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Home owners in the United States putting their properties on the market should focus on making them look good on the outside rather than undertake large scale renovations, a survey has found.

The survey from real estate firm Zillow asked real estate agents and interior designers nationwide to identify the most valuable home improvements for sellers, and the experts agreed that minor improvements like landscaping and painting walls in neutral colors save money and attract buyers faster.

Agents agreed that sellers should avoid costly projects prior to listing their home, as the increased sale price may not outweigh the time and money spent on the remodel. Instead, agents and designers recommend spending money on minor renovations that will bring the home up to current market standards while also appealing to the broadest number of potential buyers.

‘Buyers have more homes to choose from this year, compared to last year and in a crowded market, sellers should prioritize spending time and money on upgrades that have mass appeal,’ said Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow chief marketing officer.

‘Home buyers don't want to feel as if they are paying top dollar for someone else's decorating style. An inviting exterior and landscape, fresh paint in neutral colors, and clutter free spaces will always appeal to a broad range of tastes,’ she added.

The top piece of advice was to create a strong first impression as buyers begin making assumptions about a home well before they step inside. ‘A clean entrance can go a long way toward establishing a positive first impression. Add fresh potted flowers to increase the life and energy of the entrance,’ said Zillow Agent Advisory Board member Cyndi Lesinski.

Another tip is to simply add a fresh coat of paint to the front door. Black, dark charcoal and tasteful reds such as burgundy or cranberry are currently the most popular front door colors on Zillow Digs. These colors bring tasteful exuberance to the home without being too overbearing for potential buyers.

It is also suggested that a home stager can skilfully identify ways to highlight a home's best features and compensate for its shortcomings. The goal is to make the property appeal to the broadest audience and number of buyers possible.

‘When staging, remove all personal belongings and avoid colors or furniture that are too style specific. Neutral colors and minimal furniture are best. "Attempting to decorate may not be the best use of your time and dollars,’ said Mara Miller of Carrier and Company in New York City.
 
Sellers are also advised to invest in small home improvements. Both agents and designers agreed that sellers should never invest in a major renovation before selling as no matter how out of date a home is, major renovations prior to sale usually will not equal a dollar for dollar return, and the time invested outweighs selling it faster.

Chris Speicher, of the Speicher Group and RE/MAX in Washington D.C. recommended that sellers should spend time and money on smaller updates that will bring the home up to market value such as updating lighting fixtures, cabinet or door handles, and minor kitchen and bathroom updates.

Decluttering, according to Zillow experts, it's the one of the most important things a home owner should do before selling as a clean house feels more spacious and helps buyers easily envision themselves in the home.

‘Nothing trumps the aesthetic of a clean and cared for home. Old appliances and furniture can be overlooked if a space is clean, simple and well edited,’ said Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, California.

This article was republished with permission from Property Wire.