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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When you're selling your home, you want to get the maximum value possible. So as you prepare to put your home on the market (and hopefully upgrade to new digs), what can you do to improve the value of your home? Not only is it possible for you to improve your home and get more money, it's probably a lot easier than you think.

Improving the Value Versus Market Appeal

"The first thing I tell people who come to me is that there's a difference between increasing the value of your home and increasing the market appeal," says Barry Jenkins, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Native American Group. "Asking price is determined by appraisers, and they have strict rules for value." For example, a full-bath is worth between $3,000 and $5,000. Square footage is another objective measurement of value. "When I tell people this, their wheels start spinning, and they ask me if they should add a bathroom," Jenkins says. The answer is no, because that's going to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 to achieve.

"Market appeal is a whole other beast," says Jenkins. What that means is basically the likelihood that your house will sell for the asking price. It's the answer to the question, why your house as opposed to any other?

Kitchens and Bathrooms Are Why Houses Sell

Jenkins says that kitchens and bathrooms are the main reason people opt for one house instead of another, very similar house. "If your house was built before 1990, you probably have these hokey cabinets with cast iron handles on them," he says. In one case, Jenkins advised a client to spend $1,000 changing out the cabinets in their kitchen. He can then sell the property as having an "updated kitchen." A mere $20 can get you a package of light fixtures that make a house look more modern. Replacing sinks with dual, "his-and-her" sinks is an easy upgrade to set your home apart.

Keep the Property Neat

Tom Healy, an associated real estate broker with William Raveis, points out that, while it sounds elementary, many people forget to keep their house neat and clean for prospective buyers. "If your home is cluttered you're going to lose money," he says. "If the decor doesn't make sense, you're definitely going to lose money." How much money? Healy says probably a few thousand dollars, which is a lot of money to lose because you didn't want to pick up your house before someone came by. Keeping the property neat includes cleaning your garage and landscaping if you have a yard. Failing to do so can be the most expensive act of sloth in your life.

Getting the Right Agent

Finally, if you're looking to get top dollar for your home, you need to get the right agent selling it. "'Top dollar' is just the highest price the market can bear," says Healy. There's no magic bullet when it comes to making your house go for more. "The broker that the seller hires should be working with other firms, advertising the house on a 24/7 basis, with a good description and sharing that home so everyone has access to it," Healy says. Ask to see a marketing plan from your agency up front. When in doubt, find a friend who has had a good experience selling his home to get referred to an ace.

But the most important thing, according to Jenkins, is to dummy proof your home. "Buyers don't know much," he says. "And because they don't know much, they're scared. They're operating under the fear of buying a really crappy house. They're looking for the Bogeyman."

Getting top dollar for your house means removing that fear before it even happens.

"I'm not really big on breaking the bank," he says. But it's absolutely necessary to do everything you can to make your prospective buyer feel good about buying your home.

--Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet