The real estate market is local. So if you want to sell your home fast, first find out how quickly homes at your price point are selling in your area. Then take these steps to speed up the process.

1. Ask Agents the Key Question. Ask prospective Realtors the average time their listings were on the market before they sold. Days on the market is influenced by the state of the market and the list price, but you still want to see who sold their homes the quickest.

2. Price It Right. If you want to sell fast, start off with an attractive price. Your home will stand out from homes that are listed unrealistically high. You’ll get more showings and more potential buyers.

3. Prep It Completely. Make your home look its best inside and out. Curb appeal counts. Paint the front door, pull weeds, plant bright flowers. Inside, put extra furniture in storage along with any clutter you can't throw out. Then clean the place thoroughly.

4. Shoot It Sharp. Once your home looks great, have your Realtor take lots of crystal clear pictures that show off the house and grounds. Keep cars, kids and pets out of the picture.

5. Stay on Top of the Marketing. Marketing is the agent's responsibility, but check up on the advertising and ask to be featured prominently.

6. Seriously Consider the First Offer. "The first offer is the best offer" – this is true more often than not. Unless the offer is preposterous, holding out may be just wasting time when you need to sell your home fast. Again, enlist the services of a professional and heed their advice!

LIVE LARGER OUTSIDE

Today, more people are upgrading their homes by creating outdoor living areas with more function, comfort and style. Here are four ideas gaining appeal around the country.

1: Outdoor Kitchens. Barbecuing is just the beginning. Outdoor kitchens can also include a stove, oven and small refrigerator so the cook has all ingredients at hand. Some layouts include sinks, storage cabinets and preparation areas.

2: Outdoor Dining Spaces. These can be covered with a weatherproof gazebo that can be hung with curtains and screens. Tables with durable glass or tile tops, along with matching chairs with removable cushions make an attractive patio. Fancy hammocks and "gravity" chairs are also popular. These living areas can come alive at night with special lighting, outdoor fireplaces, chimneys and gas-powered fire pits in a style to complement your home.

3: Waterworks. Fountains, self-contained waterfalls, small ponds and water gardens add the soothing sounds of water without costing a lot. But if pools are common in your neighborhood, adding one can enhance your outdoor living and might increase property value. But first find out about maintenance and other ongoing expenses.

4: Shade Trees. Outdoor living is always enhanced with the addition of a few large shade trees. They provide cool shade in summer and beautiful silhouettes in winter. Planted on the east side of the house, shade trees prevent morning heat and on the west and southwest sides, they stop heat buildup from the afternoon sun to cut cooling costs.