5 Things You Should Not Dwell On When Buying a Home

5 Things You Should Not Dwell On When Buying a Home

Finding the right home to buy is a process. The typical home buyer looks at around 10 homes before making an offer. If you are on your 30th home and still can’t find something that you like, perhaps you are paying attention to the wrong features when you are viewing homes. Below are a list of things that you SHOULD NOT dwell on when buying a home and what you need to consider instead.

Paint Color

Paint colors, inside and out, can always be changed! Instead of seeing unappealing paint colors as a turn-off, look at them as an opportunity personalize the home to your liking once you move in by repainting. If you’re concerned with the amount of work that painting involves, you should know that painting is an inexpensive project to hire out

Instead of paint color, pay attention to a home’s architectural details.

Furniture

Never pay attention to the furniture in a home for sale because more than likely, it’ll be leaving with the home sellers! And even if the furniture comes with the home, it can easily be sold at a garage sale or donated to a local charity, many of which offer free pick-up.

Instead of the seller’s furniture, pay attention to the size and layout of each room.

Window Treatments

Window treatments do typically stay with the home, but they are so easy to swap out that they should never be considered when purchasing a home. For most new homeowners, it’s exciting to change out window treatments to fit their design preference.

Instead of window treatments, pay attention to the energy efficiency of the windows and the light they allow into the home.

Light Fixtures

Light fixtures also stay with the home, but as with window treatments, swapping them out with something new is a simple DIY task. Updating light fixtures is an easy way to personalize the home to your taste. If the light fixtures that you are removing are in good condition, you can probably even get a few bucks for them by listing them on Craigslist!

Instead of light fixtures, pay attention to the electrical wiring and notice if rooms have the capability for overhead lighting.

Fencing

Most parents and pet owners desire homes with fenced in yards. They offer privacy and security and are certainly nice to have! But never rule out a home if it doesn’t have a fence because they are relatively easy and inexpensive to install yourself.

Instead of fencing, pay attention to other details of the yard such as size and slope.

STAGING TIPS AND TRICKS

Most people know that staging a home is important — especially where the competition for home sales is stiff. With an abundance of properties to look at, your home needs to impress buyers. While you might know the basics when it comes to staging a home (like deep cleaning every nook and cranny and tidying up your lawn) there are always little adjustments you can make to entice buyers. It never hurts to go above and beyond to make your home as appealing as possible. Following are four staging tricks you might not know.

Buy a New Welcome Mat

Most potential buyers will enter your home through the front door. Your lawn and front door will be the first thing seen by buyers. Beyond commonly known advice like keeping trees, bushes, and your lawn tidy and trimmed, little details matter, too. Forbes recommends looking at your welcome mat (if you have one). Is it worn down by weather and sun exposure? Is it looking dingy? Consider replacing your welcome mat. For less than $20, a new welcome mat will make buyers feel welcome and leave an impression that your home is well taken care of.

Spruce Up Your Foyer

Again, like your front entrance, the foyer is the first room inside the house buyers will see. While this room might be small, little decorative touches and an impeccably clean appearance can set the stage for what the rest of your home has to offer. De-clutter your foyer of shoes and piles of mail. Do a deep clean and throw away or store anything that doesn’t add to the space. Better Homes and Gardens advises home owners to place a small table against the wall with an arrangement of fresh flowers on it or replace dingy, dated light fixtures to modernize the room. This will lend a welcoming and homey atmosphere without crowding what is already a small space.

Float Your Furniture

The way you place your furniture is important, and the positioning of couches, chairs, and tables can affect the perception of a room’s size. Most folks’ instinct is to push furniture against the walls to open up space in the center of a room. While this is common and instinctual, you should actually do the opposite according to Better Homes and Gardens. Pull sofas and chairs away from the walls and place them in cozy, conversational groups. This will define a room’s space while also making it appear larger and more inviting.

Keep Bedrooms and Bathrooms Gender-Neutral

Spaces that appear overly masculine or feminine can turn off buyers and narrow your home’s mass appeal. Whenever possible, it is best to stick to a neutral color palette with gender-neutral textures and designs. For instance, if you have floral, pink bedding, swapping it out for beige and gray tones will appeal to more buyers. This is especially important in master bedrooms, according to HGTV.

