25 Ways to Increase the Value of your Home

Spruce up the yard. Get rid of trash and yard waste. Keep your lawn in good condition and mow it. This includes using a weed whacker to get in the tight corners and along the edges of sidewalks and the house. Trim the hedges, get rid of weeds, and mulch the flower beds. If you don’t have much to work with, plant some flowers or install some landscaping appropriate for your home and climate.

Eliminate clutter inside the home. If you’re going to be showing the house to potential buyers, get the house organized and get rid of clutter or put it in storage. A nice, tidy house will seem larger and more elegant.

Wash walls and windows. It’s a lot cheaper to wash walls or siding than to repaint or replace siding, and many times a good cleaning will make your home’s finishes look good as new. Pressure-wash your home’s exterior, and wash interior walls. Clean your windows so that you can’t tell they’re there.

Add a fresh coat of interior paint. Sometimes you just really need to repaint, but you can do it yourself relatively cheaply on interior walls. First, patch up any holes, no matter how small. To get a silky smooth finish, apply a coat of primer. After the primer dries, lightly sand it with a fine grit sandpaper (220 grit). Apply the first coat of latex paint, and then lightly sand that layer also. Wipe the walls down with a damp cloth after each sanding session. Then apply the final coat of latex paint.

Put up fresh curtains and blinds. Blinds and curtains are relatively inexpensive. Over time, the sun fades the colours from your blinds and curtains, so new ones will make a better impression than old ones.

Clean up the carpet. You can shampoo or steam clean your carpets, or you can use a dry cleaning system (available from various sources, such as Oreck), which requires no water or steamer rentals, and which dries instantly and kills virtually all mould and bacteria. Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then vacuum. If all else fails, get a professional to do the carpets for you. You’d be surprised how much better your carpet will look after a good cleaning.

Install modern light switches and outlets. Some of the new style switches can be easily installed using the wires already running to the old switches. Just be sure to turn off the power to the room or entire house before doing any work. The new outlets look nice, and give the impression that the electrical wiring in the house is newer than it really is. Dimmer switches are especially desirable, although this can be illegal if the outlets are of three prong type while the wiring is two prong. It also could lead to trouble if the buyer’s home inspector catches on.

Refinish kitchen cabinets. Outdated or worn cabinets can bring the whole kitchen down, but refinishing them is relatively cheap and easy to do. If you have a dark or small kitchen, make it look larger and brighter by using a lighter finish on the cabinets.

Up the wattage of your light bulbs to make things even brighter. Just make sure you don’t exceed the maximum specification for lamps and other lights. (You could use compact florescent light bulbs in order to make the room brighter without getting new fixtures, plus they save electricity meaning they save you money.)

Wood Trim and Cornicing are a cheap and easy do it yourself idea that can add tons of “WOW” factor to the look of your home. Simple ceiling trim and armchair railings are the easiest and most typical upgrades found in newer homes. To make an even bolder statement, paint the walls a neutral, flat colour and paint the trim a high gloss white.

Remember the senses. Put out fresh flowers for your open house; they make even the most dungeon-like house look inviting. Bake some oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies–they invoke good thoughts for most people. Then leave them out for visitors. If you don’t have time to bake, burn a candle or use potpourri. Use smell sparingly; some people are more sensitive than others. Consider playing some very soft classical music in the background.

Use floor and table lamps in every room and sheer curtains to make your open house more inviting. Lamps give a softer light, and the curtains let in sunlight, which makes the room more home-like and less clinical. You can pick up decent stuff from garage sales if you don’t have any.

Clean, clean, clean. Nothing improves the value more for so little of an investment than a good cleaning. Houses that look and smell clean have great market appeal. Even an older house with older appliances will fare well if everything is sparkling clean!

An updated kitchen. “Kitchens are critical,” says Robert Irwin, author of “Home Buyer’s Checklist.” “Today, people like a big kitchen with a lot of workspace.” They look for solid surface counters and high-quality flooring, such as wood, laminate, tile or stone. And they want newer appliances in working order. Even if it’s not huge, it should have “countertops that are serviceable that aren’t going to have to be replaced soon and cabinetry in good condition,” says Alan Hummel, past president of the Appraisal Institute. “It has to be well-appointed and large enough to fit your needs.” And it doesn’t hurt if it opens onto another room. “A lot of families are looking for that openness,” says Hummel.

