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Insider Tips For Boosting House Value

East Bay property experts reveal the home upgrades that help sellers get their maximum price.


September is prime home-selling season, and given the skyrocketing demand for real estate in the East Bay, most sellers are getting top dollar for their properties. “We’re experiencing … an 18 to 20 percent increase [in sales prices] year over year,” says Tim Ambrose, a real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties. “So, it’s getting trickier to say, ‘Put this amount into [your house], and I can guarantee you’ll get this much back.’ ” That said, experts agree that a few key updates can significantly increase the value of a home.


Meet the Experts

Tim Ambrose: President of the Bay East Association of Realtors. He represents buyers and sellers in the Pleasanton-Dublin area and around the East Bay.

Darshan LaBang: Designer and studio director at LMB Interiors in Oakland.

Alison Teeman: Principal appraiser and vice president at the appraisal firm Yovino-Young. She specializes in high-end properties across the East Bay, including those in Alamo, Danville, and Lamorinda.


State of Repairs

Before putting a home on the market, fix anything that doesn’t work properly—from roof leaks to dry rot and other behind-the-scenes issues. “Make sure the plumbing is updated if there’s a problem … and the electrical has been addressed,” Ambrose says. “That stuff scares buyers.”

Kitchen Confidential

According to all the experts, the most important room to update is the kitchen. But if you don’t have the budget for a complete overhaul, just focus on countertops. LaBang says white stone—notably Princess quartzite and Calacatta Oro marble—is the latest in-demand material.

Other kitchen tips? Make sure the appliances match. And, adds Teeman, “if you already have high-quality hardwood cabinets, it’s more economical to change the knobs and pulls … than to replace the cabinets entirely.”

Floor That Meets the Eye

Everyone wants hardwood floors these days. The current trend, LaBang notes, is wide (five-to-eight-inch) planks of white oak—a lighter look that goes with the en vogue white countertops. And while some laminates look like real wood, Teeman says they “would not be as valued.”

Courting Curb Appeal

Today’s buyers want a house that photographs well. “So, if I can encourage my sellers to do a nice paint job on the front [of the house], a nice front door, and [front-yard] landscaping, that goes a long way with improving your interest from buyers,” Ambrose says.

An attractive front door, in particular, elicits a hefty payoff. According to recent studies, installing a new steel entry door produces, on average, a 75 to 90 percent return on investment.

Cosmetic Touches That Count

Small details—such as smart wall colors and newer light and plumbing fixtures—are relatively inexpensive updates that make a big impact. For example, says Ambrose, “You can … put a shell over an existing bathtub, [and] that tub will look like it’s brand new.”

As for interior paint, LaBang says Swiss Coffee—an off-white shade tinged with brown—“is a crisp, clean color that works all the time.” To add some flair, she advises, “wall-paper is a huge trend that’s not going away anytime soon.” However, it’s best to avoid bright colors: “If you have a lime-green wall,” Teeman notes, “the appraiser’s going to knock a little bit off for that.”


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