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6 upgrades to make your home more appealing to buyers 

click to enlarge Updating light fixtures is a simple and inexpensive way to change the ambience of a room.

Updating light fixtures is a simple and inexpensive way to change the ambience of a room.

If you're putting your house on the market, you want to get a good price for your property without having to invest too much in upgrades. Making some improvements, however, can increase the appeal — and value — to prospective buyers.

"In the world of real estate, it's often necessary for sellers to spend a little on upgrades in order to achieve a satisfying home sale," says Bethany Richmond, communications director for the Carpet & Rug Institute (www.carpet-rug.org). "Fortunately, some of the most impressive upgrades, such as new carpeting, are also affordable. Such upgrades ensure that you don't have to spend a lot to achieve a better selling price."

Here are six simple, cost-effective upgrades to help you make a speedy sale.

1. Replace carpet — New carpet has a high ratio of value to cost. It substantially increases perceived value for homebuyers without requiring sellers to spend a bundle. "Even less expensive carpet styles will freshen the look of a room and prepare it for sale," Richmond says.

2. Clean flooring — If your carpet is in great shape and doesn't need to be replaced, having it professionally cleaned can make it look even better. A thorough professional cleaning helps lift tough soils and provides a cleaner look and fresher smell.

Not only is carpet a good value, it's healthy. People with allergies or other sensitivities are installing carpet to improve indoor air quality. Recent studies support previous findings that carpet, when effectively cleaned, traps allergens and other particles, resulting in less dust, dander and contaminants in the air.

Clean all other flooring, including hardwood, laminates and tile. Buyers will appreciate a sparkling clean appearance throughout the house.

3. Repaint in neutral shades — Fresh paint is another cost-effective upgrade. Buyers expect it, but many sellers hesitate to repaint. Covering walls in neutral colors makes a room look fresher and brighter, and gives buyers a visual "blank slate" against which to imagine their own decor. Do the work yourself to save money.

4. Update or upgrade lighting — You may find that disco ball-style light globe charming in your kitchen, but the average buyer doesn't want dated or unusual lighting. Replacing lighting, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, is a cost-effective way to give a room a more up-to-date look. If your fixtures are fairly new, consider replacing incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency options such as CFLs or LEDs. Although they're more expensive to purchase, they last years longer — a selling point for buyers who will reap the value of not having to replace bulbs any time in the near future.

5. Install new faucets — A high-end faucet can completely change the look and useability of a kitchen or bathroom. In terms of cost versus value, an upgraded faucet, such as pull-out or touch-free styles, can dramatically increase the perceived value of the house for a relatively modest investment. An upgraded faucet is a thoughtful touch that will set your home apart in buyers minds.

6. Replace hardware throughout the house — You may already have thought of upgrading kitchen cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, but have you upgraded hardware in your bathroom or on the front door? These seemingly small items have a major impact on the overall visual effect of a home. In desirable rooms such as kitchens and baths, designer hardware can elevate the entire look of the room. Upgraded door hardware also ensures buyers have a positive first impression.

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