Looking for ways to spruce up your home without putting yourself in the poorhouse? Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home or want to spiff it up inexpensively for your own enjoyment, we’ve got 10 good strategies for you to consider.
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.
1. Make your kitchen really cook. The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential home buyers 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 whole new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into hiring a refacing company,” says serial remodeler Gwen Moran, co-author of “Build Your Own Home on a Shoestring.”
“Many companies can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, then add brand-new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint over the whole set, your cabinets will look like new.”
If you’re handy, you can order your own replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself.
2. Give appliances a facelift. If your kitchen appliances don’t match, order new doors or face panels for them. When Nicole Persley, a Realtor in Boca Raton, Fla., was sprucing up her own home to sell, her mix-and-match kitchen bothered her. The room had a white dishwasher, microwave and wall oven mixed with other pieces that were stainless steel with black trim.
When Persley called the dishwasher manufacturer to see about ordering a new, black face panel, the customer service representative clued her in on a big secret: Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other.
“All I had to do was unscrew two screws, slide out the panel and flip it around. Sure enough — it was black on the other side!”
Persley, who has remodeled numerous homes for resale, says that a more cohesive-looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer’s mind — and in the home’s resale price.
3. Buff up the bath. Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of 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,” says Moran.
Moran also suggests replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. “You may not even need to take up the old floor. You can install the new floor right over the old one,” she says.
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.
4. Step up your storage. Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, Realtor Moe Viessi of Miami suggests adding do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.
Firms like ClosetMaid allow you to measure and redesign your closets online. 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.
5. Add a room in a week or less. “If you have a three-bedroom house with a den, the only reason the den can’t be considered a bedroom may be because it doesn’t have a closet,” says Persley. “If you add a closet to that room, you’ve now got a four-bedroom house. That adds a lot of value.”
Persley says it’s usually possible to add a custom closet system and drywall it in for less than $1,500.
6. Mind the mechanics. Finley Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass., advocates spending a few bucks on nitty-gritty stuff. “It’s often very worthwhile to hire an electrician and plumber for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks,” Perry says. “Those details tell a buyer that someone has really taken care of the home and can really influence its price.”
7. 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 real estate agents 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.
8. 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 also buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture’s look.
9. 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,” says Viessi.
Also, if you’re stuck with a basic steel front door, Persley suggests painting or faux-finishing it for more eye appeal. “It’s becoming a trend in Florida to add wood-grain doors to a home’s entry or garage. The good news, though, is that you can easily paint existing metal doors with stain and paint,” she says.
After using a good metal primer, Persley gives the door a base coat of paint (again, be sure to use one approved for use over metal). For a cherry wood look, Persley uses a burgundy base paint. After it dries, she brushes over the base coat with a cherry wood stain. “It really looks amazing, and it only takes a few hours,” she says.
10. 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,” says Viessi.
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,” says Viessi. And hey, your neighbors will love you for it, too.
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