8 surprising real-estate tips

Looking to buy a home? It’s better to be on a “Way” than a “Street,” pick a female real-estate agent and try to be close to a Starbucks.

That’s the advice of Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow.com, who collected statistics from his site’s database of 110 million homes to find trends in real-estate pricing. Along with Zillow economist Stan Humphries, he has written “The New Rules of Real Estate” (Grand Central), out Tuesday. Some of his findings:

  • The Starbucks effect. Take two identical homes sold in 1997. One near Starbucks would have sold for an average of $137,000, while the same home without a Starbucks would have sold for $102,000. Fast-forward 15 years: the average US home appreciated 65 percent to $168,000, but the property next to Starbucks skyrockets 96 percent to $269,000.
  • All renovations are not created equal. The greatest return for your investment is a mid-range bathroom remodel, a $3,000 job that returns $1.71 for every dollar spent. The worst home improvements for value are kitchen remodeling and finishing a basement. A top-of-the-line kitchen reno will cost you $22,000, and you’ll only get about $0.51 back for every $1 you spend.
  • Use the right words in a listing. Avoid “unique,” “TLC,” “investment” and “potential” — these could lower sale prices by as much as 7 percent. But words like “luxurious” for bottom-tier homes and “captivating” for top-tier homes could add 8.2 percent to your home’s value. Longer, more-detailed listings often sell for more.
  • “When” is as important as “how much.” In New York, the worst time to sell is the second week of December (listings sold for 2.8 percent less than average). The best time is March, when homes sold faster and for 2 percent more.
  • Seven is an unlucky number. Homes with “777” as their address sell for 2.1 percent less than their estimated value; house numbers that just include 777 (such as 17779 Main St.), sell for 1.8 percent less. Oddly, houses with just 7 as their number sell for 1.8 percent more than the estimated sale price.
  • Psychological pricing works. Listings with a nine in the thousand digit ($450,000 vs. $449,000) sell anywhere from four days to a full week faster.
  • Female agents tend to sell homes faster and for higher prices.
  • What’s in a name? A lot of cash, according to Zillow’s data. Homes on named streets tend to be 2 percent more valuable ­nationwide than numbered ones (unless you’re talking about New York City, where it’s a wash). But Main Street homes garner 4 percent less than America’s median home value. Street names with Lake or Sunset will sell upwards of 16 percent higher. Suffixes also matter. Avoid “Street,” which has the lowest home values of $183,120 nationally, and find a “Way,” which has the highest home values averaging around $312,000.

10 Best-Kept Secrets for Selling Your Home

Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.

Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Selling Secret #8: Light it up
Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.

Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.

Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.

Selling Secret #3: The kitchen comes first
You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show
Your house needs to be “show-ready” at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.

Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression
No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.