These four tips along with standard advice like cleaning and de-cluttering should help you get a decent start with staging a home. For more tips, give me a shout!

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18 Mistakes Most Sellers Make When Putting Their Home on the Market

  1. Pricing your home too high: Have a professional determine comparable sales and listing competition. You want top dollar, and you want all the buyers to see your home.  The top agents know how to walk that fine line.
  1. Small repairs bring big profits and fast sales: Have a professional give you low-cost solutions to minor repairs that will yield big profits. I arrange for a professional inspection for my sellers so we are actually selling “pre-inspected properties”, which is another reason why I get more showings for my sellers.
  1. Not considering other financing terms (besides cash): Have a professional give you options that may be better than cash for you, the homeowner, and financing options that excite a buyer. All of my sellers have a flyer that we give them on the “Fifteen Ways a Buyer Can Finance” detailing how new buyers can finance your home.
  1. Market Timing: Have a professional determine if the market cycle is poised to net you the most money. At least ask to be shown how you make profits in a down market.  There are opportunities in good and bad markets.  At Sanford Systems, we study market trends and know what is around the corner.
  1. Providing easy access for showings: There are many ways to show a home. Appointment only is the most restrictive; lock boxes are the least restrictive.  Have a professional help you determine which is best for your lifestyle.  I have a full-time staff that will make sure your home is shown when that buyer is ready.  Another exclusive service of Sanford Systems is that we train each of the agents in our office on how to best show your home.
  1. Staging your property correctly: Can you put items in storage? Create more light or music?  Walter can help you with ideas, a handyman, or designer.  We have the experience and ‘know how’ to make your property a better value every week.
  1. Choosing the right REALTOR®: If your home didn’t sell last time, make sure and get it right this time with someone who knows the market and how to create a customized marketing plan to bring top dollar.
  1. Believing that selling property is seasonal: Do not base selling decisions on the seasons. Property is always selling.  In fact, in the traditional “off times” there is less inventory, and, therefore, more activity on individual properties as a result.  One of my biggest months for sales and seller success has been XXXX.
  1. Pricing their home too low: One reason to hire Walter is to make sure that no money is left on the table. We will make sure all of the features and benefits are not only brought out in a real world marketing campaign, but also that you get paid for them.
  1. Not using current marketing technology: Make sure your agent is on the “Information Highway” with 800 interactive voice recognition systems, personal web sites, search engine technology, and the latest in buyer communications. Check out our web site and buyer resources here XXXXX.
  1. Re‑evaluating the marketing plan every 10 days: The market, you, and your property require intuitive changes on a regular basis. That is why we schedule a meeting with our seller clients every ten working days.
  1. Believing the agent is not doing the job: Do you know that 80% of buyer activity comes from signs and the MLS? Even the most mediocre agent can bring these tools.  So if you lack showing problems look at your price, terms, and staging first.  At Sanford Systems we can add value to your property in many ways.
  1. Ignoring first impressions from the buyer: Sales are often hampered by unkempt lawns, cluttered closets, unpainted front doors, hard‑to‑work locks, dead light bulbs, bad colors, stains, unlit areas, and unusual smells. Spend time on the little things; double up on your gardener, keep things cleaner than usual and “marshal” the pets.  Understanding you still have a life, I will give you a simple list of small items to consider.
  1. Not giving the sales effort enough time: You should never give too little time to something that is inherently a long process. Estimate the time you have to sell and then add some time so that you are never put in the position of having to do something based on deadlines. Walter can help you with the average time on market in your area in your price range.  We do, however, pride ourselves on beating the average days on market, as published by our Multiple Listing Service.
  1. Dealing with unqualified or unsavory characters: One of the best reasons to hire a real estate professional is they have the ability to pre‑qualify a prospect before valuable negotiation time is lost. More importantly, they have the tools to discover if a prospect’s motivation to see your home may be other than purchasing a house.  Understand that I use a team approach in achieving your goals as a seller.  One of my team members is a local lender who I will involve in your sale early who will pre-approve every buyer that I show your home to.
  1. Believing they are powerless to make a difference: Top agents in the industry report that sellers themselves are responsible for one out of six sales. You can network with your business and personal friends, hand out flyers to your personnel department, and keep the house “ready to move into.”  Your professional real estate agent should be ready to hand out all sorts of easy assignments to make the “team effort” successful.  I have a list of thirty items you can help with, if you are so inclined.
  1. Testing the market: Never put your property on the market unless you really want to sell. Get ready for a professional sales effort if you list with a great agent.  If your plan includes indecision, be prepared for frustration because top dollar sales success is Walter’s objective.
  1. Not setting up expectations with their agent: Your agent needs to guarantee how fast the return phone calls are made, how many websites your home will be on, numbers of showings, and a myriad of other goals. Sanford systems provides these guarantees (as many as 300 marketing points) in writing.

