It is vital to make a great first impression. A fresh, clean, unencumbered appearance is a pivotal first step towards selling your home. Stained and thread bare carpeting or cracked tile with discolored grout is an eye soar. This is one reason why more people are installing hardwood floors.

Hardwood flooring enhances the look of any room and can create a classic or contemporary ambiance that will beautify the interior design of your home. Many residential real estate agents confirm that homes with wood floors hold their value better, sell faster and fetch higher prices.

Last year, 99 percent of real estate agents responding to a national survey conducted by the National Wood Flooring Association agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. The survey also found that 82 percent believe that homes with hardwood floors sell faster, and 90 percent of respondents said they would sell for more money.

The American Hardwood Information Center adds that restoring hardwood flooring in the home is one of the best long-term investments to be made. John Heggland, the owner of Connecticut Floor Supply Inc in Wilton for more than 50 years, said revitalizing your wood floors is a great and fairly inexpensive investment.

"Wood floors can be a forever product," he said. "We can re-sand floors that are up to 150 years old. Sanding floors and applying three coats of oil based polyurethane can cost as little as $1.70 a square foot, and a new stain for an additional 30 cents a square foot."

Another trade group points to the "green" aspects of wood flooring

"Hardwood floors are environmentally friendly, forever fashionable, and will last for generations," said Pembroke Jacobs, president of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association. "Plus, with an expected life span of more than 100 years for certain premium hardwood flooring, you can be assured that the hardwood really is a one-time investment with a very long-term payoff."

Maple, mahogany and oak are the most popular woods for flooring, but some homeowners are investing in exotics -- such as Brazilian cherry and bamboo.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that indoor air quality is one of the top health threats, and wood floors can help contribute to a healthy indoor environment. In fact, a recent EPA study found that pesticides used in gardens and homes accumulate on floors and other surfaces in the home, but wood floors can greatly reduce the accumulation of such toxins, which can collect in carpeting. Hardwood floors also do not trap or harbor dust mites or mold.

Although wood floors will probably need to be refinished at some point, when properly taken care of they are easier to maintain than other floor surfaces.

Having hardwood floors could be the difference between selling your home or watching a potential buyer walk out the door on a less-appealing surface.

Linda Skolnick is an agent with Prudential Connecticut Real Estate in Westport. Her "Skolnick's Scoop" appears in the Westport News every other Friday. She can be reached by calling 203-246-0088 or at her website, GoAskLinda.com.