Real estate is a careful balancing act.
Over-improving a property – say, by adding a swimming pool or sunroom – will cost you because the market won’t support the asking price you need to break even, let alone turn a profit.
Under-improving your home, namely by ignoring essential repairs, will also drag down its value.
Consumer Reports offers the following strategies that strike the sweet spot between too much enhancement and not enough.
Freshen up the bath
Cost range: $300 – $1,000
Potential return: 2 to 3 percent
Buyers want to see that a home is clean and well-maintained, especially in the bathrooms. Installing new bathroom fixtures will make the space look brighter and more appealing. Updating the mirror and lighting will improve the sensory experience.
If you’re not looking to sell right away, there are several larger upgrades that shouldn’t cost a fortune, given the small dimensions of many bathrooms. For example, you might be able to add a new floor and vanity countertop for less than $1,000, especially if you use inexpensive vinyl and laminate.
Paint the rooms – selectively
Cost range: $100 (DIY) – $1,000 (pro)
Potential return: 1 to 3 percent
A fresh coat of paint is the quickest way to transform a room. But it probably doesn’t make sense to have your entire house repainted prior to putting it on the market.
Kitchens and bathrooms are two candidates for a complete paint job given the high traffic they see. You should also paint any brightly colored rooms. Whites and off-whites tend to attract the most buyers; the neutral palette allows them to focus on a home’s attributes.
Clean up, clear out
Cost range: $0 (DIY) – $2,500 (Pro)
Potential return: 3 to 5 percent
Nothing drives away would-be buyers faster than clutter, grime and the weird smells that accompany a messy home.
Also vital to the process is decluttering and depersonalizing the space as much as possible. For severely cluttered residences, or if you’re downsizing and need help winnowing your possessions, consider hiring a professional organizer.
Before hosting the open house, remember to open the curtains and blinds because natural light is just as important as order to making a home feel bigger. And give the entire interior a thorough cleaning, including vacuuming, dusting and wiping down every surface.
Enhance the exterior
Cost range: $150 – $7,500
Potential return: 2 to 5 percent
You shouldn’t try to sell your home without sprucing up its exterior. Consumer Reports recommends starting with basic maintenance: mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown shrubs, applying a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds.
As with your home’s interior, it’s also important to make minor repairs, such as replacing cracked siding boards or repointing brick walls. The roof is another area to pay close attention to because prospective buyers are sure to do the same.
Spruce up the kitchen
Cost range: $300 – $5,000
Potential return: 3 to 7 percent
It’s a real estate adage that the kitchen sells the home. But that doesn’t mean you should drop a fortune on a new one before selling your house.
Bill Wilson, a real estate professional in upstate New York, advises clients to make the minor repairs that can lead to serious second thoughts for buyers – the leaky faucet, the loose light fixture, the counter burn mark.
Then, think about a gentle spruce-up. For a few hundred dollars, you can probably paint the walls, update the cabinet hardware, and add new curtains, which will give the space a clean, fresh look.