How to Get Your Asking Price as the Housing Market ImprovesMary H.J. Ferrell

Posting the first annual increase in five years, home values rose slightly over this time last year, reports Zillow, the online real estate site. In fact, nearly one-third of the 157 metropolitan areas tracked by Zillow showed annual price increases. This is good news for homeowners who have been waiting to put their houses on the market. Before you do, a few simple spruce-ups can help get your asking price.

"The housing market's recovery continues to show tremendous variation market by market. Sixty-nine of the 157 markets covered by the Zillow Home Value Forecast are expected to see increases in home values over the next year, with the largest increases expected in the Phoenix metro (9.9 percent) and the Miami metro (6.1 percent)," said Zillow on its website. "We believe that 96 out of the 157 markets have already hit a bottom in home values, including Boston, Miami and Phoenix."

Improve the view. No matter where you live, it pays to keep your home well-maintained. Curb appeal is the first thing to consider. As the saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Look at your entryway. Is the paint peeling or faded? Are your shrubberies overtaking the sidewalk? Take the time to scrape away any old paint and apply a new coat. Sherwin-Williams Duration Gloss, our top-rated semi-gloss is the only one in our exterior paint tests that has a primer built-in. After the equivalent of nine years' worth of exposure, the Sherwin-Williams was still looking very good and would be a good choice for painting a front door.

Whack the weeds. As for that overgrown walkway, a capable string trimmer can help you vanquish the vines and weeds in no time. In Consumer Reports' string trimmer tests, the top-rated gas models were best at slicing through tall grass and weeds. But if you don't like the hassle of a gas-powered unit, several light duty electric models, including the Homelite UT41110, at $30 a CR Best Buy, were very good or better at this job.

Neutralize garish rooms. Sprucing up the paint inside the house also makes your home more attractive, especially if you've painted some rooms bright colors that might not appeal to the average buyer. The best course of action is to choose white, off-white or another neutral color. "Safe colors like this will appeal to most people, increasing the odds that your home will sell," advises the Paint Quality Institute. And it'll cost you well under $100. Check our top-rated interior paints for the best choices.

Brighten the bathroom. Outdated kitchens and bathrooms are typically the chief complaint of prospective home buyers. But you don't have to invest in an entire remodel to improve their appearance. Here again paint can do wonders but so can replacing the countertops, sink or floor. Bathrooms have replaced kitchens as the most remodeled room in the home because they tend to be smaller and you don't have to buy all those appliances. As we reported in our Bathroom remodeling guide, small details can make a big difference. Stain-resistant grout, framed mirrors and a heated towel bar are just some ideas.

Kick the kitchen up a notch. For the kitchen, you don't need a bottomless budget to get a top-notch kitchen. In the Luxury look for less, we suggest top-rated affordable alternatives to priceyappliances, countertops, flooring and more. But be forewarned, poor planning and shoddy workmanship are two of the costliest mistakes homeowners make when undertaking a remodeling project. If you're about to embark on one, best to invest a few months going to showrooms and talking to professionals.

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.


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