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Houlihan Lawrence Inc.
Create multiple seating areas. An empty stone terrace becomes an instant second dining room with the addition of patio furniture.
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updated 6/8/2012 11:29:05 AM ET 2012-06-08T15:29:05

Selling your home this summer? Cheap tweaks can pay off big-time. “And even when these don’t equate to big dollars, they may help sell your property faster,” says Adam Hade, an associate broker with Houlihan Lawrence in southeastern New York state.

But choosing which improvements to make is where many homeowners go wrong, according to Hade. “They over-improve or improve in ways that don’t really matter to the buyers in their particular area,” he says. Exactly the reason you should consult with a qualified realtor in your neighborhood before investing in any improvement projects. They can tell you if buyers are looking for nurseries or extra bedrooms and can actually save you money by preventing well-intended but unnecessary upgrades.

One such superfluous improvement is splurging on high-end kitchen appliances. “While a buyer may appreciate chef-quality ranges or top-of-the-line fixtures, a well-kept lower-price brand will rarely break a deal,” says Hade. “On the other hand, worn carpet, dirty grout and clutter will give the impression that the house is not well-maintained and lacks sufficient storage,” he adds. Details like these make it difficult–and even impossible–for many prospective buyers to envision themselves living there.

A home’s layout is another adjustable feature sellers should take advantage of. Dina Landi of Rebecca Riskin & Associates in Montecito, California, suggests reconfiguring your home’s layout to meet market demands. Substituting one room’s use for another is a cheap way to transform a three-bedroom home with a den to a four-bedroom home. Or a home that has a dining room with doors can be reconfigured for use as a main floor master bedroom.

Landi also recommends pausing to inventory all the things you’ve collected over time and reassessing what to keep. As life unfolds, as children grow up, as careers take off, things accumulate. “Taking rooms back to their basics can make a huge difference, allowing a room’s millwork, architectural details, and distinctive details to shine,” she says. The price? Almost zero. All you have to do to make your rooms look bigger is remove pictures, souvenirs, all those stacks of books and magazines.

Forbes.com slideshow: Cheap ways to increase home value

The best way to improve home values on the cheap is to do what needs doing–and nothing more. Why buy a new ceiling fan when replacing the blades will do? Why paint the entire exterior of your home when touching up any peeling paint will suffice? Taking this approach allows you to make several small improvements instead of taking on just one or two bigger ones. In short: Know your buyers. Choose projects carefully. Know when to quit.

Forbes.com: Tricks to make your place look bigger
Forbes.com: Incredible private-island homes
Forbes.com: Homes with incredible showers and bathtubs
Forbes.com: Amazing playrooms for children
Forbes.com: 10 cool camouflage homes

© 2012 Forbes.com

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