Renovating your home wisely can increase its value and make it more appealing to buyers. Even if those renovations don’t get you a 100% return on your investment, they can make the home sell more quickly, save you money on extra mortgage, insurance and tax payments you’ll have to make while the home sits on the market unsold.
Not all updates are a good idea; there are some home improvements that cost a lot of money and won’t make your home any easier to sell. In fact, some updates can discourage buyers and drive them to choose another property. So be careful when choosing what you do to increase the value of your home.
Here are some easy renovations to make to increase your home’s re-sale value:
- Garage Door. According to Remodeling Magazine, new garage doors are the single best improvement you can make, recouping 97.5% of their cost when it’s time to resell. Garage doors are tricky to install, so it’s best to hire a professional. But they’re not too pricy for the improvement you get to your home’s curb appeal.
- Front Door. Again, curb appeal is the theme to these improvements to the outside of your home. New doors or fresh paint on an existing door make the home look current, updated and well maintained. Make sure the first thing a buyer sees looks nice, so your home makes a great first impression. Make sure the doorbell is in working order too, and your front door area is free of dirt and cobwebs.
- House Numbers. Your house address number is one of the first things buyers will notice if they are looking for your address. Upgrade to new address numbers that match the architectural style of your home.
- Don’t invest in high-end landscaping improvements, as that can be a turn-off to buyers. But do keep the outdoor property clean and well organized. Trimming and weeding flower beds, keeping dead branches and dry brush at a minimum, and having a healthy lawn are not expensive or difficult jobs, but they’ll make a big positive impression on buyers.
- Outdoor structures. Make sure fences are in good repair, your deck or patio looks like it’s well maintained, and the driveway is free of excessive cracks. Staining the deck or filling in driveway cracks will show buyers that you’ve done the required maintenance without requiring a lot of time and money invested from you.
- Finish the basement. Finishing a basement is one of the easier and better investments you can make in your home. Just adding drywall and some kind of flooring creates a new living space that will look clean and modern. The more of the work you can do yourself, the better off you’ll be. You might be able to hang the drywall yourself, then hire a contractor to mud & tape the joints. Be aware if you plan to count the basement as a bedroom in your real estate listing, you’ll need to add an egress window if you don’t already have one.
- Do a minor kitchen remodel. Don’t spend tens of thousands gutting your kitchen and updating every square inch unless you plan to live there and use that kitchen for years to come. But a minor kitchen remodel, with repainted cabinets, new countertops, and maybe a new sink will give the fresh feeling of a new kitchen without the cost of a full remodel. Just updating your kitchen and bathroom fixtures can turn a drab space into trendy space just by updating the hardware.
- Refresh the bathroom. A new vanity & sink, plus a new paint job or wall tile can be an inexpensive way to feel like you have a whole new bathroom. Steer clear of tearing out all the plumbing and installing a new bathtub if you can; an easy refresh will help your resale value without costing tens of thousands of dollars.
- Add more lighting. Keeping the house bright is a great way to increase its appeal on a budget. The best thing is to add natural light, like a new skylight or updated windows. But even inexpensive lighting fixtures can make a room seem bigger and newer if they are well chosen.
- Paint some rooms. This is a very budget-friendly way to feel like you’ve gotten a full remodel. Choose your paint colors carefully and you’ll have a happy buyer with one less thing to worry about.
- De-clutter. This “renovation” will cost you nothing but time. Go through the house and minimize the decorations and clutter wherever you can. You want the house to look spacious, so don’t crowd the rooms or walls with too many objects. A house packed with things will feel cramped and inadequate, and will discourage buyers from offering more. Take care to clean out the closets as well; you want the buyer to see that there is ample storage space, so having half-empty closets will be a big plus.
- Smart home accessories. Having environmentally friendly updates like a programmable thermostat and LED lighting will help your home stand out. And having smart home-friendly devices like wi-fi enabled garage door openers, security systems or motorized window shades will make your home feel updated and ready to live in.
- New—but not expensive—mechanical systems. Things like your hot water heater, furnace and A/C, and energy-efficient windows are great because they let a buyer know they’ll be able to move in without the headache of needing a major update in the near future. You don’t have to go all out on the highest-priced air conditioner unit you can find; just the fact that it’s new will reassure the buyer that it won’t need replacing any time soon.
You can see that the primary goal is to give the buyer a house that they can move into without worry. If it looks fresh, clean and updated, and there are no major impending repairs that they can expect, they’ll breathe easier and be more willing to pay what you’re asking for the home.
But not all updates are created equal. There are some updates that don’t add much value to your home:
- Major renovations. We told you earlier to do a minor kitchen remodel, and a bathroom “refresh”. We mean it! Doing a major remodel with all new plumbing & appliances will cost tens of thousands of dollars and you’ll never get back that investment when you sell the home.
- Swimming pool. An in-ground pool can be great to have, but it’s expensive and difficult to maintain. Don’t hand your potential buyer a major obligation like a swimming pool if you want to increase your asking price.
- Upgraded mechanical systems. A brand-new water heater or HVAC unit will reassure the buyer that the house will need less maintenance, but a lot of mechanical systems bring invisible benefits. A new sewer line, new roof, upgraded wiring… these renovations won’t add much of anything to your bottom line.
- Extreme décor choices. If you paint the walls with bold colors, you’ll erase the financial benefit of painting. That’s because the buyer will immediately picture themselves having to repaint, and they’ll drop their offer to compensate. New lighting fixtures aren’t a plus if they’re so particular to your tastes that the new buyer will be replacing them right away.
- Shoddy workmanship. It’s great if you can do-it-yourself; you’ll save lots of money while increasing your home’s value. But if the work you do looks too amateurish, the buyer will be suspicious of all of your home’s upgrades, and potentially have to worry about having some work re-done. Better to not renovate than to do a poor job of it. Know when you can handle the job yourself, and when you need to bring in a professional.
If you are thinking of becoming a homeowner, or moving from your current home, talk to a home buyer coach so you can be sure to get the best possible mortgage loan for your situation.
If you’re focusing on your home’s value because you are thinking of getting a home equity loan or refinancing your mortgage, talk to a debt coach first. Make sure there’s not a better way to address your financial situation without putting your most valuable asset at risk.