Modern bathrooms. Buyers are looking for “master baths that give a little room to roam,” says Hummel. A big asset: spa or whirlpool tubs. “I’m always entertained by the people who have them in the master bath and don’t use them,” says Ron Phipps, principal broker with Phipps Realty & Relocation Services in Warwick, R.I. “But it’s a big feature.” Some other features buyers are seeking: separate showers with steam and/or multiple jets, double sink, separate room for the toilet. And make sure the plumbing and hot water heater can handle the job. The pipes have to be large enough to carry an adequate volume of water and the hot water heater has to be big enough to accommodate it. “You need a bare minimum of a 75-gallon hot water heater, and most of my customers have 100 to 150,” says Chicago-based home inspector Kurt Mitenbuler. “You don’t want to see that false economy of a $30,000 bathroom but nobody spent a few thousand dollars to upgrade the pipes,” he says.

Natural materials. “People like natural materials,” says Phipps. “Ceramic tile, hardwood floors, granite. We’ve gone back to a real appreciation for historically true materials. And simulated works as well. The look is very popular.” In floor coverings — especially bathrooms or kitchens — look for ceramic tile or wood rather than linoleum, which can tear, says Strong. In the rest of the house, wood or laminate products are a plus over wall-to-wall, says Gary Eldred, author of “The 106 Common Mistakes Homebuyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)”. But if you have carpet, it should be a good product and well maintained so that “a person doesn’t have to walk in and think, ‘I’m going to have to spend five grand right off the bat,” says Strong.

Good windows. “People are looking at exposures and windows,” says Phipps. “It’s been a cold winter for most of the country and energy efficiency is very important.” Insulated windows are always a plus, says Strong. “Typically, they pay for themselves in five years,” he says. The cost: for an average 2,600-square-foot home, estimate about $10,000 for new windows, he says. Well-placed skylights are also a good touch to add value, says Phipps.

Landscaping. Mature trees “are worth $1,000,” says Strong. And having outdoor spaces with touches such as pergolas and Victorian garden swings “can be very helpful,” says Phipps. Appraiser John Bredemeyer remembers one $250,000 home in Omaha that had no landscaping at all. “It was stark,” says Bredemeyer, national chair of government relations for the Appraisal Institute, a professional group for real estate appraisers. “It just stood out as unappealing.” Conversely, you don’t have to spend a fortune on plants, either. Just keep it “typical with the neighbourhood,” he says.

Lots of storage. Nothing beats an oversized garage, some attic space and plenty of closets. “If you have a two-car garage, do you have extra space for those things we all have — bicycles, lawn mower, snow blower?” says Hummel. “Space is important.” A nice plus in the master suite? “His and hers walk-in closets,” says Irwin.

Bedding. Purchasing a modern duvet set, a few new pillows and having the beds made can make a room far more appealing and costs you barely anything. Not to mention you get to keep the bedding!

Visually increase your home’s square footage. The size of your home dramatically affects its value, but square footage isn’t the only thing that counts. Make sure your home feels as large as possible by visually increasing the space in every room. Sunny rooms feel larger and more open, so replace heavy drapes with blinds or shutters that let light in. Also, adding a large mirror in each room can visually double the space in a room. Finally, clear the clutter. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.

Add new energy-efficient fixtures. A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. But an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new to make your home more enjoyable now — and increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs. Walk around your home and make a list of all the small things that need to be repaired. Small repairs may not seem important by themselves, but little things can add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. Don’t feel comfortable tackling repairs yourself? Hire a handyman for a day and watch your “to-do” list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

Update your home’s entrance. Your front door and entrance are among the first thing people see when they enter your home, so they should complement your home’s overall design. If your existing door isn’t up to par, pick up a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or a decorative entry with stained glass panels, a welcoming front door is sure to increase your home’s bottom line.

Resurface concrete. Replacing the cracked concrete surfaces around your home can cost a small fortune. But for a fraction of that cost, concrete can be resurfaced in a multitude of colours and finishes. Consider adding a cobblestone finish to your driveway, a brick look to an old walkway or a slate finish around the pool or patio. Whichever texture you choose, it will be a huge improvement over standard concrete — and potential home buyers will take note.