Forget, for a moment, about market trends and interest rates. At any given time, no matter the state of the economy, someone somewhere is selling their home. In any market, homeowners can up the odds that a home sells as quickly and as profitably as possible by giving it a facelift.
Sellers should focus on home improvement projects that either add value to the home or that attract buyers’ eyes and pique their interests. Make them forget any other houses they viewed and want your house instead.
Don’t randomly select home improvement projects based on your own tastes or suggestions from friends, either. You won’t be the one living in the home, after all. Research houses in your community and compare features and appraisals to get a better idea what people in your area want. A swimming pool may be a popular upgrade in a Southern suburb filled with young couples and families, for instance. But in the North, a hot tub will have greater appeal. A community with older people, no matter where in the country, will probably value a car port or garage over a pool or spa.
Here are three home-improvement project categories that almost anyone can tackle without a large capital investment.
1.Boost Your Curb Appeal
You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. When potential buyers drive up to your home, if they don’t like what they see immediately, they may not get past the exterior to find the great things inside.
It’s not about planting expensive trees, installing fountains or other fancy upgrades. In fact, some of the most value-added outdoor home-improvement projects cost little to nothing, except for your time. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) suggests some of the following property improvements:
- Get out your pruning shears: If your home is on the market, keeping the lawn mowed is a given. Keeping plants and flowers watered is also essential. Pruning trees, shrubs and other greenery is more easily overlooked, but it is one of those touches that will make your home stand out. Follow a pruning guide, like the one provided by Better Homes and Gardens, to get the most out of your efforts.
- Dig into some mulch: Mulching is another often overlooked landscaping project with a tremendous impact. It helps conserve moisture, protects roots, discourages weeds, and other benefits. You can choose between all-natural mulches and decorative mulches, such as stone. You can even use compost that you create yourself or mown grass and fallen leaves.
- Show off your green thumb: Purchase outdoor containers that complement your home’s style and plant something unusual or interesting, NAR suggests. Place plants on the patio or around the home’s entrance to immediately create a more appealing exterior. Plant bright flowers and foliage to provide a splash of color.
- Clean up your home’s exterior: Spend a weekend cleaning your gutters, windows and especially your siding, among other exterior items. Rent or purchase a power washer for a very affordable price to really make your home shine.
2. Add a Coat of Paint
Like a wash and wax for your car, a new coat of paint makes anything look better and brighter. To improve your home’s value and attract buyers, consider a fresh paint job, inside and out.
The “safe” advice is to choose neutral colors, such as beige and off-white, and to avoid vibrant or gender-specific hues such as orange, purple or red. However, safe isn’t always the best bet, argues real estate agent Todd Kroepel. “Keeping a home vanilla so that buyers can choose their own style and décor … ignores the fact that most buyers lack the ability to visualize the home differently,” he cautions. Don’t be afraid to add splashes of color and a touch of texture—it can be good to leave a dash of style evident.
Consider painting an accent wall in your living room with a contrasting color, or add some texturizing product instead. Adding hand-painted borders in the bathroom, by using stencils that run vertically or horizontally, is another classy touch.
Before painting, outside or in, ensure that the surface is clean and properly prepared. Use a primer to cover previously unfinished areas or bare wood, to better cover over dark or bold colors, or to block out stains. Inside your home, sand surfaces slightly if you don’t use a primer, to help paint adhesion.
3. Update the Kitchen or Bathroom
Everyone appreciates a well-put-together and comfortable bathroom or kitchen. Renovations to these two rooms usually generate buyer interest and offer a high rate of return on investment when it comes time to sell.
Updates don’t always require a large expenditure and a messy, lengthy remodeling period either. Some of the simplest things can change the entire feel of the room. Do as much, or as little, as you choose—just don’t get too attached to the results.
- Replace sink and bathtub fixtures: Switch out generic faucets and handles for newer, better-quality hardware. Think about using brass for a startling contrast, or select a style completely different from the current one.
- Install a new sink: As long as you’re replacing faucets and such, why not replace the bathroom or kitchen sink as well?
- Refinish the cabinets: Solid wood responds well to sanding and refinishing with stain and a polyurethane top coat, or even paint. Newer cabinets often require refacing with veneer instead. Veneer kits make the job fairly simple: Adhere the material to the cabinet box (the portion left after removing doors and drawers) and then purchase new drawer fronts and cabinet doors to complete the makeover.
- Upgrade your countertops: Replace laminate with stone, tile or even a concrete countertop. If you have old ceramic tile, clean or regrout to refresh the look.
- Add lighting and accessories: Think in layers when it comes to lighting. Adding accent lights or task lights in any room of the house makes it more visually appealing. Other little touches include changing door knobs, light switch and outlet covers, or installing ceiling fans or a medicine cabinet. Consider swapping old light switches with dimmer switches or energy-saving, programmable lighting controls.
- Highlight energy-savers: Speaking of saving energy, programmable thermostats, upgraded insulation and proper weatherproofing are music to many home buyers’ ears.
While you can hire professionals to do the work for you, rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself will increase the amount you recoup when you sell your home. Each project will increase the value of your property, no matter where you live, and help you sell your home faster.