Dear Ray,

I’m getting ready to sell my home. Can you suggest some do-it-yourself home improvements that will add value at the time of sale?

— Dennis G. 

I’ve addressed tips for enhancing a home’s value in previous columns. There are several cost-effective improvements that can help add value at the time of sale.


Paint is one of the best and most inexpensive improvements you can make. Consider updating the exterior color.

Visit your local paint store and chat with a color consultant. Find out what colors are most popular this season. When in doubt, seek an expert. The cost of a paid designer in helping to choose the perfect color will be recovered when you sell.

If the exterior paint is newer, then focus on painting only the front door. Pick a rich, vibrant color that compliments your home. Add a kick plate to the bottom of the door, some contemporary address numbers and a new “welcome” mat.

New interior paint will make your home look clean and fresh. Again, if you’re not good with colors, hire a professional to help you select the right shade of paint. The right color has a bigger impact than most people realize.

After you’ve chosen the color, you can do the painting yourself to save money. 


Landscaping can make a big impact for not a lot of money.

Curb appeal is what will grab buyers before they’ve reached the front door. Cut back mature hedges and shrubs from against the house. Mow and edge the lawn. Apply fresh bark to the flowerbeds. Add a pot of colorful flowers on each side of the front porch.

You can do a lot of the basic landscaping yourself. If you’re not much into gardening, hire a landscaping company.

Inside help

New appliances will improve the appeal of any kitchen. If your budget allows, replace the kitchen flooring and countertops before your home goes on the market. (Don’t overlook the kitchen since it’s the No. 1 room in the house.)

Cleaning and de-cluttering may seem obvious, but you may need some help here. Most people have too much stuff.

Ask your agent for their feedback about which furnishings should stay and which should go. Get organized now, before your home goes on the market. Sell or donate unneeded items, and box up and store the things you want to keep.

When selling your home, less is more when it comes to furnishings.

If your budget allows, get help from a professional staging company. Staging companies can arrange your own furnishings for you for a small fee or completely furnish your home like a model home.

Staging is an upfront cost that can generate big returns at the time of sale. According to, 91 percent of homes staged by accredited professionals sell in one month or less. According to some pros, a staged home can sell for 6 to 20 percent more than the same home without staging. 

Outside help

Finally, if you want your home to sell for the most money, the No. 1 thing you can do is hire an experienced Realtor. A Realtor will quickly assess what your home needs to maximize its market value.

Your Realtor can help you determine how best to spend your home-improvement budget to get the most bang for the buck. In preparation for listing, your agent will develop a marketing strategy tailored to your home, highlighting your home’s strong points.

Most important, your agent will recommend a price that is correct for current market conditions. When you receive an offer, your agent will negotiate the most favorable price and terms. Your agent will advise you throughout the selling process, helping to navigate the obstacles that can prevent a sale from closing.

Fannie Mae (which guarantees one out of every four mortgages in the United States) recommends, “Unless you are experienced at selling homes, it usually makes financial sense to get professional help. Homes sold by agents typically sell at a higher price and spend less time on the market.”

When it came time to sell his Florida mansion, Al Bennati, longtime CEO of, chose to list his home with a real estate agent. is one of many websites that encourages homeowners that they do not need the help of an agent to sell their home.

But this isn’t the first time a CEO of a major real estate website has enlisted the help of an agent. Colby Sambrotto of sought help from an agent after failing to sell his home.

Both CEOs made fortunes convincing others to sell their home without an agent. Yet, when it came to selling their own homes, they hired a professional.

The point is, selling your home is more complicated than you realize. An experienced Realtor can add more value at the time of sale than fresh paint or new landscaping.

Check out more tips from Fannie Mae for selling your home: 

RAY AKERS is a licensed Realtor for Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle.

Send your questions to or call (206) 722-4444.