To put it lightly, selling your house is a pretty big deal. You have to interview realtors, clean more than you’ve ever cleaned in your life, welcome strangers into your home at all hours, and stage the place for sale.
For many homeowners, until their realtor walks through their home pointing out dozens of issues that could potentially diminish the selling price, they had no idea how much work was ahead of them. Of course you want to increase value anywhere you can, but home improvement projects can easily stack up, and seem overwhelming at first.
In a perfect world, maybe you would be able to tackle each and every imperfection, netting the highest possible selling price. In reality, homeowners are dealing with limited budgets, limited time, and certainly a limited capacity for stress and chaos in the house where they still live.
Besides, as your realtor may have already mentioned, home improvements will not always get you a dollar for dollar return on investment.
A classic example:
A beautiful $80,000 in-ground swimming pool with all the bells and whistles typically won’t automatically increase a home’s value by $80,000 – not even close. For many potential buyers, the thought of maintaining a swimming pool is a turnoff, and can actually decrease a home’s value.
Very few people can afford to invest money without seeing some sort of return. This is why realtors, architects, and home renovators have all paid very close attention to the types of upgrades that will increase your home’s value. After years of working with families looking to upgrade their home before putting it on the market, we have come up with our 10 best recommendations for home improvements that are actually worth it.
To maximize your home’s value, consider these areas…
You have probably heard the term “curb appeal.” This is not some strange phenomenon that only happens once in a while. Studies show that the way the house looks from the outside is extremely important to nearly every home buyer.
It can be easy to overlook this part of staging your home, especially if you are selling in the fall or winter. It’s true that you won’t have the advantage of a garden in full bloom, but you can still present a tidy and well-maintained exterior for that all-important first impression. Remember, the exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see.
Now, here’s the good news for you:
On average, homeowners will see a 100% return on investment for every dollar they put into landscaping services, and homes with landscaped exteriors sell at higher prices and sell sooner than homes without them.
Don’t underestimate how many houses have been sold based on the bathrooms alone.
There are two ways you can approach bathroom remodeling before putting your home on the market: minor renovations, or major renovations.
Let’s take a look at each:
A minor renovation means that you are keeping your bathroom mostly the way it is, but making cosmetic updates to add value. This might include a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new shower doors (or replacing shower doors for a shower curtain), updated lighting fixtures, a new sink and/or toilet, a new mirror, or re-tiling the floor.
A major bathroom renovation is obviously a much bigger job. This usually means upgrading the bathtub, the sink, the toilet, tiling the walls, replacing furniture fixtures, or increasing the square footage by knocking out walls. This may also include adding luxury features such as heated floors, soaking tubs, steam showers, or state-of-the-art lighting.
Obviously, there will be a significant price difference between the two.
On average, a homeowner can expect to see a 100% or better return on minor bathroom upgrades, and major upgrades will usually net you at least 90%. You can always ask the advice of professional remodelers and your realtor as to which choice will be best for your situation.
More than any other room of your house, the kitchen could easily be considered the “make or break” space when it comes to closing a sale.
Just like the bathrooms, you have two choices when it comes to kitchen upgrades – minor and major.
A few important things to keep in mind:
- Light colors make a space look bigger.
- Neutral colors and styles are best, because they have the widest appeal.
- Stick to what is popular in your area, rather than renovating based on your personal tastes.
With that in mind, a minor kitchen renovation might include sanding and repainting your cabinets, refacing your cabinets, changing out handles or drawer pulls, re-tiling the backsplash, updating the floor, modernizing the light fixtures, and getting rid of anything that looks too dated.
A major kitchen renovation usually means replacing cabinets entirely, along with countertops, the sink, the appliances, the flooring, and lighting.
Homeowners can expect to see approximately 98% on most minor kitchen remodels, and a 90% return on major kitchen remodels. Remember to factor in the time a full kitchen remodel will take when considering whether or not to take the plunge. It may absolutely be worth it, and increase the value of your home substantially, but it may also mean delaying your listing for several months.
Deck, Porch, or Patio Upgrade
Outdoor entertaining space is always attractive to prospective buyers. If you do not have a deck, porch, or patio, you may want to consider having one installed, or installing one yourself if you have the skill to do so.
Porches can sometimes be the most involved project, because in some ways, they are almost like an addition to your house. However, decks can also be very involved projects, especially if they are going to be elevated, or have multiple levels. Generally speaking, patios are the least expensive option – but of course there are dozens of factors that could go into any of these projects that might adjust prices up or down.
If you already have an existing outdoor entertainment space, setting aside a portion of your budget for upgrades will certainly be money well spent. Decks and patios that are already in good shape may need little more than a pressure washing, and some attractive furnishings. Older or more weather-beaten spaces might need a lot more elbow grease.
