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  • Curb appeal is king among home renovators

    For many people, deciding the type of home remodeling project they want to tackle first is one of the toughest steps to figure out.

    A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a home's curb appeal.Zillow Digs, a home improvement and marketplace branch of Zillow that shows the real cost of remodeling projects, released a new survey that stated homeowners and prospective sellers looking to add value to their property and investments should focus on curb appeal before confronting any other possible upgrades.

    Zillow Digs polled real estate agents and interior designers, asking them about the most valuable home improvement projects are for the money. The housing experts agreed that minor upgrades are the best route to take - especially to the exterior of the home such as a fresh coat of paint or some landscaping. Both are relatively cheap projects, can be done without hiring help and can add to the home's asking price by boosting the curb appeal and market value.

    Why is curb appeal so important?
    "A home's curb appeal is always critical, since it's the first impression for potential buyers," Steve Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors, told Parade. "That's why exterior replacement projects offer the greatest bang for the buck. Projects such as entry door, siding, and window replacements can recoup homeowners more than 78 percent of costs upon resale."

    Zillow Digs reported that many buyers often make assumptions about a home before they make their way inside, so making a strong impression via the exterior of a home can help fuel interest and drive up bids.

    "A clean entrance can go a long way toward establishing a positive first impression," said Cyndi Lesinski, a Zillow agent advisory board member. Lesinski said adding "fresh potted flowers to increase the life and energy of the entrance" can also earn you style points.

    One of the easiest ways to give your home a well-groomed look is by adding a fresh coat of paint to the garage and front doors. Neutral colors and reds such as cranberry or burgundy are currently the most popular colors on Zillow Digs. These colors add style without dominating the landscape.

    Competition is amping up
    Sellers will have more competition this year as more homes hit the market, giving prospective buyers additional options they haven't had in the past few years, according to Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow's chief marketing officer and guest judge on NBC's new reality show "American Dream Builders."

    "In a crowded market, sellers should prioritize spending time and money on upgrades that have mass appeal," Bohutinsky said. "Home buyers don't want to feel as if they are paying top dollar for someone else's decorating style. An inviting exterior and landscape, fresh paint in neutral colors and clutter-free spaces will always appeal to a broad range of tastes."

    Go small or stay home Zillow Digs reported that most housing experts agreed that sellers don't need to tackle large renovations in order to improve the value of their homes. Small projects can even include sprucing up windows, gutters and other exterior features that are easy to clean but might be costly to replace.

    "Nothing trumps the aesthetic of a clean and cared-for home," said Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. "Old appliances and furniture can be overlooked if a space is clean, simple and well-edited." Zillow reported that most experts agree on this theory. A homeowner should remove the clutter from their home, because a clean house will feel bigger and will help potential buyers imagine what they can do with the space.