Consumer Reports highlights ways to boost homes’ worth

This house at 26 Smith St. in Charleston has a modern kitchen stove. Kitchen redesigns are one of the best ways to boost home values, according to a new survey by Consumer Reports (Provided).

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

When it comes to the value of your home, the sale costs of nearby homes, the strength of the local housing market or even an entertainer or other community celebrity ultimately doesn’t matter.

House values can be adjusted upwards by as much as 10 percent by managing a few critical upgrades, whether that’s redesigning a kitchen or fixing up a bathroom.

These conclusions stem from a new Consumer Reports National Research Center report.

“You don’t have to spend a ton of money to increase the value of your home,” says Dan DiClerico, senior editor for Consumer Reports. “Some simple, inexpensive fixes throughout the house can make it more appealing to potential buyers.”

The report, which appears in the Consumer Reports magazine and online, stems from a survey of more than 300 licensed residential real estate agents by the consumer group’s research center.

The publisher crafted the report as sellers are benefiting from recent highs in home prices and buyers are benefitting from low interest rates.

Some of the work can be relatively cheap, such as “smart pre-sale fix-ups and negotiable agent fees that can financially benefit both sellers and buyers,” Consumer Reports notes.

Among the survey’s findings, 53 percent of agents told Consumer Reports that the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the house, while 42 percent cited bathrooms.

Real estate associates consider the second quarter, April through June, to be the best time to sell a home. They single out April as the best month.

Downsizing and job relocation are the top reasons that owners are selling. And in a technological vein, 64 percent of agents said “buyers did their own housing-market research online.”

The Consumer Reports study also looked at “money-wasting home-sale mistakes.”

They include overpaying on commission, which is based on a percentage of the home sale price. Real estate associates “may even lead sellers to believe that the fee is inflexible.”

In reality, 63 percent of the agents acknowledge they negotiate fees at least half of the time, the survey found.

“And despite the widely held belief that 6 percent is the standard broker’s commission, almost half of the agents surveyed typically charge four percent or less,” the report concluded.

Another area where shoppers can slip up is pricing a home too high.

“This is the most costly mistake, cited by 43 percent of the agents Consumer Reports surveyed,” the magazine says.

When houses are listed at a steep value, they will “just sit on the market,” according to Consumer Reports.

“Expect buyers to know what the market’s like; a good agent will show sellers the sale price for at least five similar homes nearby that sold in the past two months,” the organization notes in a release about its report.

Consumer Reports dubbed the study, “How to Make Your Home More Valuable.” It’s available in the March 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

In addition to top ways to increase a home’s value, the guide includes recommendations on products such as appliances, toilets and interior paints, and “tips for making a home shine online.”

Consumer Reports describes itself as the world’s largest independent product-testing organization.

Its facilities boast more than 50 labs, an auto test center and a survey research locale in which the group tests and rates “thousands of products and services annually.”

The organization dates back 79 years and counts more than 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. It also has an advocacy division — Consumers Union — which seeks health reform, food and product safety and financial reform among other consumer issues.