by Walter Sanford

5 kitchen design trends you may want to rethink

Serious home chefs, or just house-proud owners, might consider the kitchen their showstopper room—the one that will stop potential buyers dead in their tracks. And that’s why they add all the upgrades, accoutrements, and trendy new finishes they can possibly find. To some extent, they’re absolutely right—a great kitchen can make a buyer fall deeply in love.Open Kitchen Storage

But it doesn’t always work that way.

An inherent danger of taking a deep dive into modern design is accepting the harsh fact that today’s trends may be tomorrow’s “Oh, God, remember that?” fads such as fake brick or hideaway appliances. With the average kitchen remodel pushing $20,000, designing without foresight can be a costly and embarrassing mistake.

Some trends such as subway tile and granite countertops have a long tail: Designers expect they’ll be in style for the foreseeable future, so you’re safe giving them a starring role in your makeover.

Others are doomed to fade hard and fast. Such as…

Mixed metals

Combining bronze and copper in the kitchen might give the room an “eclectic” look, but in a few years, chances are good it will just look confused. Same goes for stainless steel and gold, or nickel and brass.

“Anybody who mixes metals besides Rolex is an idiot, and maybe Rolex is an idiot, too,” says Chicago kitchen designer Scott Dresner of Dresner Design. “Some people think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just not. I think it’s appalling.”

He should know: Dresner has designed more than 7,000 kitchens, and his airy Chicago renovation won K+BB’s 2014 Kitchen of the Year Design Award.

Still want the look? Try mixing in different metals with replaceable hardware such as drawer pulls and towel rings, so you can easily ditch them if you put your home on the market.

DIY concrete countertops

Making your own concrete countertops is all the rage on Pinterest, but kitchen designers think the trend is already passé.

“The DIY concrete countertops have become a nightmare,” says Yarmouth, ME, designer Jeanne Rapone. “Every call I’ve had about those counters  is all about people calling me wanting them ripped out of the house they just bought. They hate the concrete.”

Because countertops are the kitchen’s primary focal point, it’s important to ensure their longevity. Picking a trendy material will—at best—annoy the hell out of you in a few years. In a decade, it might make your home impossible to sell. Better to spend a bit more on a surface you’ll love for a long time.

Open shelving

There’s a time and a place for open shelving—a few simple marble-and-steel slabs can look stunning. But swapping all of your cabinetry for open shelving is a soon-to-be-outdated fad.

“Open shelving is a thing that could be done very elegantly or very cheaply,” says Dresner. Simply pulling off the cabinet doors to mimic the effect is a surefire path to an unattractive, dust-collecting kitchen. If you’re interested in the look, a designer can help you combine minimalism, style, and functionality.

Rapone believes open shelving was a “complete economic response to the 2008 recession,” when homeowners wanted to redesign their kitchen but lacked the budget for extensive cabinetry upgrades. Under financial strain, “they’re willing to do stuff like open shelving in the kitchen, which saves a lot of money. It came out of good intentions, but now people say, ‘No, Jeanne, I’m tired of dusting shelves. I’ll pay for the doors now.’”

Reclaimed wood

Another recession response that’s fast approaching (or already surpassing) its sell-by date, reclaimed wood can look either superb or terrible, depending on its application.

