other open houses. Check out your competition and make sure you're ahead of the pack," says real estate expert Bethany Souza of the Chicago team.
"You can see how other agents are marketing the homes. You can listen to buyers' conversations as they're walking through the house, and you can see what's really important to buyers out there," adds real estate expert Shannon Freeman from the L.A. team.
#19: Pare it DownRemove distracting, unnecessary furniture from the bedroom. "Bedrooms need to send a signal of relaxation and comfort, not where you're doing your work, not where you're storing everything," notes designer Monica Pedersen. "If you have multiple purposes in one room, people are going to think there aren't enough rooms in the house for you and there won't be for them. When in doubt, take it out," adds designer Lisa LaPorta.
#18: Make it all About the BedHeadboards draw attention to a bed and make a bedroom feel fancy. "When a buyer walks into a master bedroom, they are expecting to see luxury, to see comfort, to see elegance," says real estate expert Bethany Souza.
"I look at the master bedroom as really being the lion. That is the formidable master bedroom, so you have visions of grandeur when going into a master bedroom," adds real estate expert Shirley Mattam-Male of the Washington, D.C., team.
#17: Create Instant LuxuryCoordinating bedding and window treatments add instant style and class to a bedroom. "If you feel like you're not a designer and you're not good at pulling together a room, just go to a great bedding store, buy bedding and from the bedding, pull out a paint color and get matching window treatments. It will instantly look like a high-end hotel suite, and it's a no brainer," advises designer Lisa LaPorta.
#16: Clear the ClosetOrganize closets to show off storage space. Buyers are looking for storage space, so they will look inside your closets. Clear out excess items, and organize the shelves to show off how much storage you really have.
#15: Price it to Sell, Not to SitDon't alienate buyers by pricing your home too high. "You run the risk of scaring off buyers and having that home sit on the market for far too long and becoming stale," notes real estate expert Bethany Souza.
Shannon Freeman adds, "You want to have a very small gap between the listed price and the sales price. That's your goal. So when you get ready to price your house, it should be where you think it's going to sell."
#14: Use High-End MaterialsBathrooms are small, so buying high-end materials like granite and marble won't break the bank. "When choosing materials it's OK to splurge a little because you don't need a lot. It will look great and it's perceived to have a high value," says designer Lisa LaPorta.
If money is an issue, do it yourself. Putting in tile is a good example of a DIY job. "It isn't as difficult as it looks," says carpenter Steve Hanneman. "Give yourself a nice, smooth prep surface and then put down your mortar. Slap the tiles down in place with some spacers and then grout over it."
#13: Primp Your VanityDress up an old vanity with paint or stain and new hardware. "Vanities are really the only piece of furniture in a bathroom, so you need to pay attention to them. If they look outdated, it's going to look like you're bathroom is dated, says designer Lisa LaPorta.
Carpenter Robert North adds, "If you're going to paint it, come back with a good primer and a good enamel paint because it's going to be in a wet area. You can't put a flat paint because when it gets wet, it will run right off."
#12: Don't Pour Money Down the DrainClean up old shower doors and dirty tubs for a sparkling sale. "Tub refinishing is a great improvement to make, and it saves you a lot of money in labor because you don't have to pay someone to rip out your old bathtub. It usually costs around $250, and that's a great investment, says designer Lisa LaPorta.
#11: Whisk Them AwayAccessorize your bathroom to make buyers feel like they are in a spa. Put out items like rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles. It's a great way to create a polished look and it doesn't cost a lot to do.
#10: Cook up Your KitchenKitchen upgrades will bring you the biggest returns on your money. The kitchen is considered by many to be the heart of the home, so it can really make or break a sale.
"If you want to put money into your home before you sell, put it into the kitchen," advises real estate expert Donna Freeman of the L.A. team.
"Even very modest improvements can really bring you a lot of money for your investment," adds daughter and fellow real estate expert Shannon Freeman.
#9: Reheat Your CabinetsPaint or stain old cabinets to make them look new again. "If you want to make your kitchen look new, take about $100 and buy some stain, some sealer, some new hardware, and you can make your cabinets look new — huge payoff for little money," says designer Lisa LaPorta of the L.A. team.
The best paint to use is either a high-gloss or an enamel because it dries hard and it makes cleanup easy.
#8: Use Counter IntelligenceUpdating the most important surface in your kitchen is a must. "If you want to sell your house, you can not have grungy old kitchen countertops. (Buyers) want to move into the kitchen and chop food on the countertops. If your countertops are not food-chopping ready, you need to change them," warns designer Lisa LaPorta. "If you don't have a big budget, check with local sources to see if you can find granite remnants. Also, a lot of places sell pre-fabricated countertops, and you can get them for as little as about $150 for an eight-foot piece."
#7: Apply YourselfYou can't go wrong by installing updated kitchen appliances. "If you buy new appliances for your kitchen, you will get that money back when you sell," designer Lisa LaPorta said. "If you don't want to spend the money, then wrap the appliances with laminate sheeting. Just clean the surface, cut it to size and apply."
#6: Open Up and Say OffersOpen floor plans are super popular. Sometimes a wall may need to be knocked down to make it happen, but it can be done safely if a few simple rules are followed. "As crazy as it sounds, it's not that big of a deal, unless it's a load-bearing wall. Then it can get tricky," says carpenter Steve Hanneman of the L.A. team.
"Make sure you hire someone to tell you if it's a load-bearing wall," adds carpenter Deus Scott, also of the L.A. team.
#5: Go with the FlowGiving a mishmash home a sense of flow can enable home sellers to rake in big bucks and buy a new home. Open it up from the front door right through to the dining room and then onto the deck.
#4: From Trash to TreasureA repurposed junk room, like the one above that was turned into an office, can bring a huge payoff for homeowners. "Square footage is at a premium when selling a home, so every room counts and every foot counts. Usable space is key," says real estate expert Bethany Souza of the Chicago team.
#3: Match the Book to its Cover#3: Match the book to its cover.
Updating some tired and disappointing features might just lead to a big sale. Make sure the inside of a house looks just as nice as the outside.
#2: Complete the PictureFinishing unfinished projects can bring big bucks once the home is on the market. "You're more likely to get top dollar if your house is move-in ready," says LaPorta.
#1: Go Over the TopMaking key upgrades to a home that is already in good shape can lead to an over-the-top sale, so go ahead, take it up a notch. "You don't have to spend a fortune to fix up a space. Take what you have and make it better," advises designer Taniya Nayak of the Washington, D.C., team.