How to Enhance
Home Market Value
Without Spending Big Bucks

There are lots of ways to improve home market value. Obviously, the home market value range of any property will depend on sale prices of recently sold homes of similar size, style, features, improvements and physical condition in the same general location.

How to enhance property value within that range will depend on your willingness to follow a simple recipe:

pinch of cash + a dash of imagination + a stirring of creativity + pound of physical effort + a large dose of objectivity

Emotion and Home Market Value

Aside from obvious personal economic restrictions, the buying process is based largely on emotion. Provided the property has the needed fundamental ingredients, a buyer's decision is based primarily on how they feel about your home. The more excited they are about the prospect of making your home theirs, the more they'll desire it. And when such magic happens, the better the chances of getting not just an offer, but an outstanding offer reflecting a higher home market value.

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Turn On Your Home

Let's begin with cleanliness and tidiness.

Not much affects house values more than dirt. Nobody really wants to buy an unkempt house, even if their own is in the same sorry state. They want a clean slate. Afterward, their personal hygiene (or lack thereof) and lifestyle choices will manifest their own custom environment. It'll be their own dirt. And boy, have I seen some doozies.

Ensure your house is clean - inside and out. Wash everything. Shampoo the carpets and sanitize the kitchen and bathrooms. Make everything sparkle, including large and small appliances, even if they're not included on the listing.

Allow me to make this perfectly clear - window glass must be perfectly clear. If a thermal seal between the panes is lost or the glass is cracked or broken, replace or repair it. And no unsightly dog nose smears or slobbers on the patio door. Don't leave dirty laundry lying around either. And change your bedding regularly. You may be oblivious to the bad odour, but a stranger certainly won't.

Paint It

If the paint is old, in rough condition or simply out of style, paint the walls with a new trendy neutral colour and shade. It's probably the easiest way to enhance home market values. Because an amateur paint job will turn people off, If you're not a good 'straight-line' painter, ask a skilled friend to help. Or if necessary, hire a professional. You'd be surprised how inexpensive it is to have it done by a pro. 

If the carpet is old and worn, or a colour that won't generally appeal to the masses, replace it with a reasonable quality broadloom in a neutral colour. Groovy orange shag just won't do it anymore. Or replace it with hardwood or engineered wood plank. Yes - it'll cost more, but may result in a higher property value. 

Is your front door in rough shape? Would a good coat of enamel salvage it? If not, consider installing a new door and/or lock-set. And replace the torn screen. The same goes for the garage door. If your kids have used it for hockey practice, or is just dented and scratched from years of neglect, paint or replace it.

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First Impressions

As a buyer prospect wanders through your home, they'll be consciously or unconsciously seeking to justify the first impression, whether good or bad, that they instinctively developed upon initially approaching your home. If they feel negative at the door-step, they'll seek - consciously or unconsciously - more negative aspects during the viewing to justify that first bad impression.

It's common knowledge that landscaping can improve home market value. If your home is a freehold (not condominium), to improve its property value, make a small investment in landscaping, particularly the front garden.

Is the old concrete walkway cracked and heaving? Consider replacing it with a new poured walk, flagstone or interlock. Is the driveway cracked and rolling asphalt? At least have it repaired or re-coated, if not replaced completely. Interlock paved driveway? Pull the weeds from the cracks. Repair the lawn. Edge, weed and mulch the gardens and trim the shrubs. Plant some annuals. To add some charm, how about a couple of hanging flower baskets?

Buyers appreciate pride of ownership. It tells them that the owners have cared about their home over the years. It's easier to see themselves living there and carrying on the tradition.

Kitchen and Bathrooms

By far, these are the most important rooms in the house. If the cook doesn't like the kitchen - the heart of the home - in my experience, they usually don't buy the house.

Is your counter-top damaged? Replace it. Does the faucet leak? Repair or replace it. How about the floor tile; cracked or chipped ceramic? Consider a new floor. A new kitchen has one of the highest returns on investment. If your old cupboards are 'cooked', to seriously enhance your home market value, a possibly quicker sale and maybe a higher sale price, consider springing for new cabinetry. If the cupboards are in sound structural condition, but the finish is showing the wear and tear of aging, maybe a professional facelift is all they need. Check out the cost of new doors and hardware, maybe a new crown molding, or a new trendy look with professionally sprayed cabinet paint.

Grubby bath rooms will definitely have an adverse effect on home market value. Make sure the grout around the bath tub is in good repair - without any mold. Is the bath tub enamel dulled from cleaning over the years with an abrasive cleaner? A re-finish is not that expensive and can give it a new lease on life, with the added benefit of a more fashionable colour. Chipped sink? Pop in a new one, maybe with a new counter-top, to match the new tub colour. A new floor won't cost much and may pay dividends. Clean, shiny bath rooms improve real estate values.

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Bright Sells

Another inexpensive way to increase home market value is an electric light fixture upgrade. And for goodness sake - make sure all burnt bulbs are replaced with the maximum safely allowable for the fixture.

To ensure top operation, service your furnace, air conditioner and any other mechanical equipment. And make sure any exhaust vents are clean and running smoothly and quietly. A rattling, greasy exhaust fan is a bit of a turn-off.


