Preparing for spring homebuying season

Spring has long been a season associated with new beginnings and fresh starts. That applies to the U.S. real estate market, too, as home sales tend to spike beginning in April. From the start of spring and through at least September in much of the country, home sales hit their peak, and 2018 so far looks like it won't be an exception to this trend.

"The spring of 2018 is expected to bring a more active housing market than usual."

According to housing market data released by Redfin, the stage for accelerated homebuying activity may have been set as early as January. During that month, the median home price across the U.S. increased at an annual rate of 7.8 percent. In addition, the first month of 2018 brought more home sales that closed above their list price compared to January 2017, while the typical listing spent six fewer days on the market than last year's average. Redfin senior economist Taylor Marr used this data as evidence that the spring of 2018 could bring an even more competitive market for housing than last year.

The takeaway for homeowners who have been on the fence about selling their home may be a renewed sense of urgency. It appears that this spring and summer will make for yet another great time to sell, but only for owners who take the right steps to prepare. At the same time, there is much work to be done if they hope to get the best possible offer. Fortunately, many of the factors that have the biggest influence on high closing values are not too complicated or expensive for the typical homeowner to take on.

How to boost value through curb appeal

Real estate may be all about location, but the look and feel of your home is undoubtedly a significant consideration for prospective buyers as well. That's why sellers who have the most success at the end of this process are those who can put in some work that will add value to their home. And contrary to common conceptions, that doesn't need to include flashy, expensive renovations.

In fact, some of the best ways to increase your home's value come from tasks that center on curb appeal. When it comes time to show off for an open house, it's the little details that make the biggest impression on potential buyers, helping you negotiate a closing price that's more aligned with your expectations.

DoorMuch of a home's curb appeal is tied to its front door and porch.

Cleaning is perhaps the most obvious task that sellers need to accomplish before putting their home on the market. But for the best results, according to NerdWallet, you need to think a bit outside the box. For example, too many home sellers forget to focus on the most crucial element of curb appeal when prepping for a sale: the entrance. First impressions are everything, so it stands to reason that most buyers will be put off by a home with a dingy porch or front door.

Fortunately, it's not hard to spruce up the entryway with a few inexpensive tweaks - as long as you don't mind doing some of the work yourself.

  • Repainting the front door could be one of the most simple yet effective ways to boost curb appeal and attract better offers from buyers. There's no need to be extravagant either - buy a gallon of paint that's the same color as the door's current finish, or go with a shade that fits with the rest of the home's exterior. According to Home Depot renovations expert Danny Watson, who spoke to NerdWallet, it's best to opt for a semi-gloss finish. High-gloss paints often reveal more imperfections and blemishes. Even better, you may not even need a coat of primer with high-quality outdoor paint.
  • Next, get to work on the rest of your porch, if you have one, or the home's exterior entrance in general. Look for ways to spruce it up by adding potted plants, for example, or replacing old porch lights. While we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you can bet that buyers will do so if your front porch doesn't look its best.
  • For a little more time (and possibly some extra money), consider taking a power washer to your home's siding, porch, deck and walkways. If you don't own a high-quality pressure washer, you can usually rent one from a local hardware store for a small fee. Be sure to use a washer with the appropriate power setting so that it only removes age-old dirt and grime instead of paint.
  • If you prefer to save the easiest task for last, work on cleaning your home's exterior windows. This might be more difficult for those that are out of reach, but you can use cleaning solution canisters that attach to your garden hose to make short work of most of them.

Cleaning and redecorating might seem tedious, but it can make all the difference once your home is on the market this spring or summer.

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