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Spruce Up Your Home Before You Put It on the Market

Sept. 26, 2016
Home Ownership Costs, Mortgages, Selling Your Home
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By Tom Salomone

Learn more about Tom on NerdWallet’s Ask An Advisor

Fall is here, and for most people that means it’s time to get the coats out of storage, get ready for pumpkin-themed everything, and — if you’re like me — prepare for football season.

It also means the end of the summer buying and selling season for real estate, and with less competition out there it might be the perfect time to put your home on the market. If you’re thinking of selling your home, it’s a good time to start sprucing it up. That might mean a remodeling project is in your future.

You wouldn’t be alone. By October of last year, Americans had already spent over $326 billion on remodeling projects for 2015, according to the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors. But where should you spend your money to get the most return on your investment?

The report found that kitchen upgrades, complete kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring topped the list for having the most appeal to buyers. They also were received favorably in terms of expected resale value.

Not all remodeling projects happen inside the home, though. Realtors said roofing, vinyl windows, garage doors and vinyl siding were among buyer favorites for exterior projects.

How much will it cost?

As with all remodeling projects, of course, there are costs to consider. Here are cost estimates for a few projects, from information provided by NAR and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry:

Interior projects:

  • Kitchen upgrade: $30,000.
  • Complete kitchen renovation: $60,000.
  • Bathroom renovation: $26,000.
  • Wood flooring replacement: $5,500.

Exterior projects:

  • New roofing: $7,600.
  • New vinyl windows: $15,000.
  • New garage door: $2,300.
  • New vinyl siding: $12,000.

If those figures leave you sticker-shocked, there are still plenty of things you can do to spruce up the house, and they don’t have to be difficult, either. In fact, some projects are so quick, you might be able to do them during halftime.

Making improvements on a budget

  • If a bathroom renovation is out of the question for now, consider replacing an outdated shower curtain with something bright and fresh.
  • In the kitchen, take a look at that old faucet. Replacing it with a new one can be quick and inexpensive and give the room a more updated look. If your lights aren’t recessed, you might want to consider replacing the glass dome that covers the bulb. It’s an easy way to make something old look newer.
  • Out front, you can boost curb appeal with simple projects like putting down fresh mulch, planting a few flowers, or just keeping existing areas weeded and well-cared-for. Some of these projects take some time, but they can make a big difference on a reasonable budget.
  • Add a fresh coat of paint to any room where the walls are scuffed or marked with fingerprints. This gives the house a cleaner look, and depending on the size of the room might cost nothing more than a few gallons of paint.
  • You might even be able to significantly improve the feel of your home without making a purchase at all.

Many homes open into a common area, such as a living room. But too often these spaces are cluttered and unappealing to house hunters. Taking time to thoughtfully organize or decorate a bookshelf or rearrange some furniture costs nothing and can help your home show better to potential buyers.

Best of all, you don’t have to come up with ideas all by yourself. If you worked with a Realtor when you first purchased your home, consider reaching out to that person when you’re thinking of selling (and chances are, they’re checking in on you from time to time already). Realtors are often happy to offer free consultations on simple suggestions for staging or home improvements, whether you’re working on a tight budget or are eager to take on a bigger project.

Home projects and renovations don’t just improve the value of a home (though they certainly can). They also make our homes more enjoyable to live in. And at the end of the day, isn’t that why you bought it in the first place?

» MORE: Need a contractor for your home improvements? Find a contractor on Thumbtack

Tom Salomone is president of the National Association of Realtors.