The average home buyer looks at 10 or more homes before making a decision. What that means to you, the home seller, is that your property will be compared to similar ones on the market. 

Every property has its amenities. An amenity can be either public (things like nearby parks, good schools, or a desirable view), or private (things like an updated kitchen, a media room, or a wrap-around porch). 

Part of your role as a seller is to make sure prospective buyers know the advantages of buying your home -- both the public and private amenities. It's up to your listing agent, your home staging, and the online photos and data to highlight these assets.

While a new roof or an energy-star-rated refrigerator might be a selling point, they aren't considered much of an amenity. To impress a buyer, you'll need to think beyond ordinary amenities and consider bonus features. 

How many of these bonus features can you claim?

 

Disability-friendly features matter

As more Americans enter their retirement years and plan to age in place, the demand grows for homes that feature what they need. These features include -- 

Surfaces that are easy to keep clean
Drawers instead of cabinets in baths and kitchens
Comfort height toilets
Lever-style door handles instead of knobs
A walk-in or roll-in shower with hand-held showerhead
Entrances that are without steps
Extra-wide doorways, double doors, pocket doors, and doors on rails 

None of these features will be off-putting to other markets. But they are sure to be noticed and appreciated by seniors and those with limited mobility. Around 10% of the world's population lives with a disability. You can modify your home in simple ways like doorways that will accommodate a wheelchair or scooter, such as the top photo above from Suzanne-Kasler, or making the front entrance of your home a slope instead of a stoop, as pictured above in the photo from Remodeling Magazine.  

Smart technologies modernize a home

If there are gadgets like programmable lights and thermostat, a home security system and cameras, keyless door locks, Bluetooth speakers, or an automated sprinkler system, buyers are willing to pay more. 

These simple bonus features are bound to get the attention of younger buyers, but are important to other demographics as well. A video doorbell, lightbulbs that can be turned on and off remotely, or motion-controlled exterior lighting are some examples of technology that differentiate your home from others.  

Installing them now will require money but your investment can result in a quicker sale for a better price. Your home looks like it's kept up with the times, building confidence in a buyer's mind.    

While you are considering adding new technologies to your property, it's a good idea to remove or hide outdated equipment such as oversized speakers, clunky desktop computers, and printers, old cell phones and remotes, fax machines or obsolete televisions you don't use anymore. Find out locally where you can dispose of them safely.  

A thermostat that can be programmed or remotely set represents
the latest in indoor climate control. If you're not an experienced DIY-er or have 
an older home, it's advisable to hire an electrician
or HVAC technician to do the work. Photo: Brower Mechanical


Buyers expect neighborhood perks 

Everyone's heard the expression, "Location, location, location." It's a major consideration for buyers. So, create a list of all that you love about living in your neighborhood, your town or city. Give this list to your Realtor!

"Walkability" is a current real estate buzzword, as people who have lived in urban areas before the pandemic are relocating to suburban areas. They want the best of both worlds -- room to roam, safety, and nearby shopping and dining.

Last winter, before social distancing guidelines were in place, my own small town hosted an all-day open house at our town hall for area real estate agents to show them how well the town had recovered from hurricane damage the previous year. It was a grassroots effort to help home sellers, but area businesses and our town government cooperated and contributed. Volunteers (mostly home sellers) offered refreshments, manned booths that showcased perks like our library, kayak launch, community garden, dog park, playground, marina, and tennis courts, and they answered questions about the PowerPoint and photo display. Every Realtor left with a printed handout that boasted about our public amenities -- from town infrastructure, police statistics, and town-sponsored events, to a list of businesses, clubs, and recreational opportunities.

If you start a list like this about your locale, whether it's rural, suburban or urban, you will be surprised how many special features you and your neighbors enjoy. These intangibles are often missing in MLS listings, yet they are what make people happy about their lifestyle.  

People want to know how close local attractions are to your property -- 
the library, museum, walking or bike trails, hospitals, dog park,
schools, shopping venues, and area restaurants. Photo: Chips Restaurant          

  

A home with a picket fence has always been part of American 
landscapes. In fact, since the 1940s a home with a white picket fence has been 
shorthand for living the American dream. Photo: Family Fence Company of Florida

Fencing is a big bonus

Realtors like to mention "fenced back yard" in an MLS description. It's no wonder. Whether for security, privacy, a place for children or dogs to run free, or purely cosmetic, a fenced area is a plus on any property. 

More than 63% of Americans own a dog, and having a secure place for a dog to get exercise is important to them. Families with small children appreciate the security a fenced yard promises.

If your property is marketed to investors who plan to rent it, a fenced yard is especially valuable. As a landlady myself, I know that renters have a difficult time finding rental homes that allow dogs. Fenced homes rent for more money and can give rental agents a larger pool of applicants than a no-pet rental would give them. 

But it's not just back yard fences that score points with buyers. A side yard, patio, or balcony can be enclosed with a privacy fence to create a relaxing refuge. A tall fence can screen a view that is something you don't want to see, or don't want prospective buyers to focus on. Lower fences like the one shown in this photo from Lauren Leonard Interiors, can be used to shield from view utility areas for recycling and garbage bins, bikes, hoses, and air conditioning units. A locked fence is a deterrent to troublemakers.  

Also, one of the most common complaints homeowners have about maintaining a yard or garden is that deer come and do serious damage, often destroying entire plants, but the right fence will deter them, and save expensive plantings. 

There's no need to pull a Tom Sawyer hustle to maintain today's fences. Fortunately, they can be made of maintenance-free materials like aluminum, vinyl, PVC or chain link. 

A professionally installed fence will return about 65% of your investment at selling time.  

Outdoor hardscaping adds character 

A fence is just part of a home's hardscape. Hardscaping is the name we give to all the non-living elements like stone walls, brick walkways, gravel paths, concrete patios, sidewalks, and driveways, and all the pretty things like a trellis, arbor, fountain or pool. Hardscape even includes containers for plants, outdoor furniture, and ceramic or stone statues in the landscape. 

I teach a class at the local community college about landscape design, and I love to show students examples of how hardscape elements add color, variety, and even whimsy to their home landscapes. It's difficult to narrow down the list of possibilities to a single PowerPoint for them! 

If you are preparing your home for the real estate market, consider how hardscape can enhance its curb appeal with containers of colorful flowers, how it can improve its safety with clear, smooth walkways, and how it can increase its usefulness with a patio of pavers, flagstone, concrete, or bricks. These are all upgrades that help make your home unique and memorable, and some are easily DIY projects. 

The best hardscape bonus features are the ones that will remain at the house you're selling. But any well designed and appropriate hardscape will give you a competitive edge over other landscaped homes in your market.    

Some hardscape might be fixed and convey with the property. But some might be yours to take with you after the sale, like this birdbath that adds a focal point and some structure to an untamed landscape. 

The coming autumn days are prime time for improving your landscaping in general. If you like to garden, take cuttings of your favorite shrubs and start rooting them now. You can dig up the dormant flower bulbs, replant some and dry some you might like to take with you to your next home. Divide your favorite perennials now and pot up some to take with you when you move.

If you've included some bonus features in your home improvements and home staging, you could be moving soon! Bonus features are what make a home memorable, give it some personality, and make it easy for buyers to envision themselves comfortable in your home.  

Get the look, get the book

Don't leave without downloading my eBook, DIY HomeStaging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll discover a wealth of tips, solutions, schedules, and checklists that take the guesswork and confusion out of staging your own home.