It’s spring, which is the traditional start of the home shopping season. And as the housing market heats up and more homes become available, sellers need to do everything they can to stand out.

To help sellers fight the competition, Zillow asked top real estate agents and interior designers nationwide to identify the most valuable home improvements for a quick resale.

Curb appeal

A strong first impression is imperative as buyers begin making assumptions about a home well before they step inside.  “A clean entrance can go a long way at establishing a positive first impression,” says Zillow Agent Advisory Board member, Cyndi Lesinski of Valencia, CA. Whether you’re adding a pot of plants to the porch, or a fresh coat of paint to the front door, small, inexpensive updates to your curb appeal can really “increase the life and energy of the entrance,” says Lesinski.


Staging a home is a great way to attract buyers and help them envision themselves in the home. The goal is to make “your home appeal to the broadest audience and number of buyers possible,” says Zillow Digs Board of Designers member Mara Miller of Carrier and Company in New York City. Remove all personal belongings and avoid colors or furniture that are too style-specific. “Attempting to “decorate” may not be the best use of your time and dollars,” says Miller.

Invest in small home improvements

Both agents and designers agree that sellers should never invest in a major renovation before selling. No matter how out-of-date your home is, “major renovations prior to sale usually will not equal a dollar for dollar return, and the time invested outweighs selling it faster,” says Zillow Agent Advisory Board member Chris Speicher, of The Speicher Group and RE/MAX in Washington, D.C. Instead, focus on small projects such as updating your lighting fixtures, cabinet or door handles, or minor kitchen and bathroom updates.



Photo credit: Houlihan Lawrence

This sounds simple, but according to Zillow experts, cleaning and decluttering are the most important things a homeowner should do before selling. A clean house feels more spacious and helps buyers easily envision themselves in the home. “Nothing trumps the aesthetic of a clean and cared-for home,” says Zillow Digs Board of Designers member Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, CA. “Old appliances and furniture can be overlooked if a space is clean, simple and well-edited.”

Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances


Photo credit: Zillow Digs

Most buyers are still requesting “granite countertops and stainless steel appliances,” says Zillow Agent Advisory Board member Bic DeCaro. Keep in mind that most “high-end finishes don’t equal high-end returns,” says DeCaro. But in many markets, especially in California, incorporating granite and new appliances are great ways to catch a buyer’s eye.

Considering a remodel? Whether you’re a buyer, seller, or a homeowner, check out Zillow Digs for inspiration on your next home improvement project. Zillow Digs is a hub for home improvement and design ideas with photos of kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor spaces and more – organized by space, style, cost and color.  Save and collect photos, follow others and understand the real cost of remodeling projects using the patent-pending Zillow Digs Estimates.


  • Kevin Brent REALTOR®

    Staging is so important. I walked into a home today to show a client. The home would sell itself. But, the problem was… Too many personal items i.e. photos and collectables. If it was staged even slightly, I would be writing the contract tonight. Let the buyers imagine there family in the home… Your moving anyway.

  • Chris Mecham

    Granite counter tops? You’re insane. It already looks dated, and real people don’t have the time or knowledge or frankly the money or interest in taking care of it. There are lots of great surfaces out there, and honestly, when you live in my neighborhood, you get the Formica. I’m not putting granite in a 55 year old $150K house.

  • blackpowderbill

    I agree my wife wanted me to update the kitchen. NO WAY let the next owner do it. Home is 21 yrs old so we did all the floors in laminate and carpet in the bed rooms. Mstr bdrm has 3/4″ hardwood. Best thing we ever did. Granite not in my colonial here in New Yorkisstan.
    Maybe when I move to Georgia..I really like the colored concrete counters and tiles they have out.

  • ValleyGal

    I agree you have to evaluate the upgrades you make for the neighborhood where you are. In addition, if you have dated Formica, there are new looks in today’s Formica that closely mimic the look of higher end countertops, and it remains an easy-to-care-for choice!

  • Eileen McTague

    Granite counters are definitely still IN; not outdated. Women love them!! Having had them for 9 years in my own home, I found them practically care free. I also know that the granite in my current kitchen will help sell our home.

  • Bill

    Personally dislike stainless steel appliances. If you don’t wear gloves all the time then you spend an irritatingly large amount of time wiping fingerprints off of them. Additionally, the very first time you use your stainless steel sink it will show scratches.

  • JDS

    Unless the clutter is overbearing or unsightly, I totally disagree with the De Clutter recommendation! When I’m looking for a home I like seeing family pictures, etc. It tells me it is a home not a house!

  • Noreleen

    Normally Home sellers are not aware of these things, the tips looks very general but it can play crucial role when you are selling your home. All the tips are very important and home sellers should consider these points before selling their home. Thanks for sharing these useful tips with us.

  • PawneeBill47

    You forget, in many parts of the country a $150,000 house is not possible. Most houses in L.A. run $400,000 or more.

  • G.E. Maynor

    Thank You! Never again will I have stainless Steel. A royal pain to keep clean.

  • Backstage All Access

    Most ppl want to walk in and feel like the are already home. Personal items take away that fantasy.

  • JDS

    I still disagree with you. If someone is that empty headed, then they don’t deserve a house of their own.

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