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Best Home Upgrades to Make Before Selling Your Home

April 13th, 2018 - 10:25 AM

Selling a house as is? Or making upgrades first?

Homeowner improvement spending is on the rise! Projections show that overall improvements will cost U.S. homeowners $243 billion by 2020, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The number of overall projects being done is split between major and minor renovations, but spending is much higher for major projects like room additions or complete kitchen remodels. Both big and small projects can add value to the home, and the route you go will likely depend on several factors. In many cases, it can be better to make basic repairs or small updates rather than do a complete renovation.

When trying to sell a house, it can be tough to determine where to invest time and money. Take a look at which interior and exterior projects can add the most value to your home, and determine whether to do small upgrades or improve the area with a more substantial renovation.

best home upgrades
Things to remember before starting home improvement projects

While the complete overhauls on TV make for great entertainment, most homes only need a few updates to add substantial value. Each project will yield a different return, so focus on the tasks that pack the biggest punch. Here are a few things to consider before starting renovations or repairs:

  • Focus on selling points. Spend time and money on areas that will make the biggest impression. If the kitchen is the focal point of the house, it might make sense to really play that area up.
  • Keep it neutral, especially for big-ticket items. For large or expensive updates, like flooring, choose something that will appeal to a wide audience. Simple-colored carpet or wood floors may be an easier sell than bolder choices.
  • Don’t over-improve. Take a look at similar homes nearby. While you want the home to stand out, don’t make so many changes that the list price will be too high for the area. A real estate agent can help you make those decisions.  
  • Consider leaving changes up to the new owners. It may be best to price the home with an allowance for bigger projects like a new roof. This allows the new owner to choose the finish and will get the house on the market sooner.

How to add value to your home with upgrades and renovations

Certain areas of a home can really sell it. Realtors say that kitchens and bathrooms are often the rooms that close the deal — but those aren’t the only areas to pay attention to. Below are some projects that yield higher returns, along with easier, affordable alternatives to help you make an impact with a tighter budget.

Interior home improvement projects

Take a look around the inside of the home and find areas where small improvements would be valuable to a buyer. Common tasks include:

Bathroom updates

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According to HGTV, spending $10,500 on a bathroom will yield a 102% return during a sale. While it might be tempting to gut the bathroom and start fresh, there are some more affordable upgrades that can still increase value. Replacing the toilet, sink and fixtures can be a big selling point, but even more basic repairs like re-glazing the tub or painting the cabinets can make the space look brand new.

Kitchen updates


The National Association of Realtors® revealed that a kitchen upgrade had the second biggest impact on home value (second to a complete kitchen renovation). In fact, 23% of Realtors in the study said a kitchen upgrade resulted in a closed sale, so this is the perfect project to focus on. To add value, consider projects like adding a subway tile backsplash, painting or staining cabinets, replacing countertops or installing new light fixtures. If you’d rather do smaller repairs, focus on fixing sagging shelves with brackets, making sure drawers slide easily and updating drawer pulls.

Converting attics or basements

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The National Association of Realtors® found that converting attics and basements to living areas can add value to the home. By transforming these spaces, the home gets extra square footage, which increases value. These spaces can become spare bedrooms, offices or family rooms. If you don’t have the budget to renovate, perform upgrades to these areas by improving insulation and drainage issues so a buyer doesn’t have any concerns with the attic or basement.


new flooring can increase value

If flooring is extremely damaged or outdated, it might be best to replace it. Flooring, Inc. says hard flooring gives a higher resale value, as it’s both beautiful and durable. They also say consistency throughout the house matters to buyers, so if possible, choose fewer types, like maybe one tile for the kitchen and bathroom and one wood for the rest of the home.

If you don’t have the budget for a full floor installation, or if the flooring is in pretty good shape overall, clean and make any necessary repairs. Look at these common flooring repairs to see what is possible for each type of flooring.

Exterior home improvement projects

The outside of the house gives buyers their first impression of the home. Sprucing up the exterior can really add value by improving the look and feel.

Garage door replacement

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According to data gathered by Remodeling, the average nationwide cost to replace a garage door is $3,470, and it adds $3,411 on average to the value — a 98.3% recoup on cost. So if the garage door doesn’t work well or has substantial damage, replacing it can be worth it. If you just want to improve the look and feel, check out this post for tips on installing a carriage door kit, which can make it more appealing.

Manufactured stone veneer

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Adding manufactured stone veneer can improve the overall look of the home. While the cost can be a little higher for this update, installing a new façade can attract buyers. This update has a 97.1% cost-to-value ratio on average, according to Remodeling. To make the home seem updated or to replace stained, cracked or damaged exteriors, manufactured stone veneer is a great option. Or repair minor issues by patching and replacing damaged siding, and power wash the exterior.

Entry door

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Making improvements to the front door is a simple way to add value. A high-quality steel door with features like glass panes not only looks great but can also reduce drafts. According to Fortune Builders, a steel door can have a 101.8% return, adding both energy efficiency and curb appeal. No budget for a new one? Paint and repair the existing one. Make sure the hinges are aligned — tighten screws and check that the mechanisms swing freely. Plane the top or bottom if anything sticks and make sure it’s as tight as possible to decrease air flow.

Wood deck

a wood deck upgrade can help sell a home

Outdoor living spaces can be practical, especially in areas where they can be used frequently. Adding or extending a wood deck can impress buyers — HGTV reports that a wooden deck can return 90% of the investment. Remodeling had similar findings about wood deck additions, but they found composite deck additions only recoup 63% of costs, so stick with wood for this home improvement project. You can add value to an existing deck by taking the time to power wash it, apply fresh stain and replace any broken boards.

Vinyl windows

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If the home needs new windows, consider vinyl ones — they have the highest return, especially in bigger cities. HGTV reports vinyl windows recoup nearly 90% of their costs, and windows are often easier to replace than repair. When purchasing, make sure to check the energy performance rating to find the best ones in your budget. If new windows aren’t needed, clean the glass and tracks, replace torn screens, and caulk any areas where air blows through.

Ready to add value to your home?

Do any of these projects or updates seem like valuable upgrades for your home? We would love to hear your plans. Let us know which projects are making the cut in the comments below.