By Amanda Ventura

You don’t need the keys to a modern castle to see drastic changes in home value.

Two Texas Tech University researchers found that improving curb appeal of a home can boost its value by 17 percent.

HomeSmart REALTOR Aladin Abdin says first impressions are the most important part of a showing. He doesn’t suggest investing too much, though.

You don’t always get dollar-for-dollar returns,” he says. “Fixing up the exterior of the house will help it sell quicker and at a higher value, but it won’t always be worth it.”

Still, studies out of Virginia Tech have shown that something as simple as spruced up landscaping can boost a $150,000 home by nearly $20,000.

HomeSmart REALTOR of 13 years Kim Panozzo adds that time a house spends on the market will cost a seller more than what it takes to make a few cosmetic changes.

The local agents’ top tips for boosting a home’s curb appeal range from $25 fixes to more extensive procedures, like repainting an entire house. Even something as simple, and free, as rolling up your garden hose can make a better impression, Abdin adds.

Get flowery

Not everyone in the Valley can live on a green street with manicured trees. If your yard is xeriscaped, make sure the gravel looks bountiful and well-kept. Once that’s done, add pops of color.

If you don’t have the budget to invest in landscaping, potted plants are a great alternative,” Abdin says.

Paint by numbers

Potentially the most expensive change sellers can make to their home is re-painting the exterior. If the color is faded in areas outside the reach of shade or peeling from sun damage, it may be worth the up-front cost. Abdin does warn that he’s hesitant to suggest this to clients because, in his experience, it can costs upwards of $8,000. This amount is difficult to see a significant return of investment, he says. If you can’t paint the house, he suggests power washing the driveway to balance things out.

Knock the door

The doorway is Panozzo’s favorite part of any house. It’s the doorway to a home’s soul. She says she can tell if someone takes care of his or her home just by looking at the door. Before she takes on a listing, she advises clients to invest in a new doormat, sand and re-varnish or re-paint the door, which can be done for as little as $25 by the owner, and make sure the entryway feels like a fresh experience.

Fiddle on the roof

Arizona’s oppressive summer sun and wild monsoons can do a number on a roof. Before listing a house, check the roof for broken or deteriorating tiles. In the same vein, make sure sun shades are not faded and weathered, says Abdin. Panozzo adds that she always checks the eaves for dry rot.

It makes a new buyer feel more comfortable, knowing that you have fixed up the house in advance and that it was cared for,” she says.

Spread the wealth

Prospective buyers don’t just look at your house. They look at the entire neighborhood.

Don’t be shy about asking your neighbors for help,” says Panozzo. “A potential buyer isn’t just buying your curb, they’re buying into the entire street.”

A listing Panozzo showed for three weeks wasn’t going anywhere, and, finally, she heard why – the next door neighbor’s yard was a mess.

We sent a landscaper over to pull weeds for $250 and then the house sold five days later,” Panozzo says.