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Buy? Sell? Renovate? Your questions answered

Whether you are having problems buying your first home, making renovations or selling your home, navigating the roads of the real estate market can be tough. Barbara Corcoran offers advice.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Whether you are having some problems buying your first home, making renovations or selling your home, navigating the roads of the real estate market can be difficult. Here, TODAY real estate contributor Barbara Corcoran answers reader questions about the market.

Q. How much value, if any, do high-tech upgrades add to a house? My brother added touch-pad dimmer switches, recessed surround sound, cable and Internet wiring and video cameras at the front and back doors. Do you think we can charge more for these items?

A. Buyers don't pay for boy toys like these. And don't forget, it's the wife, not the husband, who typically has the final say. But when it comes time to sell, at least your brother's house will stand apart from the pack and get the brokers talking.

The changes that always make sense are smart kitchen and bathroom renovations, adding a laundry room and adding a fireplace. These improvements always get you two or three dollars back for each dollar you spend.

Q. What changes can I make to boost my bathroom on a very small budget?

A. If you have only a little money, get rid of your clutter, regrout the tile and replace your shower curtain and toilet seat. These changes go a long way on a small budget.

Q. Which are the major status appliances you'd recommend for making a kitchen more competitive?

A. When buyers see one kitchen appliance with a status label like SubZero, Viking or Meale, they make the wrong assumption that it's a top-of-the-line kitchen. So buy only one appliance with a highbrow label, and buy inexpensive knockoffs for the rest.

Q. Which is a better investment when I look to resell — a larger, more luxurious master bathroom or a larger master bedroom with three big windows?

A. They're both good investments. If your three windows have a park or river view, the bedroom windows win. But if the views are nothing special, you should spend your money on a luxurious master bathroom.

Q. My house is located in North Howell, N.J., and I've been trying to sell for the past 18 months with local realtors. As a last resort, I'm going to place an ad on Could you tell me the best places in New York and New Jersey to advertise my home?

A. Advertise all you want, but ads don't sell homes, only real estate brokers do. The reason brokers advertise properties is to keep the sellers happy.

Here's what to do: Check out recent neighborhood sales. Look for the homes that are comparable to your own in location, size and condition, and price your home 10 percent lower. Invite all the brokers in town to bring their buyers within a three-hour open house and offer each a full 6 percent commission. Promise to take the highest bid at the end of the open house. The brokers will come with their buyers like bees to honey, and you'll get more for your house than you ever expected.

Q. I know you advise getting a top broker to sell a home. My wife and I want to know, how do we determine who is a top broker?

A. Take a walk over to your local real estate office and speak with the sales manager in charge. Describe your house and ask them for the best agent for the job. Every top broker has a specialty, and you'll want to make sure their area of expertise is in homes like yours. So when you meet the agent, don't be afraid to ask for a list of recent properties they've sold. Make sure you like your agent, because in today's rough sales market, you'll be spending more time with them than you do with your wife.

For more of Barbara Corcoran's real estate tips and advice, visit