Best Home Improvements Before Selling

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Having bought and sold seven homes, we’ve always struggled with the notion of whether or not to do home improvements before selling. The conversation was always something like, should we fix up the home before putting it on the market? Or should we sell it as is?

Well, the truth is, you can do whatever you want. But if you want to make the most money on your home when you finally list it, you probably should undertake at least a few home improvements if you want it to sell–and sell for the most money.

List of home improvements before selling

When it comes to the list of home improvements you should consider doing before selling, it really comes down to five areas of your house or kinds of projects. One, your kitchen. Two, the bathrooms. Three, fresh paint. Four, flooring. Five curb appeal.

That’s not to say that people won’t buy your house if you don’t fix up these areas of your home. I mean, in 2007 we bought a house that was built in 1961 and had never been updated. That meant harvest gold in the kitchen, blue tub and sinks in the master bath, and wallpaper throughout.

Updating to the current decade

Not all hope was lost in this house, though. The original owners had installed hardwoods in 90 percent of the home–only the master bedroom had carpet in it. And that was because it was an extension from the original house.

Also, despite being built in 1961 and having some lovely (sarcasm) 1960s features, the owners had built much of the home to look colonial. The house was in a historical town, not far from where Washington crossed the Delaware. So building a house in 1961 to look like it was from 1861 made some sense.

What this meant was the house had crown molding in the living room, and chair rails in the dining room. It also had three fireplaces. Yes, three. One fireplace in the family room, one fireplace in the formal living room and another fireplace in the dining room.

So for our family, all of these seemingly “classic” or colonial features far outweighed the parts of the house that had never been improved or updated. However, that didn’t stop us from starting the home renovations once we moved in.

DIYers may still buy your home without improvements

But I know that my husband and I are the exception, not the rule. We are DIY, do-it-yourself people. Home improvement projects don’t scare us.

Over seven years we renovated the kitchen, fixed up all three bathrooms, invested in improved hardscaping around the pool, removed the wallpaper, and painted nearly every room a modern, neutral color. Oh and we replaced all of the windows.

I’m glad we made the effort to make these home improvements before selling. Why? Because when did finally list the home eight years later, the house sold in one weekend, with multiple bids coming in.

Five best home improvement projects before selling your house

If you’re thinking about selling your home soon and need to do some spiffing up, considering investing your time and money in the following five home renovations. They are likely the easiest to undertake and often provide the biggest bang for your buck. That means you should easily earn your money back when you do end up selling.

1. Renovating your kitchen

When it comes to what sells homes, sure, location matters. But what really seals the deal for so many homebuyers is the kitchen.

If you want to sell your house and your kitchen has outdated appliances, countertops, and cabinets, it might be worth it to make improvements there. Stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are still top of buyers’ lists.

Most experts say a minor kitchen remodel could allow you to recoup nearly 78 percent of what you spend when you sell your home. However, in some hot real estate markets, a new kitchen gets you back everything you paid for the remodel and then some.

This was our updating kitchen in our 1961 house. Notice the granite countertops, tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances.

2. Fixing up the master bath

With the last two homes we sold, we fixed up all of the bathrooms. Like that 1961 home I mentioned earlier, the next home we owned was built in 1972 and had never been updated. The bathrooms were a mess. This included a master bath, another full bath and two power rooms.

Truth is, we may have been able to get away with just spending our time, energy and dollars on the master bath. Trulia.com suggests upgrading the shower to a frameless glass shower enclosure, adding new fixtures, and maybe a new vanity and countertops are all you need to do to bring a master bath into the modern error.

In our 1961 house, we don’t have the space for that new fancy shower. So we had the blue bathtub reglazed white. It looked brand new. We also bought new custom cabinets and granite countertops.

In our 1972 house, all we needed to do was install a new vanity and paint the bathroom. The rest was good enough to keep as is.

The ugly blue tub is transformed into a lovely white tub after reglazing.

3. Painting can be a profitable home improvement

It’s amazing what a can of paint can do to improve your home’s appearance and make it more attractive to buyers. When we got ready to sell our 1972 house, we invested in having painters come in to paint any room in the home, not already painted, in a greige color. (Not familiar with greige? I’ll be writing a post all about that paint color soon.)

On the other hand, one of the reasons we decided to make a full-price offer on our newest house, built in 1929, was because the sellers had recently had the whole interior painted–what else–greige. They also redid the master bath, so another plus for us, the buyers.

This blog post about paint colors that can help sell your house–or hurt your home sale–may be good reading before you head to the paint store.

Overall, though, you want to go mostly with neutral, soft earth tones.

We painted the den in one of our homes this calming green color before listing it.

4. Putting in new carpet or taking up old carpet

Many sellers wonder if it is worth it to replace flooring before selling a house. Here’s my take on that.

One, if you have old carpet, first try getting it deeply cleaned. This is what we did when selling my mother-in-law’s home. The carpets had, unfortunately, absorbed all of the cigarette smoke smells.

Next, if deep cleaning doesn’t work, get new carpet. This was what we ended up having to do in my mother-in-law’s house. I can’t remember if we went to Home Depot or Lowe’s, but they were having a sale on carpet and installation. For a few hundred dollars, we were able to recarpet the whole house.

Finally, if deep cleaning doesn’t work and there are hardwoods underneath, just rip the carpet up. Buyers prefer hardwoods to carpet most times anyway. If the floor isn’t in the greatest shape, you could always invest in lots of area rugs to pretty the place up.

5. Don’t under estimate the value of curb appeal.

We’ve worked with a lot of real estate agents over the years. Here’s what most of them have told use: more than 90 percent of buyers decide whether or not they’re interested in a home before they even get inside. Why? Curb appeal.

If you drive up to a home with peeling paint outside, a dingy driveway, and without lush landscaping, there’s nothing to catch your eye. So a low-cost way to jack up your curb appeal is to plant some flowers, give the front door a fresh coat of paint in a wonderful accent color, and maybe even install a new mailbox.

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