As an accent, it’s perfect: “I love reclaimed wood. I love the idea of reusing something,” Dresner says. “Reclaimed wood on your island top could be gorgeous.” But what happens when you go beyond accents? “If you’re using it to make cabinets, I think it’s garbage. It looks horrible, and it’s not the right way to use that type of wood.”

So if you’re itching to integrate repurposed wood into your kitchen style, focus on horizontal surfaces, where it has a tabletop effect.

“We see people going a little overboard with the reclaimed look,” Rapone says. “A reclaimed wood island countertop will last a lifetime, but reclaimed cabinetry with barn doors and a real rustic look—that’s a trend that will be way out of style soon.”

Industrial style

Unless you’re living in a loft, skip the stainless-steel countertops, exposed Edison bulbs, and aluminum shelving.

“The industrial look is making its way out,” Rapone says. If you want the effect without the commitment, she recommends finding an industrial-looking lamp that can be easily swapped out when the trend passes its prime.

“In five years—when everyone’s, like, ‘Wow, remember when we did that in 2014?’—you can take it down and replace it with something else,” she says. “That way, you’re not changing out $30,000 in cabinetry.”

But whatever you do, Dresner strongly recommends avoiding the exposed-lightbulb look.

“There are so many cool lights at Restoration Hardware that have that industrial feel, versus something that looks like it should be in the basement of an old building hanging from a block,” he says.

Jamie Wiebe has written about home design and real estate for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and more. She loves vintage furniture, collecting fluffy blankets, and DIY-ing everything.

 

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

6 Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Home

It’s time to move on. You’ve decided to sell your home and embark on a new adventure.

Unfortunately, potential buyers don’t care about how long you obsessed over choosing the perfect bathroom tiles or the number of carpenters you interviewed to make the perfect built-in bookcase. To the buyer, those items may not matter to the value of the home, even if you think they should.

When it’s time to sell, you have to price your home right, using tangible factors. Here are six rules to remember:

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1. Price is king

Your asking price determines how long the home will sit on the market. Pricing the home too high may reduce the number of interested buyers, which can cause your home to sit on the market too long. If your house is on the market too long, it may create the perception that there’s something wrong with it. It can also lead a buyer to think that you’re desperate for an offer. You want to avoid these outcomes and not overvalue your home.

On the flip side, pricing the home too low may create some skepticism and raise unwanted questions about the home’s true value. This will hit you in the bank account if multiple offers don’t drive the price up to its true market value.

2. Use comparable sales 

The simplest way to figure out the right price for your home is to compare similar homes that have sold in your neighborhood. Instead of skulking in the shadows and casing the neighbor’s house, use realtor.com to check out nearby stats.

Compare your house with those with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. If you find comparable homes with similar floor plans and outdoor space, all the better. See how many homes in your area have sold recently and what they went for. You can also work with a real estate agent to help you compare houses.

3. Compare fairly

Make sure your comparison is fair. If there are neighborhoods in your city that are more desirable, consider that in your comparison. Also consider your location and what buyers want. If a similarly sized new-construction townhouse sold for top dollar down the block, you may not get the same amount for your cute ’40s bungalow.

4. Check the market history

To get a more comprehensive picture of the real estate market in your neighborhood, check the listing history of a home. Compare the original asking price with the final sale price, and note the amount of time the house was on the market until it sold. A REALTOR® can help you with this step.

If you’re looking to speed up the process, you may want to price your house a bit lower. However, if profit is your motive, you may need to wait a few months for a sale on the high end of the spectrum.

5. Consider special improvements

Consider whether major improvements you’ve made warrant a higher asking price. If you’ve remodeled the kitchen and put down a new parquet floor, or if you really feel the special woodwork details will clinch the sale, make sure those enhancements are reflected in the price of the home. Be reasonable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get as much money as you expected—improvements don’t always recoup their cost.

6. Don’t ignore supply and demand

In a buyer’s market, with many homes for sale and sellers competing for attention, you may want to ask a bit less for your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers. In a seller’s market, where there is little home supply and much buyer demand, you may want to ask a bit more and maximize your profit.

