By Tom Salomone
Learn more about Tom on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
The beginning of spring brings many things: warmer temperatures, longer days, baseball, blooming flowers (and the consequent allergies) and a sense of renewal after a long winter.
When it comes to home sales, spring also means the busy season.
With the arrival of that time, potential buyers are now ready to move off the sidelines, mortgage preapproval letters in hand, for the chance to find their dream home. Housing inventory has been tight the last couple of years, which means more competition among buyers, especially during these busy months.
>> MORE: How much house can I afford?
As a seller, this is good news, because competition among buyers drives prices up. But it’s still important that sellers look to maximize their sale price by attracting as many interested buyers as they can. A great way to do that is through home improvement or remodeling projects.
The word “remodel” tends to strike financial fear in home sellers, many of whom don’t have the time or the cash to make every square foot of a home perfect for buyers. But you don’t need perfection — a few small, inexpensive upgrades can significantly increase the value of your house.
Here are some tips to help you get top dollar, no matter how much money you have available to invest.
Think curb appeal
The exterior of your home and the front yard are a buyer’s first impression of your place. Inexpensive improvements can add instant curb appeal, so don’t overlook some easy fixes.
• Make sure the lawn is mowed and the house numbers are visible and attractive. You can get inexpensive new ones at any home improvement store.
• Try power-washing the exterior of the home or putting on a fresh coat of paint to brighten it up.
• Make a home more inviting by adding some flowers or other plants.
• If the home has a patio, add some cozy furniture to show buyers the space’s outdoor entertaining potential.
• Add great outdoor lighting, because people will be cruising by your listing at all hours of the day and night.
In some cases, you may find that a few larger external remodeling projects can really raise a home’s resale value, according to a report on remodeling impacts by the National Association of Realtors.
A new garage door, which typically costs around $2,300, recovers about 87% of its cost upon resale, according to the report. A new steel front door will get back about 75% of the cost, more than a fiberglass door, which tends to bring back about 60% of the cost upon resale.
You may also want to consider a fence, which can help attract people with pets or young children, who are normally looking for a little extra privacy and safety.
Make upgrades indoors
Moving inside the home, plenty of projects require relatively small amounts of time and money.
• In the kitchen, try a fresh coat of paint, new handles on kitchen cupboards or applying a new tile backsplash.
• Take a hard look at your closets to see if they would benefit from extra shelves or additional organizing help. These upgrades make a home feel like it has been updated and help would-be buyers see potential.
• Before buying new interior fixtures and materials, see what you can fix. Sure, new hardwood flooring would be great, but so would refinishing the wood flooring you’ve already got (and likely for a lot less money). In fact, a hardwood flooring refinish typically costs about $2,500, and a seller recoups an estimated 100% of that cost upon resale.
Pick practical over pretty
It’s great when you can add aesthetic elements to your home to attract buyers. But, many times, practical trumps pretty.
• Pay a little attention to your roof. Wash it, clear it of any debris and take care of any small problem spots. If it’s beyond small repair, you may have to replace the entire thing. The typical cost of a new roof is about $7,600; however, for that cost, you’re likely to get $8,000 for the project upon resale, a return of 105%.
• Clean out the gutters to make them look nicer and more functional. After all, potential buyers will be looking at your home in all sorts of weather, and they’ll want to see that your water drainage system works.
• Above all, make sure the major problems are addressed. Even if a potential buyer doesn’t notice, a home inspector probably will, meaning your sale could fall through further down the line. You not only could lose that buyer, but you’ll end up having to fix them anyway.
If your home is outdated or needs repair — and you have the money, time and patience — it might be in your best interest to tackle a bigger remodeling project. Otherwise, dozens of small, inexpensive home improvement projects can add instant appeal to your home. It’s always a good idea to talk to a Realtor to determine what features people in your market are seeking.
Image via iStock.