Be sure to pay especially close attention to any safety concerns. Make sure all steps and railings are in excellent shape, and if they are not, make repairs.
You know your own house better than anyone, which means you are already aware of all the dark corners, flickering bulbs, or overly harsh overhead lights in your home. A little bit of lighting design, and a few strategic upgrades can drastically improve the look and feel of your home.
Ask home remodelers or your realtor about the lighting fixtures that are the most popular, and see if you can add them in.
Bathrooms and kitchens can sometimes be especially guilty of having very dated light fixtures, and swapping them out for their newer (and more efficient) counterparts can go a long way in terms of making the spaces more attractive.
Of course, natural light is a very important aspect of staging home as well. If you have overly dark curtains blocking out sunlight, consider replacing them with something more sheer, or even removing them altogether.
Let’s address some major issues right off the bat:
If you have any of the following problems, they need to be addressed before you put your house on the market.
- Windows that have been painted shut.
- Windows that “stick,” or are especially difficult to open.
- Windows that “fall” or slip down after being opened.
- Windows with noticeable condensation trapped between the inner and outer panes.
- Broken or cracked glass.
- Windows with very poor insulation (in other words, can you feel a breeze inside your house even when the window is closed?)
- Windows without screens.
- Windows without safety features such as tempered glass or child safety locks.
Buyers really do love to see the words “new windows” on an MLS write-up. New windows usually mean lower energy costs, fewer concerns about safety, and drastically easier spring cleaning sessions. If buyers are deciding among a number of homes, but yours is the one with the brand-new windows, that just might be what sells the house.
You want to talk about home improvements which guarantee a return on investment?
Then let’s talk about floors:
We sometimes take for granted whatever materials are beneath our feet, but prospective buyers definitely won’t. Some realtors report that homeowners can see up to double their money back when they invest in new flooring.
Here’s something to consider: if your floors are run down or showing their age, your buyers will probably want to replace them the first order of business upon buying the house. That means they are factoring in some mental math for what that process will cost them, and it will be reflected when they choose to make an offer.
However, if you spend the money now, you could see it returned to you twice over when the offer comes in. That’s worth it!
Fix Nagging Maintenance Issues
Time for a gut check:
Be honest – does your house have a few quirks that drive you crazy? The vast majority of people will say “yes” to this question. But here’s the more important part: if you find them annoying, interested buyers will too.
So now is the time to begin walking through your house, and listing out all of those maintenance issues that you have been putting off. This means creaky floorboards, outlets that don’t work, loose doorknobs, shelves that are out of level, swollen doors that no longer fit their frame, that drawer that always falls off of its track, and the broken latch on the screen door. These are all the little things that you can technically work around, but they may be a major turnoff to a buyer. Too many of these little issues left unaddressed can add up, and you may get a lower offer as a result.
Neutral Wall Colors
Yes, the royal blue that you painted on the dining room walls looks very striking against your white furniture, but the buyers strolling through your house might get a headache upon seeing it.
The truth is, when buyers look at houses, they are trying to picture themselves, and all of their furniture and decor in it. Yes, somebody might look at a paint color and think “that will definitely clash with my couch,” but more importantly, when people see bold color choices in a home, they also see someone else’s personality reflected back at them everywhere.
Neutral colors can do your house several favors:
They can make small or cramped spaces look bigger, they can brighten up spaces that don’t get enough light, and they can act as a blank canvas on which potential buyers can imagine their new lives.
Give That “Spare Room” a Purpose
At the moment, your spare room may be housing a sewing machine, an exercise bike, some skis propped up in the corner and boxes of old files. Unclassified spare rooms can be very utilitarian and helpful to you as a homeowner, but buyers just flat-out don’t like them.
Investing a little bit of money to give that spare room the purpose can go a long way. For instance; a few bookshelves, a comfortable reading chair, and a strategically positioned lamp can give you a “library.” A large wall mirror, a balance ball, and a dumbbell rack can give you a “home gym.”
Each of these choices is infinitely more attractive to a buyer then a spare room could ever be, and realtors report that homes with purposeful rooms sell faster, and fetch a higher price.
Hopefully this list gave you some good ideas about what you can do before you put your home on the market. Remember, it’s all about a judicious use of your time and money. Don’t overspend on something you’re trying to leave behind, but don’t underestimate the importance of certain factors to a given buyer. Make your place inviting, functional, and up to date by focusing on these 10 areas that are the most likely to give you a return on investment.
If you found this list helpful, be sure to share it on social media – especially if you have friends who are looking to sell their homes too.