The actual cost and payback for each project can vary, depending on both your home’s condition and overall real estate market values in your region of the country.
- Make your kitchen really cook. The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential homebuyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.
If you've got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. Rather than spring for a completely new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into hiring a refacing company? Many companies can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, and then add brand new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint over the whole set, your cabinets will look like new.
- Give appliances a facelift. If your kitchen appliances don't match, order new doors or face panels for them. Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other. All you may need to do is unscrew two screws, slide out the panel and flip it around.
A more cohesive looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer's mind -- and in the home’s resale price.
- Buff up the bath. Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They too, can be improved with very little cash. Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install and they make a big difference in the look of the bath.
Replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl is also recommended. You may not even need to take up the old floor.
If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.
- Step up your storage. Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, a good idea is to add wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.
You can also get design details and parts for these systems at many large home improvement stores. Most closets can be updated in a weekend or less.
In the end, your closets will be more functional while you're living in the house and will make your home look more customized to potential buyers when you're ready to sell.
- Look underfoot. Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors.
If your carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with inexpensive, strategically placed area rugs. Unless it is truly hideous, most Realtors don't suggest replacing wall-to-wall carpeting right before you sell your house. The new homeowners may want to choose their own carpeting after they move in.
- Let there be light. If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms consider replacing one of the room's lights with an eye-catching chandelier. Home stores offer a wide range of inexpensive, but nice-looking, ceiling fixtures these days. If you have a ceiling fan and light, you can buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture’s look.
- Reframe your entry. Do you have a flimsy little knob on your main entry door? If so, spring for a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set. A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home.
Also, if you're stuck with a basic steel front door, consider painting or faux-finishing it for more eye appeal. Remember to use a good metal primer approved for use over metal. For a cherry wood look use a burgundy base paint. After it dries, brush over the base-coat with a cherry wood stain. It can look amazing, and it only takes a few hours.
- Consider curb appeal. Although it sounds obvious, a nicely mowed lawn, a few well-placed shrubs and a swept walkway makes a great first impression. What buyers see when they first drive by your home is tremendously important.
If you don't have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. These kinds of changes can instantly change people's perception of your home and therefore, increase its value. And hey, your neighbours will love you for it, too.