Posting the first annual increase in five years, home values rose slightly over
this time last year, reports Zillow, the online real estate site. In fact,
nearly one-third of the 157 metropolitan areas tracked by Zillow showed annual
price increases. This is good news for homeowners who have been waiting to put
their houses on the market. Before you do, a few simple spruce-ups can help get
your asking price.

“The housing market’s recovery continues to show
tremendous variation market by market. Sixty-nine of the 157 markets covered by
the Zillow Home Value Forecast are expected to see increases in
home values over the next year, with the largest increases expected in the
Phoenix metro (9.9 percent) and the Miami metro (6.1 percent),” said Zillow on
its website. “We believe that 96 out of the 157 markets have already hit a
bottom in home values, including Boston, Miami and

Improve the view. No matter where you live, it
pays to keep your home well-maintained. Curb appeal is the first thing to
consider. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first
impression. Look at your entryway. Is the paint peeling or faded? Are your
shrubberies overtaking the sidewalk? Take the time to scrape away any old paint
and apply a new coat. Sherwin-Williams Duration Gloss, our top-rated semi-gloss is
the only one in our exterior paint tests that has a primer built-in. After the
equivalent of nine years’ worth of exposure, the Sherwin-Williams was still
looking very good and would be a good choice for painting a front

Whack the weeds. As for that overgrown walkway, a
capable string trimmer can help you vanquish the vines and weeds in no time. In
Consumer Reports’ string trimmer tests, the top-rated gas models were best at
slicing through tall grass and weeds. But if you don’t like the hassle of a
gas-powered unit, several light duty electric models, including the Homelite UT41110, at $30 a CR Best Buy, were very good or
better at this job.

Neutralize garish rooms. Sprucing
up the paint inside the house also makes your home more attractive, especially
if you’ve painted some rooms bright colors that might not appeal to the average
buyer. The best course of action is to choose white, off-white or another
neutral color. “Safe colors like this will appeal to most people, increasing the
odds that your home will sell,” advises the Paint Quality Institute. And it’ll cost you well under $100.
Check our
top-rated interior paints
for the best choices.

Brighten the
. Outdated kitchens and bathrooms are typically the chief
complaint of prospective home buyers. But you don’t have to invest in an entire
remodel to improve their appearance. Here again paint can do wonders but so can
replacing the countertops, sink or floor. Bathrooms have
replaced kitchens as the most remodeled room in the home because they tend to be
smaller and you don’t have to buy all those appliances. As we reported in our Bathroom remodeling guide, small details can make a big
difference. Stain-resistant grout, framed mirrors and a heated towel bar are
just some ideas.

Kick the kitchen up a notch. For the
kitchen, you don’t need a bottomless budget to get a top-notch kitchen. In the
Luxury look for less, we suggest top-rated affordable
alternatives to pricey appliances, countertops,
and more. But be forewarned, poor planning and shoddy workmanship
are two of the costliest mistakes homeowners make when undertaking a remodeling
project. If you’re about to embark on one, best to invest a few months going to
showrooms and talking to professionals.