Home Improvements That Deliver The Most Bang for Your Buck

Fixing up your home can make your property more appealing to buyers. It can also reduce the time your home stays on the market. And fix-ups can get you a better selling price. 

But, there’s another side to home improvement projects. 
Some fixes actually waste the money you've spent on them when it’s time to sell. Some so-called upgrades may even make it more difficult for you to find a buyer.  
Let’s distinguish the loser projects from the winning projects. Since my blog is about home staging, this is not the time and place to recommend major kitchen and bath remodels. I think we all know that kitchen and bath upgrades, done right, have the sweetest return on investment. 
Let's focus on the more frugal, simple makeovers that add value to your property at selling time. It makes more sense to redecorate, update, and stage, than it does to remodel. 
Glass doors and crown molding give
 these cabinets their custom look. 
A kitchen dates a home faster than any other room, because kitchens follow decor and color trends. Yet, buyers have strong priorities when it comes to kitchens.
A major kitchen remodel (think big bucks) returns about 85 to 90% of your investment.

If you’re selling your home soon, any of these quicker alternatives to the complete makeover are more likely to pay for themselves.
  • Repainted white cabinets and new hardware, because white and grey are in style.
  • Ceramic tile backsplash, for an oh-so-current look.S
  • Solid surface countertop with that undermounted sink everyone loves.
  • New faucet that calls attention to itself.
  • Under-cabinet lighting that comes at all price points.Updated appliances (psst…they don’t have to be top of the line to still earn you additional points on an appraiser’s form, and to impress buyers).
  • Space-saving organizers like pull-out shelving.
Remember that even a state-of-the-art, glamorous kitchen loses impact if your gutters are leaking, your heating system is antiquated, your roof is missing shingles, your updated wiring consists of yet another extension cord, and your toilets rock (not in a good way).
Light and bright goes a long way. Mirrors,
lamps and pale colors work wonders. 
You can get all crazy, bust through some walls, re-plumb the room, yank the standard tub and replace it with a steam shower or spa tub, install heated ceramic flooring, and upgrade the vanity to the latest style topped with granite, but unless your home is high end to begin with, these upgrades may not pay for themselves at the closing table.

Instead, give your bathroom added value by making it look new without changing the floorplan. Toilets, sinks, faucets, vanities, window treatments, paint, and mirrors are not that expensive.

Study the look of luxury baths and imitate them with your accessories and color schemes.

Scrub your tub until it shines, no matter what color it is. Clear off the surfaces. Introduce a light scent. Paint with a space-expanding hue. Invest in beautiful towels. Update the hardware.  
The cost of a totally remodelled bath can return itself about 93%. But cosmetic changes can have a big impact on perceived value, so go for a refreshed look on a shoestring!

Outside Upgrades

Front entrance makeovers don't have to bust the budget.
Sometimes, paint and plants are all it takes.
How your home’s exterior looks will affect its fair market value. Make your home look inviting with an appealing exterior. Maybe the budget won’t allow new cement board siding or a total repaint (although painting an exterior can increase a home’s value by more than what it costs), but you can hose it down or pressure-wash it. 

Here are some other thrifty alternatives that will help make your house show well. 
  • Replace or paint the front door so it looks new. Make the door match and enhance the style of your home.
  • Paint just the trim of your home – what’s around the windows and doors, the corner boards, the fascia and soffit under the eves. New paint in these places brings a home to life.
  • Clean up the landscape. Drive the best neighborhoods in your area, and study what the professional landscapers have done there. Copy the look with the funds you have available. If nothing else, declutter and mulch, especially in the area in front of your home.
  • Money spent on a new deck, patio, or porch, will give a good return. Exterior remodeling projects like this are better candidates for homeowner projects than interior remodeling projects. Can you do it yourself? Exterior add-ons of outdoor living spaces, carefully done, have the illusion and even the function of added square footage. 
  • Make sure exterior hardware looks cared for. Are exterior lights operating? Do they need replacing or painting? How’s the doorknob, hinges and other hardware around the front door? Check handrails and even the mailbox to see if they want fresh paint. 

Spending Is Easy, Recouping Isn’t
Some lumber and some brick are all it took
to increase the living space of this home.
The hard facts are that with most home remodels, you never get your money back instantly. It’s only when you plan to stay in your home awhile, and you get to enjoy the improvements, that you reap rewards. And these rewards may not be financial, but the satisfaction of living in a home you love.
Factor into your decisions about how to spend fix-up costs, the statistic that most Americans stay in their homes an average of only seven years, and that even though you plan to stay longer, you might not.
One statistic stands out: that cleaning, decluttering and home staging give you unbelievable returns!
A survey of 600 national real estate professionals shows that cleaning and decluttering can yield returns worth over 500% actual cost. I’m guessing the figure is that high because elbow grease is free. And because these actions have a huge visual impact.  
These same realtors rated professional home staging returning almost 300% of the cost. In this case, I am guessing that home staging you do yourself will return even better numbers.
The other investments realtors rate as valuable are lightening and brightening, which returns over 300%, and landscaping, which returns over 250%, and electric and plumbing  repairs, which return about 180%.    
If you are a homeowner, chances are you’ll sell your home someday. Meanwhile, spending money to improve your home can be tricky. If you are going to go crazy with spending, the place to do it is with the basic systems (plumbing, electrical, structural, roofing, painting, HVAC), and with cleaning, decluttering, and thrifty home staging. 
In my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, I describe how to give buyers the features they want, even if you don't have the latest, greatest version of these features. Downloading your copy is quick and easy, and you'll get over 150 illustrated pages of how-tos, techniques, projects, advice and encouragement.

All Photos: Southern Living  

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