Over the years I’ve watched as friends and family have bought and sold, sold and bought, their houses. Throughout this process, they have always sought after that "holy grail" of real estate experiences—finding the exact right home at the exact right price. Watching them has also made me all too aware of how influential the seller can be in determining whether the house gets bought/sold for its asking price. Even if you’re not ready to sell your home yet, statistics support that the decisions you make now will influence its saleability in future years. For now or for later, these simple home-maintenance tips can boost your home's value.

Calculator and tip sheets 

Every home is different, and your personal house may need a little or a lot of help to deliver your asking price. So it can be worth it to sit down with a calculator and figure out how much each proposed improvement will net you in return. Here are two great tools to help you figure it out!

  • Home improvement calculator: This tool will help you calculate the most desirable home improvements by zip code, guiding you through the process with a self-quiz.

1. Prune and groom

Landscaping is a key part of "home staging" (preparing the home to look "lived in" to potential buyers). But many sellers overlook the outside in favor of sprucing up the inside. Experts say this can be a fatal error in the negotiation process. HomeGain.com lists "landscaping" as one of the top 12 improvements sellers can make to boost home value.

  • What to do: Prune, trim, weed, rake, mow, re-sod, and re-plant as needed. Remove all debris and clutter (including lawn equipment and trash cans). Clear and power wash walkways. Add cheery lighting.
  • How it affects home value: Spending a few hundred dollars to spruce up the yard can translate into a home value increase of $2,000+.

2. Tend to the front door

This Old House reports that most buyers make up their mind whether they like a house or not in the first 7 seconds after entering a house. This means your big chance happens right as the prospective buyer's feet are crossing through the front door!

  • What to do: Sand, prime, repaint. Make sure the doorbell works and tend to the mailbox. Make sure any awnings or overhangs are fresh, new, and leak-proof. Hang a cheery wreath or place freshly flowering potted plants near the front door. Make it feel like "home."
  • How it affects home value: Want to sell your house? Sell it in those first 7 seconds!

3. Take another look at flooring

This can include carpeting, tile, hardwood/laminate, marble, and other floor coverings in your house. You might think the floor is the last place a prospective buyer would look, but the truth is they don't even have to physically use their eyes to detect problems—they can hear and feel them long before their eyes see that they are there!

  • What to do: Find and fix every squeak. Replace broken boards or tiles. Lay new carpet. When choosing colors, think neutral (if your personal taste is anything but neutral, you may need to replace now to sell later). Upgrade to classy laminate or engineered hardwood with an area rug over wall-to-wall carpet.
  • How it affects home value: The investment you put in can double itself in terms of an improvement in your home's value (i.e. invest $1,000 in your floor and watch your home value increase by $2,000).

4. Get rid of the "what's thats?"

Asking, "what's that?" may be cool when you’re rummaging through a yard sale. It's not quite so great, realtors say, when you are trying to sell your house. Unless you own a genuine certified historic home complete with secret passages and the original spire, the "what's thats?" probably need to come down before your house goes to market.

  • What to do: Strange color choices, outdated wallpaper, vinyl floor tiles, white lace curtains, frosted windows—here, you’re looking for small things that can do your pending sale in in a big way. Try bringing an impartial individual—someone who isn't familiar with your home—in to do a walk through. Ask them to point out what seems odd, then flag those areas for a closer look and possible improvements.
  • How it affects home value: This one can be a genuine deal-killer, real estate brokers say.

5. Light it up—all of it

Lighting—the brightness, the fixtures, inside versus outside—can do more to affect a potential buyer's perception of your home than practically anything else. The best lighting doesn't need to be expensive—MSN Real Estate reports that even an investment of as little as $100 in new bulbs and fixtures can markedly change a home's perceived ambiance.

  • What to do: Agents say to focus on the big three "dated, distracting, damaged." Here as well, even if you are petite, your prospective buyer might not be—so get rid of low-hanging fixtures throughout. Finally, balance the lighting—do a walk through to ensure there isn't a drastic lighting change from one room to the next.
  • How it affects home value: A collision between a tall buyer and a low fixture could seem minor but have devastating consequences for your hoped-for sale!