You may already know the basics about prepping a home for sale to make the most profit possible—apply fresh paint…clear out clutter…let in lots of light…and, budget permitting, update antiquated bathrooms and kitchens.

But other powerful strategies for prepping a home for sale often are overlooked…and new value-adding strategies have emerged in recent years, in part because of changing buyer preferences. These modifications also make the home more enjoyable for you until you do move out.

Make the right changes and you might boost your home’s price by 3% to 7%—maybe more if you invest wisely in some bigger-ticket modifications.

Eight new and little-used strategies for prepping a home for sale in today’s real estate market…

Install some basic home-automation tech. In the past, home owners who invested in technology that let them control elements of their homes via remote control or a smartphone tended to get little or none of this investment back when they sold.

Today, however, this kind of home tech might return its cost many times over. In part, that’s because the cost of these devices has dropped…but it’s also because installing these items can subtly shift buyers’ perceptions of your entire home.

Homes that have this tech are more likely to be viewed as up to date…while those that lack it are more likely to seem out of date. And it’s more important than ever for homes to seem up to date when they go on the market because an increasing percentage of home buyers belong to younger generations who put great value on technology and modernity. Examples of home-automation tech: The Nest Learning Thermostat ($199) and “smart” door locks such as Schlage Sense (available for $199) and Kwikset Kevo (available for $168).

Paint every interior wall that can be seen from your home’s main entrance the same color. Decorators often recommend using different paint in different rooms or even on different walls in the same room. That can make a home more visually compelling…but more difficult to sell. When every wall within eyeshot of the home’s entryway is painted the same color, it creates visual “flow”—each room seems to draw visitors into the next. It creates a warm, welcoming first impression for buyers entering the house for the first time. When each room feels connected to the next, it makes the entire space feel larger, too.

Use off-white or beige paint for these entryway-visible rooms. Certainly, other paint options are more stylish and compelling, but they can be divisive and alienating. If you plan to sell soon, it is best to make the safe paint choice. Create visual interest in these rooms with brightly colored area rugs…throw pillows…furniture…and/or lamp shades.

Display positive words as wall art. You know you should take down your family photos before potential buyers see your home—pictures of your family make it psychologically challenging for buyers to imagine their families living there. But what should you hang instead? Artsy signs or sculptures that feature upbeat words or phrases are an effective option. Examples: “Happiness”…“Family”…or “Welcome Home.”

You can find these signs for $10 to $15 apiece in home stores, hobby stores and online. Tip: Search online for “positive word art” to find a multitude of inexpensive options. It might sound silly, but putting positive words on display does seem to make some buyers feel more positive about a property. Word signs are so inexpensive that there’s no reason not to give this a try.

Remove window screens. You probably know to open blinds and curtains to let as much light as possible into your home when it’s shown to buyers. But there’s another way to increase the amount of natural light in your home that many home sellers and even real estate pros miss—take out window screens. Mesh screens block about one-third of sunlight. They also obscure the view through the windows…and many screens have frayed wires or small holes that can subtly create a sense that the entire property is old and worn. Store the screens neatly in a closet, basement or garage where potential buyers will see them—that way, they won’t worry that they would have to buy new screens for the house if they happen to notice that the screens are not in the windows.

Provide a virtual-reality tour online. Just a year or two ago, it would have been fair to dismiss interactive video “tours” of homes in real estate listings (in which viewers can “move around” inside and outside a home on their computer screens) as gimmicky. But these “3-D” tours have been catching on with buyers rapidly, in part because the technology is improving. The cost of having these video tours made is dropping, too. Some real estate photographers now offer packages for home sellers that include virtual-reality tours for only around $100 more than they charge for still-photography packages. Tip: Choose a photographer who uses Matterport 3-D scanning technology if possible. It’s the state of the art for virtual-reality video tours.

Pricier Upgrades

The following home upgrades usually have price tags in the thousands of ­dollars—but they often more than pay for themselves when a home is sold. They’re particularly worth considering if they’re in a part of the home that needs to be renovated anyway.

Add showerheads in the master bathroom. When home buyers see showers with multiple showerheads—two or more directional showerheads plus a “rainfall” showerhead that drops water from directly above—they imagine themselves surrounded by warm, soothing water every morning. A shower with three or more showerheads conveys a sense of peace and relaxation, and buyers are drawn to homes that make them feel these things. Expect to pay at least $1,000 to have a plumber install extra showerheads.

Note: An oversized master-bath bathtub can be a selling point…but if budget or bathroom-size limitations force you to choose between an upgraded shower or tub, opt for the shower. A relatively small percentage of home buyers take frequent baths, so even a very impressive tub will have fairly narrow appeal.

Install a big, rectangular sink. If you’re redoing your kitchen or master bath anyway and space permits, spend a little extra and install a trough sink—an oversized sink that’s several feet in length. It’s an element that catches the eye of many buyers these days, especially when it’s made of concrete or stone. You’ll probably pay $1,000 or more for the sink and installation, but this amount might be more than recouped in buyers’ additional perceived value of the kitchen or bathroom. Choose a trough sink with a bottom that slopes toward the drain because trough sinks with level basins don’t drain well.

Affordable Ways to Create an Outdoor “Room”

Home buyers increasingly want homes that connect them with the outdoors. A good way to do this is to transform a simple patio or deck into an outdoor “room”—not with actual walls, but with many of the comforts and amenities of a room. This room might feature…

  • Fireplace or cooking area
  • Comfortable-looking outdoor ­furniture
  • Patio heaters
  • Stone wall or some other attractive border to define the edge of the space
  • Awning or some other covering.

Include an attractive sink and ­countertop in your outdoor room, too, if possible—outdoor sinks are an uncommon but attractive amenity, so this can help your outdoor room stand out from those that buyers have seen at other homes.

An outdoor room can make your home feel larger, too—it adds additional living space beyond the home’s footprint.

Similar: If your home is in a tight, urban space, it might be possible to transform a roof deck into an outdoor room. Include plants in planters…and walls or screens for privacy from neighboring buildings.

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