How to Get the Best Bang for Your Real Estate Buck

Whether you want to make smart upgrades in your home for yourself or are planning to put your home on the market, we'll take you through which improvements will add to your bottom line and net the biggest return on your investment.

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Kitchen Appliances

Whether you're putting your home on the market in the near future or looking to make updates that will have a lasting financial impact, the kitchen is the number one spot to reap in resale dollars. If a full-scale renovation isn't in your budget, updating appliances could be your first step. Buyers can spot an outdated refrigerator and stove at first sight. Swapping them out for new ones is fairly low cost compared to the return.

Kitchen Counters + Cabinets

If you've updated older appliances in the past five years or so, consider the next step upgrading countertops and cabinets. Higher-end countertops are almost a must-have now for most buyers. If granite or marble isn't in your budget, there are some great look-alike alternatives on the market. Full cabinet replacements can get pricey, but a lower cost option is replacing the fronts for a fresh look. It will help your kitchen look new, which is ultimately what most buyers want.

Bathroom Fixtures

Bathrooms are the next hot-spot for money-making improvements. A really low-cost update, that can be done in less than a weekend, is swapping out fixtures. Because they take so much abuse, replacing faucets in the tub and sink, lighting and curtain rods will give your bathroom a freshened-up look.

Showers, Tubs and Toilets

If you've got the budget for a mid-scale bathroom renovation, a new tile shower with frameless doors, reglazed vintage bathtubs and brand new toilets will guarantee a higher sale price for your home. How high-end you choose to go is up to you, but the spendier the feature, the more you will get in return. But be sure to balance what would be appropriate for the rest of your home with the amount you plan on spending.

Staging

If you're ready to put your home on the market, real estate agents will tell you one the best investments you can make is professional staging. Especially in competitive markets, staging can be the difference between a house that's a hot ticket and one that stagnates. Buyers want to be able to see themselves in the home. Staging helps them do that more easily by reducing clutter, removing very personal items and making your place look like a model home.

Cleaning

Cleaning is perhaps the smallest financial investment you can make in your home that will have a definite impact on whether it is going to sell quickly or not. If you're ready to put your house on the market, consider hiring a professional cleaning service that will give your home a deep clean that you can maintain. If you've got the budget and the desire, have them come before every open house or once a week if you're getting lots of traffic. Of course, if you've got the time and energy, deep cleaning is something you can do on your own that every potential buyer is sure to notice.

Curb Appeal

You want your home to sparkle as soon as a potential buyer pulls up to it. The grungier the house looks from the outside, the harder time you're going to have selling it. Give the outside a good power washing, wash your windows, clean up the landscaping and assess whether or not it needs a new paint job. Exterior paint may not give you the best return on your money since it can be pretty pricey, but touching up the paint and adding a pop of color on your front door can be relatively low cost, high return.

Neutral Paint Colors

If there's one complaint you've seen people on House Hunters make time and time again it's, "I don't like the color." And while you may raise your fists to the heavens and yell back at the TV, "It's just paint!" it's a fact that potential buyers often cannot get past very bright, very dark, or very personalized paint jobs. Whether you choose to hire a professional to paint the entire interior or recruit family members to give you a hand, be sure to choose neutral, inoffensive paint colors.

Landscaping

Green thumbs, this is your time to shine. A well-landscaped yard will add to your curb appeal and increase your home's value. However, be careful to not go overboard. With really complex or difficult-to-maintain landscaping, some potential buyers might be turned off because they don't know how to handle it. Be sure that your grass is well-kept, flowers, trees and bushes are pruned and well cared for, and any hardscaping on your property is in good condition.

Washers + Dryers

Just like in the kitchen where new appliances can make all the difference, the washer and dryer in your laundry room (or closet or basement) can help to sell your house. While the cost of the appliances may not add to the value of your home, they certainly can make your home way more sell-able.

Flooring

Don't forget the floors when you're making home improvements. Even though they're costly, wood floors are the current must-have flooring with good reason. Unlike carpeting, wood floors take wear and tear much better. If they get scratched or scuffed in high-traffic areas, they can be refinished to last and last. And like a neutral paint job, wood floors tend to go with everyone's style increasing your home's resale value.

From: Houlihan Lawrence and Luxury Portfolio International®

Switchplates + Outlets

Switchplates and outlets endure a lot of wear and tear. Take a good look at yours to determine if a really good cleaning will get them looking new again. If not, consider replacing them. Take all the old ones off when you're painting your rooms and once the paint dries replace them with fresh covers.

Windows

Replacing windows is a big investment but can add to your bottom line, especially in more extreme climates. Places with cold winters and hot summers make energy efficient windows a real must-have for buyers. Trading out old, inefficient windows will up your home's value and keep you much more comfortable while you're in it.

Lighting

Quickly take a look around your home at night or on a cloudy day and notice what the lighting is like. If it feels dark, it may be time to invest in recessed lighting, new pendants or chandeliers. Spend the money on warm-colored energy-efficient bulbs instead of the colder, blue light variety. The warmer the light, the more welcoming your home will feel.

Real Estate Photos

When you're ready to put your house on the market, pro-grade real estate photographs will make a huge difference in the amount of eyeballs your home attracts. Nearly all listings are now online or on apps, and buyers want to be able to look around each room and zoom in on the pictures from their phones, tablets and computers. The better the pictures, the more attention you'll get, and the more likely your house will be swimming in offers.

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