The best strategy for selling your home is to keep the largest possible pool of buyers in mind. The more potential buyers you have, the more likely you are to get offers.

Of course, factors such as location, price and your home's architectural style will likely play more to one group of potential buyers than another. Not everyone wants to live 40 minutes from downtown in the same way not everyone wants to live in a townhouse or is capable of paying $1 million for their next home.

The key to effectively preparing, marketing and selling your home is understanding who's represented among the potential buyers – and how you can appeal to them.

[Read: When Location Isn't Everything in Real Estate.]

Home stagers make it their job to assess a home as it compares to both the real estate market and its location, and then decorate rooms that appeal to the aspirations of the most likely buyer. Those aspirations get reflected in artwork, fabrics and even table settings, explains Meridith Baer, a home stager and owner of Meridith Baer Home, a staging company with locations throughout the country.

"Often a buyer's own preference and lifestyle determine the direction of the design," Baer says. "The interior should tell the story of the person or persons who will be living there, including unique pieces that speak to the life they have lived, where they have traveled and what interests them."

Here are six things you can do to appeal to the most likely buyers for your home.

Get professional help. Real estate agents and stagers make it their job to know how to cast a property in its best light, and they're also familiar with buying trends in the local market.

A professional opinion won't just help you identify the most likely buyer pool, but it will also help determine what work you can do to make those buyers put in an offer.

Look at what's on trend now. In this golden age of home renovation shows, Instagram and Pinterest, buyers know what's in style when it comes to interior design. If you can give them that, you've got more than a few interested buyers, says Mark Parrish, a luxury real estate agent in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area.

"If we can get the seller's home to look similar to what the current, new trends are, that's going to be a win-win for the buyer and the seller," Parrish says.

Parrish notes that buyers are flocking to all-white kitchens, gold and bronze fixtures, utilizing different kinds of woods and gray walls rather than beige or brown. Not every home can easily be brought up to date on all the latest trends, but if simple fixture changes can make your home look like an HGTV renovation, you'll likely see buyers get excited.


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Consider the neighborhood. Buyers typically don't venture too far outside their ideal neighborhoods, so examine recent home sales: Who's buying, how updated was the home and how can you make your property even more enticing to the buyers still looking?

"A traditional home with lots of bedrooms in a great school district would encourage us to design bedrooms for kids and teens of different ages. One room might get twin beds, lots of stuffed animals and colorful artwork," Baer says.

The style changes, of course, when the scenery does, Baer adds: "If we're staging a sleek modern home near the boardwalk in Venice, we'll include eclectic original artwork or perhaps a vintage surfboard along with contemporary and eclectic furniture to attract a buyer that is keen on calling the artistic coastal community their future home."

[See: 8 Apartment Amenities You Didn't Know You Needed.]

Play up key features. Consider neighborhood features and amenities that a buyer with certain hobbies or work-life balance demands would be most intrigued by. "Is it convenient to what [the buyer does] on a day-to-day basis?" asks Eric Zollinger, executive manager of sales for real estate firm Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City.

As the executive director of sales for new condo development 196 Orchard in Manhattan, Zollinger says a big selling point for many buyers is the Equinox gym located in the building. Buyers who like their exercise regimen can easily picture themselves having the luxury fitness club right below them, and playing up that proximity works in attracting buyers.

As another example, walking distance to public transportation helps to open up the potential buyer pool even further because it doesn't limit buyers to those who own a car, work in the neighborhood or are willing to endure a long commute.


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Always consider the larger group. While it can be beneficial to try to develop an image of the potential buyer, don't get carried away in terms of who you imagine will purchase your property.

Federal fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status. You want to think of the most likely buyer for your area and type of home, not who the "ideal" buyer is, and especially not in regards to any of the protected classes.

"You would never prejudge a buyer," Zollinger says.

You want to keep a broad perspective, while helping potential buyers envision themselves in the home. If you live down the street from popular bars and restaurants, chances are many house hunters in the neighborhood will be seeking close proximity to nightlife options. Secondary bedrooms set up as guest rooms and a bar cart in the living room could help potential buyers envision themselves in the space, without ruling out the possibility that a family with kids could live there as well.

When in doubt, broaden the buyer pool. Sometimes getting top dollar on your home means you're going to have to renovate everything, and that simply doesn't make sense. If you're not able or not willing to make major changes to your home, keep in mind how that buyer pool may change as a result.

Parrish says he previously sold a midcentury modern house that hadn't been updated since, well, midcentury. Renovations would have been too extensive to bring the home up to date, but its prime location on a lake made for a much wider buyer pool.

[Read: How to Sell a Teardown House.]

A house like that in a highly desirable spot can easily sell to a builder, an owner looking to redevelop or renovate or even a person who doesn't mind the dated look.

"People tend to overlook some things in exchange for something like lot location or location in general," Parrish says.


