With housing prices increasing, now is the time to invest in your home to capitalize on its value. Here’s what veteran real estate professionals from around the country say are the best value home improvements, whether you are selling now or in the future.
1. Create Space
Seattle broker Reba Haas says a kitchen island can be an asset, creating needed storage space. But if the kitchen has enough cabinets, it could pay to haul the island away. Haas says homeowners might want to consider a moveable island. “You can adjust them to your needs,” she explains.
2. Prune, Limb, and Landscape
“People forget about their trees more than almost anything,” says Roger Voisinet, a thirty-year veteran of the Charlottesville, Virginia real estate market. Yet, landscaping is one of the top three investments that bring the biggest return. “It could really make a significant difference in the price. Nobody likes to spend money, but landscaping might even be the most important thing, even if owners have kept up the house,” says Voisinet.
Reba Haas agrees, “Overgrown landscaping is a problem at all price points.” Haas says it hurts with marketing too. “People say, ‘Where’s the house?” If buyers can’t see what they are getting, they just move right on.”
And if neglected, mother nature may go wild at considerable cost.
3. Let in the Light
He’s a booster of sun tubes, too. Less expensive than framing in a skylight, sun tubes—also known as light pipes, sun scoops, and tubular skylights—use reflective material to funnel natural light from a globe-capped hole cut in a rooftop down through a ceiling fixture and into a room. Bailey says, with tubular skylights, sunlight is nice, and moonlight is even nicer. “I’m putting six of them in my house. I don’t need a skylight, but I do want the natural light.”
A few other ways to lighten things up: Fix broken panes, make sure windows open, and consider lights that use motion detectors to turn themselves off. Remember high wattage bulbs make small spaces feel larger, and soft lighting brings warmth to empty spaces.
4. Don’t Put Off Care and Maintenance
These kinds of fixes go a long way toward value. Jessica Gopalakrishnan with HomeGain says, “Starting with a couple hundred dollars on a few things could increase the value of your house by a few thousand dollars. People are surprised by that. It’s exciting. People think they have to put in a lot of money to see a big difference and they really don’t.”
Investing in maintenance and repairs is not only moneywise; could also be crucial to a sale. Brokers and agents from across the country say the houses that get attention in this buyers market are in tip-top shape. John Veneris, the regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors in Downers Grove, Illinois, says, “What’s important in this market, now more than ever, because there is so much inventory, the houses that sell are in pristine condition and are priced to the market.”
5. Go Green
Research published by The Appraisal Journal estimates that energy savings add twenty times the annual savings to the value of your property. Though Roger Voisenet cautions, “a lot of appraisers don’t know that yet,” he says buyers appreciate now what appraisers will recognize later: Energy savers make your house more desirable. Says Seattle broker Reba Haas, “Do the update green, because everyone is now, for the first time in five years, asking about the utilities.”
6. Home Begins at the Front Door
Surveyed brokers like a working doorbell, and Voisinet says don’t forget an overhang, such as an awning or portico, above the front door. “If you don’t have a way out of the rain, or shelter from the sun while you are fumbling for your keys, you are really missing out.”
If you’re up for more exterior upgrades, move to the back or sides of the house. John Veneris, the regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors in Downers Grove, Illinois, says, “People get back dollar for dollar for the decks they put in.” Even in the snow-laden housing market of Craig, Colorado, Realtor Vicki Burns says the right deck on the right house can be an eye-catcher. “I had a home come onto the market with a small yard. It was about 20 by 30. The owner had encompassed almost the whole area with a deck. The buyers really liked that. It dressed it up and enhanced the area, making it an extension of the living space.” Burns notes, “If the deck is done with the right material so that it will stay nice-looking and in good shape, it’ll hold value.”
7. What’s Under Your Feet?
And you can spend even less than that. A few well-placed nails can eliminate distracting squeaks. Other small projects with a big impact include repairing broken tile, patching damaged floorboards, and tossing out the wall-to-wall carpeting.
In some cases, however, a new floor is in order. Broker Reba Haas says one would-be seller’s house might’ve sold were it not for a kitchen floor that drew questions from buyers. “The number one problem was the fact that her floor was really personal: blue and green vinyl. It clashed with the other upgrades in the kitchen. Everyone kept saying, ‘That kitchen!'”
If you want a wood floor that holds value, Reba Haas suggests engineered hardwoods. If you like cork, she says floating cork wears better than cork tile which is glued down and can peel.
8. Easy Bath Upgrades
Replace frosted glass with clear glass, clean the grout, remove rust stains, apply fresh caulk, update doorknobs and cabinet pulls, replace faucets, and install a low-flush toilet. Even buying a new toilet seat can make a difference. Bailey says, “You can spend $500 on a bathroom, and it’s totally tuned up.”
9. Neutral Wall Colors
Broker Reba Haas says, “Get out of your personal taste.” She says buyers want to be able to project their own ideas onto a space, and sellers can help with toned-down wall color.
10. Remove the Question Marks from Your House
11. Bonus Advice: Be Patient
Veneris says patience may be rewarded sooner that you might think.
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