Updated from an earlier version by Aviva Friedlander

Craig Donofrio lives in New Orleans, where he writes about real estate and finance news. He enjoys books, football, Scotch, unusual video games, Southern architecture, and learning new random subjects.

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

7 Cheap Upgrades That Will Make Your Home Feel New

If your home has you down in the dumps but you lack the cash to fix it up, don’t despair! Not every upgrade has to take a big bite out of your bank account.

Here are seven foolproof ways to make your home feel like a totally different place through small changes—and small expenses.

1. New hardware

Swapping out the boring chrome hardware the previous owners installed can go a long way toward making your home look like yours—not to mention give the entire space an easy, inexpensive refresh. Depending on your style, new pulls or handles can cost mere dollars.

“The first thing I do to give the home more of the look and style that I like is swap out the hardware,” says Doug Mahoney, who worked in construction for 10 years and now writes about tools and home improvement for The Sweethome. “All it takes is a screwdriver, and it’s surprising what a difference it can make.”

2. Small paint jobs

Don’t have time to repaint your entire home? Start by tackling smaller jobs such as your front door or kitchen cabinets. Since these projects are quick, you can squeeze them in during the weekend (or even an afternoon). And you’ll use only a fraction of a gallon of paint (which costs between $15 and $30)—making for an ideal impact-to-expenses ratio.

“Personally, I can’t stand the look of polyurethaned oak cabinets, so I’d cover those up with a nice white paint,” Mahoney says. “It makes it look like a whole new kitchen.”

If you like your cabinets, consider repainting the trim in your living room or adding some fresh color to a small room such as your bathroom.

3. Sensor lights

Tired of scrambling for the light switch while your arms are holding bags of groceries? Add sensor lights to your front porch and any other regular entrances such as your garage door. Starting at just $15, it’s a tiny cost with a big reward.

These lights won’t just improve your visibility—they’ll also lower your electricity bill. And they’re a big home safety boon to boot; experts say motion-detecting lights discourage criminals from lurking around your home.

4. Magnetic door catch

Speaking of those arms full of groceries: Adding a magnetic door catch (like this one from Amazon, which costs $11) to your primary entrance drastically simplifies loading and unloading. No more awkward sideways crab walks as you attempt to keep the door open while carrying a big package. You might even consider installing this before moving day to make your movers’ job easier.

5. Keyless entry pad

If you’re always losing your keys, try investing in a keyless entry pad such as this simple $100 Kwikset deadbolt. It can mean the difference between spending a few hours moping in your car and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa in your living room.

Plus, you’re not the only one who benefits: If you’re expecting guests but won’t be available to greet them, they can let themselves in—a huge improvement from hiding a key, which might be a safety risk.

6. Low-flow toilet

“It may seem intimidating to those not very interested in DIY, but swapping out toilets is a fairly simple process,” Mahoney says.

Please, Mr. Postman

Send me news, tips, and promos from realtor.com® and Move.

Choose a high-efficiency or low-flow toilet to save money on your water bill. While it does require some investment (expect to pay between $100 and $325 for the toilet itself), you’ll be making your money back soon enough—especially if you’re replacing an older model installed before 1992. That’s when federal plumbing standards mandated all toilets use 1.6 gallons or less per flush.

With a high-efficiency model, you’ll use about 300 fewer gallons of water per year—if not much more.

7. Fresh mulch

Jazzing up the outside of your home can go a long way toward making you love where you live. While you could go all-out—landscaping the yard and painting the trim—there’s a simpler solution: mulch.

“New mulch in the flower beds can add a lot to the curb appeal,” Mahoney says.

Instead of grimy old dirt that’s been trod on for years, a fresh new layer looks clean, fresh, and pretty—making a huge difference for just $6.

Budget Home Improvement Ideas | Home Remodeling Costs | HouseLogic

http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-improvement/budget-home-improvement-ideas/?sf13731817=1

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

The 8 Most Financially Savvy Home Improvements You Can Make

These budget-friendly home improvements will help you enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the most value tomorrow.