The Little Things: Decisions That Can Impact Your Home's Sale Price


Slideshow

Minor moves for a bigger payoff.

A young woman tidying her house

(Getty Images)

A lot of thought goes into preparing your home for sale, and most decisions depend on the amount of investment you’re willing to put in before the house goes on the market and how big your return will likely be. So it may come as a surprise that many seemingly minor changes can make a significant difference on your house’s sale price. Small updates won’t fix every problem spot, of course – as Andrea Di Giuseppe, founder and CEO of TREND Transformations puts it: “If you still have your kitchen giving you the vibe of the ‘Golden Girls,’ well, maybe you need to refresh it completely.” The following little decisions may help you appeal to potential borrowers.

Paint color

Paint color

Luxury Master Bathroom with Free Standing Bath Tub

(Getty Images)

Real estate information company Zillow released its 2017 Paint Color Analysis in June, which found that blue hues had the most positive overall impact. Homes with blue bathrooms, in particular, sold for $5,440 more, on average. However, homes with a blue living room typically sold for $820 less. Red dining rooms have a negative correlation, with homes selling for $2,031 less, on average. Homes with a light brown or beige living room sold for $1,809 more on average, according to the report.

Hardware

Hardware

Cabinets, ovens and windows in modern kitchen

(Getty Images)

A simple way to refresh key rooms in your home is to update the hardware – cabinet door handles, drawer pulls and interior doorknobs – with something that might look a little newer. “You can dress up a cabinet – in a kitchen or in a bathroom – very easily just by replacing the hardware,” says Marcia Dorolek, a real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Pristine in Bonita Springs, Florida. She adds that it can be particularly effective if the current hardware is builder's standard because it may be simple or dated.

Cabinets

Cabinets

Modern kitchen with lots of earth tones.

(iStockphoto)

If your cabinets have seen better days, you could make a slightly larger update but still avoid redoing your an entire kitchen or bathroom. “You could very simply reface your cabinetry and change your countertop,” Di Giuseppe says. Refaced cabinets, which includes applying fresh veneer to the cabinet structure and adding new matching doors and drawers, can remove the scuffs and nicks your kitchen may have suffered over the years.

Behind closed doors

Behind closed doors

A large and luxurious walk-in wardrobe.

(iStockPhoto)

One cost-free update you should not avoid is decluttering – and more specifically, decluttering your cabinets and closets. “Buyers are very interested, and they’re going to open the closets; they are going to open the cabinets,” Dorolek says, noting a crammed pantry, fridge or closet will make it look like the house lacks storage. No need to completely empty every nook and cranny, but make it sparse to give off the feel of ample space.

Furniture

Furniture

Close up of a living room showing a yellow sofa, with a lamp, ornate pendant and a table with decoration. There is a gray carpet with two pillows on it. Gray wall surrounding the scene with wooden floor.

(Getty Images)

You don’t necessarily have to toss your unattractive armchair out on the street, but you should take note of the pieces of furniture that could be improved to better sell the space. If you’ve got an upholstered chair or sofa with worn cushions or stuffing breaking out, consider a slip cover in the right color to complement the rest of the room. “You can do a lot of things with a throw cover,” Dorolek says.

Surfaces

Surfaces

Beautiful Kitchen in Luxury Home with Island and Stainless Steel

(Getty Images)

Another moderately minor renovation is focusing on the surfaces of the room. You should steam clean carpet that’s in good shape, consider restaining scuffed hardwood and potentially replace a dated countertop if you can still salvage the rest of the kitchen or bathroom. Rather than going for granite, which hit its peak in popularity a few years ago, Di Giuseppe recommends quartz or similarly engineered stone as a keyword that will stand out in a listing. “[Engineered surfaces] are very long-lasting, they are easy to maintain and for sure give you the highest return,” he says.

Flowers and plants

Flowers and plants

elegant bedroom in soft light colors, big bed at center

(Getty Images)

Inside and out, accent color from a floral arrangement can give your home the pop it needs to make a buyer feel welcome. A well-maintained lawn is key with bushes and shrubs where appropriate outside, plus some colorful plants by the door. “Flowering plants are there to give it some color,” Dorolek says, adding that flowers on a table or counter inside are also a nice touch. Use other plants inside where it makes sense, but avoid blocking walkways or cluttering any space with too many plants by keeping them on a table top or in a corner.

Pro recommendations

Pro recommendations

(Getty Images)

Other little decisions are often based on the location and condition of your home, and if your real estate agent hasn’t given you a checklist of small changes or updates you can make, it may be a good idea to speak with a home stager or other professional to get tips customized to the home you’re selling. Di Giuseppe recommends always working with a consultant over a person connected to selling you materials to ensure you’ll get an unbiased opinion. “A salesperson will tell you you need to change everything. A consultant will understand what level of investment you want,” he says.

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Tags: real estate, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, housing market, home prices, home improvements


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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