Is your home over-furnished? Crowded? Is traffic flow inhibited in any way? Ostracize excess furniture to a storage facility, and not into the garage or basement. Just because you don't consider these spaces important, other people will. Your rooms may appear larger and certainly more inviting. And think minimal when it comes to decor pieces. Stow away your family photo collection, trophies and the like. To avoid offending anyone, remove the giant stuffed marlin from over the fireplace. And by all means, put away the genuine bear rug. It's called de-personalizing and de-cluttering. Oh, and have a chimney sweep in to clean your chimney and fireplace.

For more information on staging, visit here, the Real Estate Staging Association or Canadian Staging Professionals websites.


Most often, cats are not a problem, as long as the litter tray is kept clean and out of the way and there is no overspraying issue. Having said this, I know a Realtor who was attacked by a large cat. It was hiding on the top of the fridge and as they passed by and it jumped and landed on the Realtor's back. Not a good scene.

Dogs, on the other hand, present other challenges. Obviously, if they're defensive and/or aggressive, you'll have to either be home for the showings to handle it or leave him with a friend or a kennel.   Small dogs can be a problem too, if for no other reason than being irritatingly noisy. And please - clean up after them frequently. Stepping on a pile of sh*t will definitely not improve the chances of getting an offer, let alone increase home market value. Also, since many people have animal allergies, as soon as they recognize unfriendly terrain, they'll head for the door in a flash. Ideally, dogs are not home during the selling process.

To-Do List

If you have an ancient list of repairs on which you've been procrastinating, it's time to get busy on it. Before making a final commitment, most buyers insist on having a home inspection performed. Any damage or deficiencies will be noted on the report. The more work and expense involved for the buyer to repair or replace things, the less inclined they'll be to buy your property. Or they may agree to remove the condition provided you either do the work by a deadline at your own expense, or reduce the price to reflect the cost of having the work done by a contractor or handyman. Therefore, you may as well get busy and get the work done beforehand.

Home market value can be improved with regular maintenance and improvements. If you've taken good care of your home over the years, keeping everything in good condition and renovating now and again, you may be ready for market without significant effort or large expenditure. Plus, you'd have had the added benefit of enjoying the improvements during your stay. To maintain and improve home market value, invest the time and money regularly during your ownership of the property.

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Last Minute Stuff

Before the buyer and their agent arrive at the door, turn on all lights - everywhere - even during the daylight hours! Not only does bright make your home more welcoming, particularly after dark, it also eliminates the agent having to search for light switches. They can concentrate on their client and address any concerns that arise during the showing, and not in the car on the return trip to their office where it's more difficult. Avoid cooking any foods that will leave an after-odour, such as fish or spicy dishes. They may smell delicious to you, but not necessarily to a guest. So, why take the chance?

No scent in a home is the best scent. 

Departing the House

Prior to a scheduled showing appointment, or at least when the agent and their buyers arrive at your door, to provide them with some privacy, it's good practice to go out during showings. If you're in their face, they may be uncomfortable expressing their opinions or possible objections until after they've left your property. This prevents their agent from addressing their concerns while actually in the house where any issues could more effectively be resolved. You want them to feel at home and not like they're invading your privacy. The more comfortable they feel, the higher the perceived home market value.

Before leaving, during a cold winter, make sure the furnace is not in off-set mode to a lower temperature. And turn on the gas fireplace or start a fire in the fireplace, provided, of course, you have the right equipment for safe fires. Summertime? Turn the air conditioning on, but not uncomfortably cold. During mild weather conditions, to freshen up the place, open ALL the windows and allow the air to flow through.

If you must be home, do your best to stay out of the way. Be invisible. Turn off all televisions and entertainment systems, and make sure all beds are made and that nobody is sleeping. There should be no dirty dishes in the sink and your toilets are best closed and flushed. Snow country? Shovel and salt your walkway and porch. Night time? Turn on exterior lights to welcome guests to your home. It's really annoying for an agent to arrive at a front door in the dark and have to open a lock-box to find the key, then locate the key hole and stumble into an unfamiliar foyer.

I realize that this all a lot, and it will definitely take a considerable amount of your time and effort. But as you perform these tasks, just remind yourself that you're increasing home market value.

Transform Your House Into a Model Home

Trust me - your extra effort could pay off. The buyers will appreciate the pride of ownership and your property could achieve a higher home market value. For more information on selling a home and how an agent can help you obtain a higher home market value, visit CREA.

If you're considering selling your home - with or without an agent - check out Ross' book The Happy Agent. It contains the sum total of the real estate knowledge, philosophies and techniques he accumulated, practiced and polished during a highly successful 43+ year realty career.

Learn how to effectively evaluate your home and prepare it for market to maximize the ultimate sale price, how to market and advertise effectively, how to handle showings and open houses like a pro, how to successfully negotiate an offer and more. Plus you'll learn to recognize the signs of when it's time to throw in the towel and hire a professional agent, and what to expect from them.

When you consider the possible huge savings in real estate commission with a private sale attempt and the fact that you're dealing with your largest single financial asset, a small investment of your time could prove quite worthwhile. At the very least, you'll be encouraged to try it alone. Remember - knowledge is power.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

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