5 ways to boost the value of your home

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(MoneyWatch) This year turned out to be a turning point in housing, with home prices finally starting to recover from the financial crisis. If you're looking to sell your home in 2013, or at least want to see its value increase, here are a few resolutions to set for the new year.

Focus on aesthetic changes. Start with curb appeal and then move to kitchens and bathrooms, where buyers tend to pay the most attention. Although you may not want to get into heavy landscaping and other yard work until you're ready to sell, think about what your house looks like from the street. Does it look like a warm and inviting place to live? Or is your home dominated by overgrown shrubbery, stagnant colors and yellowed grass?

The same goes for interior improvements. While a major kitchen overhaul may net you 70 percent return on investment, minor kitchen improvements such as adding new cabinet hardware, installing a new faucet and reorganizing your kitchen items to keep appliances off the countertops can make a big difference -- and cost a lot less than a major overhaul.

Address buyer expectations. Buyers typically have baseline expectations for a home they are interested in purchasing -- efficient plumbing, problem-free roofing, clean siding -- as well as expectations specific to the local real estate market. For instance, if nearly every house in the neighborhood has stainless steel appliances and granite countertops and you're still relying on your old white stove and chipping laminate countertops, your property probably won't fetch as much in price as that of your neighbors even though your home may be nicer overall.

Talk to the pros. While this step may naturally come when you're ready to list your home, pre-consulting with real estate agents or brokers may guide you toward the kind of improvements that would add the most value to your home in your area. For instance, a finished basement is almost always going to increase the value of your home by some degree, but it may not be worth the investment if buyers don't expect or care about a finished basement. A real estate agent or broker can also point out specific areas of your home that you should focus on.

Not selling in a neighborhood full of foreclosures. The number of homes on the market, particularly foreclosure homes, directly impacts how much money you can expect to fetch for your house. If you live in a desirable area with few or no foreclosed properties, you can expect your home to be worth a lot more than if you live in an area where foreclosures abound. The lesson here is simple: If you live in a neighborhood with many foreclosures, it may be worth waiting until property values in the area increase before putting your home on the market. 

Consider ways to make living in your home easier and cheaper. With U.S. economic growth still weak, consumers are still spending less on luxury home goods. People tend to be more interested in quality, practicality and efficiency. So if you're looking to make changes in your home, consider ones that would bring down the cost of heating and cooling your home or creating more usable storage space. For example, replace your old door with a steel door or your kitchen cabinets with high-quality, durable materials. Adding a walk-in closet or large pantry also helps increase efficiency.

Always consider the cost versus value of any major renovation and remember to highlight all of your efforts when it comes time to sell. It helps remind buyers of everything they're getting if they purchase your home and shows the versatility of your house.

  • Ilyce Glink On Twitter»

    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, best-selling book author, and radio talk show host who also hosts "Expert Real Estate Tips," a Internet video show. She owns ThinkGlink.com as well as Think Glink Media, a privately held company that provides consulting, content and video services to companies and non-profit organizations.

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