Home sales in 2015 are expected to increase over 6 percent, with the price of houses increasing about 5 percent nationwide, according to the National Association of Realtors.

homeowner caulking

How can sellers who have been waiting for the market to recover be sure they are getting the maximum they can from the sale of their home?

Consumer Reports magazine found that doing some work on your home before you sell can boost the selling price by an average 12 percent – more in some markets – or a gain of about $24,600 on the median-priced home of $205,000.

The consumer magazine surveyed 300 top real estate professionals from around the country about what sellers can do before putting their home on sale to increase the sales price.

Here are the top five ways to increase home value, according to the study:

1. De-clutter and depersonalize your home (Cost $0 to $2,500, return 3 to 5 percent)

No one wants to look through a messy, cluttered house. One agent surveyed recommended that you prepare your house as if your boss were coming for dinner. It’s also important, they say, to depersonalize the house of family photos so that potential buyers can imagine themselves living in the home. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, professional organizers can be hired to help. Consumer Reports recommends going to the National Association of Professional Organizers website and searching for organizers in your area.

2. Make improvements to your kitchen (Cost $300 to $5,000, return 3 to 7 percent)

Because the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house to the buyer – if not the most important – it’s important to have it in the best shape possible. That’s not to say you need to run out and buy all new appliances. But be sure to make all minor repairs, including leaks, lighting and marred areas on appliances and cabinetry. You can also make relatively inexpensive improvements that will make a big difference, including replacing cabinet hardware, new faucets, painting the walls, adding new curtains. If your appliances are in particularly bad shape, you might consider replacing them or offering an allowance. The same goes for cabinets and floors, especially if your sale is a while off and you’ll have time to enjoy them.

3. Spiff the bathrooms ($300 to $1,000, return 2 to 3 percent)

The bathroom is another important room to have in shape, real estate agents said. Caulking around the tub, cleaning tile, replacing faucets, adding towel racks, painting the walls, changing lighting, if needed, all help to improve the appearance of the bathroom. Bigger changes that might help, particularly if you’ll be living in the house for some time before the sale, would be a new toilet and vanity.

4. Paint rooms only if needed ($100 to $1,000, return 1 to 3 percent)

Most respondents said painting the entire interior is a waste of money. Instead, paint only those rooms that need it, as well as particularly brightly colored rooms. A bright room in an unusual or dark color can be a turn-off. “Oh, that’s the house with the purple bedrooms,” the client of one agent said. White and off-white walls are the most recommended, as well as beige and grey. Remember to paint the kitchen and bathroom if they need it, and tidy up smears with a Magic Eraser, Consumer Reports recommends.

5. Spruce up the exterior ($150 to $7,500, return 2 to 5 percent)

Give potential buyers a good first impression by mowing the yard, trimming the hedges, putting away toys, adding more mulch to flower gardens, etc. Power wash the exterior and make any visual repairs that are necessary. Repaint the entry door, or replace it if needed. It’s also important to have the roof in good shape. One-third of the respondents said having a roof in good condition was important. A typical reroof would cost about $6,000 using standard three-tab shingles, the consumer magazine said.