Top 15 Home Updates

Find out how the top 15 home improvements rank, plus get tips on maximizing the return at resale.

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#13 Living Room Updates – Decor
Average return at resale: 66 percent

  • Spending about $1,350 on staging and updating living room decor will get you new light switches, outlet covers, floor registers, crown molding, chair rails and drapes, plus fresh, live flowers and accessories.
  • Details add dollars. Crown molding gives a room a crisp, clean finish that buyers love. Make sure you choose molding that complements window trim and floor boards. Prices start at around $1.40 per linear foot.
  • Add square footage with a simple trick. Shift furniture away from the walls to make living rooms feel larger and more contemporary. Create a seating area around a feature you want buyers to notice — like a dramatic fireplace.
  • If you’re staging your home to sell, don’t move excess furniture and clutter into the garage. Rent a storage unit for about $1 per square foot per month.
  • New window treatments are a cost-conscious way to add a punch of designer color. For low ceilings, suggest the illusion of height by positioning drapes and valances higher on the wall.

#14 Bedroom Updates
Average return at resale: 52 percent

  • Cost for new lighting will vary from $100 - $500.
  • For a romantic design touch, swap the old light fixture for a small chandelier. The formula for sizing a chandelier: Room width + Room length in feet = chandelier diameter in inches.
  • When doing dry wall repair, less really is more. Using as little joint compound as possible makes it easier to even out the surface when sanding later.
  • Scale your window treatments to your room size. Cost to rent wallpaper steamer: $20; new bedding and window treatments: $300.
  • Hardwood floors are hotter than ever. Pull up worn carpeting and refinish old floors to let the wood shine. Sanding hardwoods is physically demanding and if you do it wrong, you ruin the floor. Hire a pro to do the sanding and then do your own staining and sealing to save money. Cost $1 to $1.50 a foot. Fill carpet tack holes with Color Putty®.

#15 Living Room Updates–Walls and Floors
Average return at resale: 40 percent

  • For only $25, freshen the living room walls with a coat of paint in a light, neutral color. And don't overlook the trim — brighten it with a high-gloss white paint and caulk any open seams between the molding and ceiling and baseboard and wall.
  • On average, quality hardwood flooring ranges from $3-$8 per square foot. For a 200 square foot area, expect to spend about $1,200 if you install it yourself. Tack on another $3 per square foot if you have it professionally installed.
  • Sanding hardwoods is physically demanding. Make a mistake and you ruin the floor. Hire a pro to sand and then do your own staining and sealing to save money. Cost is $1 to $1.50 a foot. Fill carpet tack holes with Color Putty®.
  • If you have carpet in the living room, either have it professionally cleaned ($100-$150) or replaced if it's torn, stained or has an unrelenting odor (on average $10-$30 per square foot).
  • Always test popcorn ceilings for asbestos before you start (find an accredited lab at http://ts.nist.gov). Asbestos was used in textured paints manufactured before 1977.
  • Buy a new wood or stone mantel for as little as $500.

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