Another year of strong economic growth, improved employment and pent-up housing demand bodes well for most sellers in 2015, particularly in the Farm Belt and in energy-producing states such as Texas, North Dakota, Louisiana, Montana and Wyoming, and urban areas like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston.

In fact, the National Association of Home Builders, or NAHB, predicts that the 2015 single-family home sector will outperform a strong 2014. There are cautions: Moody's predicts mortgage rates will rise from about 4 percent now to 6 percent by 2017.

The recovery has yet to arrive in many states, reinforcing the notion that real estate growth is regional. No one can accurately predict when this real estate uptick will end or how hard, or soft, a landing it will make. In the meantime, let proven fundamentals, applied with a few modern wrinkles, rule the day. Here are 10 tips for 2015 to help the real estate process.

1. Do sweat the small (cheap) stuff, sellers

Little touches go a long way in the buyer's eye, starting logically with the entry. Trim bushes, wash walkways and change out trampled welcome mats. Inside, de-stink with candles and counter sprays, de-jam closets and de-clutter rooms, focusing keenly on kitchen counters. Hide scrub brushes and other fantasy-killing labor tools. Dust, wax, scrub toilets, wash windows, test and clean lights, put out fresh towels, winnow family mementos, harness or hide that avalanche of toys, remove prescription drugs from medicine cabinets and police the yard for "pet bombs." It's time well-spent.

2. Take note(s), buyers

In a whirlwind house-hunting tour of several properties, buyers benefit by keeping a pro-and-con checklist of each home they visit. Otherwise, the features of several homes tend to blend together in a tired brain by day's end. Creating a rating scale of 1 to 10 also helps, as does carrying a checklist of specific features that you seek in an ideal home.

3. Sell by season

Though spring is optimal, home selling is a year-round sport. Use seasonal accents to make buyers linger longer.

Winter: Unfurl throw rugs and spotlight functional fireplaces. Near holidays, add touches like wreaths and pine-cone centerpieces. Display photos of your home a season ahead, particularly in winter, so buyers can see the house ensconced by greenery.

Spring: Fresh-cut flowers and candles bring spring scents indoors. For that new-start look, do extra spring cleaning and use brightly colored linens, spreads and pillows. Add little pops of color to the entry and landscape.

Summer: Highlight patios and other outdoor areas. Swap out dark towels and curtains for light colors. Put out a seasonal fruit basket or add hanging flowers. Keep the house cool but not cold.

Fall: Display pumpkins by the door and vases of fall foliage or tricolored corn inside. Use seasonal scents such as baked apple. Keep those leaves at bay.

4. Drill deeply

Buyers are regularly advised to scope out the block at varying hours, but why not drill down further to see if your potential new neighborhood is fading or flourishing?

  • Bad signs: A major local employer is struggling or moving away; adjacent neighborhoods are progressively turning into rentals; and a few too many for-sale homes are lingering on the market. Nearby commercial spaces remain persistently vacant.
  • Good signs: Schools are in high demand and well-rated. Young families and artsy types are moving in. Older couples are "aging in place" and nearby commercial properties are getting redeveloped and quickly leased. For-sale homes are generating multiple offers.



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