When it comes to home improvement, some dollars stretch more than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to spend those dollars wisely.

Here are eight affordable (under $5,000) home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.

1.  Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Chair rail moldingImage: Crazy Wonderful

Decorative molding is a classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans first installed it to add grandeur to their buildings.  Centuries later, molding is still one of the most dramatic ways to dress up a room. It’s a budget-friendly improvement that trims a room for a finished and expensive look.

Today’s wood moldings come in hundreds of options — from simple to ornate — that you can stain, paint, or leave natural. You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow.

Buyers consistently rank both crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively), according to the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”

And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)

A few tips about molding:

  • Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. But be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.
  • Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.

2.  Install Quality Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fan in nurseryImage: Kate from This American Wife

If crown molding and chair railing were #3 and #7 on buyers’ decorative wish lists, what was #1?

Ceiling fans.

Over the years, ceiling fans have become quite the crowd pleaser. Once they were just a cheap solution to rising energy costs — ugly, wobbly, noisy eyesores endured because they were cheaper than air conditioning.

Today, ceiling fans have evolved into an essential component of American homes as energy prices continue to rise. And since designs have caught up with the times, they come in a variety of styles and colors to complement any room.  If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.

Some tips about ceiling fans:

  • Ceiling fans should hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor. If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
  • Size matters more than the number of fan blades. Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
  • Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.

3.  Plant Some Trees

Apple tree in yardImage: M. Williams

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:

  • Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest.
  • Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property.
  • Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage. Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees.

4.  Install a Patio

Patio adds valueImage: Suzanne Davis at bebehblog

Patios are a great cost-effective way to increase your home’s living space without actually adding on. Plus you’ll recover 30% to 60% of your investment. A $2,000 patio would return around $900 at resale.

But don’t go crazy and trick out your patio with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional. (And, really, how often would you use an outdoor kitchen?)

Some wise advice when planning a patio:

  • Check property for slope, sun, and shade patterns.
  • Remember ‘dig alerts’ that utilities provide free of charge.
  • Don’t skimp on patio lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

5.  Pump Up Your Home Security

The peace of mind that comes with installing a home security system is priceless.

In reality, price varies. You can buy and install it yourself for $50 to $300, or a security company can sell and install a system from $0 to $1,500. The “zero” is the hook companies use to lure you into signing a multi-year monitoring contract that ranges from $95 to $480 per year.

If a monitored system suits your needs, you’ll also get a break on your home insurance. Most companies will discount your annual rate 15% to 20% if you have a security service.

Home security systems also make your home more marketable: 50% of homebuyers (in the NAHB survey) say a home security system — particularly security cameras — tops their list of most-wanted technology features.

You can go over the top and install high-tech security gadgets, like smartphone-operated locks and a laser trip wire. Or you can keep it simple with a keypad that communicates with sensors and motion detectors throughout your house.

Tips:

  • If you do decide to go with a monitoring system, choose a company with a 10-year track record to ensure reliability.
  • Don’t rely on any system as your sole means of security. Locking doors and windows is still your best first-line of defense.

6.  Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade

The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.

That finding is echoed in NAHB’s report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace.

In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.

Some tips for converting to gas:

  • A direct-vent gas insert most closely replicates the wood-burning experience at a cost of about $3,000 to $4,000, installed.
  • If you don’t have an existing fireplace, you can install a direct-vent (vents directly outside so you don’t need a chimney) gas fireplace for about $5,000 (installed and finished).

7.  Add Some Creative Storage

We don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage? Never, we bet.

Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.

Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs. See how.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase. See how she did it.

8.  Light Up the Outdoors

Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. A hard-wired lighting fixture can cost $150 to $250 to install. On the plus side, you could get a 50% return on your investment, says Judith Patriski, a Cleveland appraiser and REALTOR®. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums. (Check with your agent.)

And with technological advances in solar lighting, it’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to boost your home’s nighttime curb appeal.

Plus, 90% of buyers say outdoor lighting is on their list of desired home features.

Tips:

  • Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
  • If your lights are hard-wired, put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
  • Choose a warm white light. It’ll make your home look and feel welcoming.

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordonis an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.