Whether you’re a senior looking to sell your house in the near future or are looking for practical updates that will make it more appealing to buyers later on, there are all kinds of ways to increase your home’s value. Some changes can be made quite easily by homeowners themselves, and certain projects will take no more than a weekend to complete. Other updates are better left to a professional, be it due to safety precautions or special training that’s required to do the job. This guide will discuss the best value-boosting modifications to consider for your home so that when the time comes to sell, you’ll get the highest return on your investment.
Keep in mind that every homeowner’s needs will be different, and you may want to ask a real estate agent or local interior designer to evaluate your home. They can offer valuable insight on the areas of your house that would best benefit from an update, as well as when to preserve the integrity of a particular style of home, some modern renovations may detract from a colonial home’s appeal, for instance. Getting personalized advice about how to best add value to your home is never a bad idea!
An updated kitchen is the number one wish list item for young buyers and an excellent place to start when boosting your home’s value. The best part is that your budget doesn’t have to be a limiting factor. Even small changes can make a world of difference in giving an outdated kitchen a facelift. Of course, if you do have a large budget to work with, you may want to consider investing a good amount in your cooking space.
Consider your basic kitchen hardware: cabinet door knobs and drawer handles. If they’re the same as when you moved in, and especially if there’s visible wear and tear, it’s likely time to switch them out for a fresh, modern look. Changing them is simple and often low-cost. This small change can completely transform the look of your cabinets and create cohesion in the space, particularly if you opt to match the hardware to your appliances.
If your cabinets are in need of more than just a minor update, you can still make alterations to update them without breaking the bank. A good scrubbing is a great first step! Sanding out rough or worn spots, new contact paper lining, and a fresh coat of paint are all simple ways to elevate old cabinets. If the cabinet boxes are in good shape, you can remove and refinish the doors and drawers for a brand new look without the overhaul of a total remodel.
Replacing your cabinets completely might end up being the best option for a particularly worn-out kitchen. Most home improvement stores come with entire units you can install yourself, but it does require significant time and skill, after all, you have to rip the old ones out first! Keep in mind, however, that if your home is on its way to market, it’s wise to be conservative with brand new cabinets. New homebuyers will certainly appreciate seeing an updated kitchen, but they still may opt to make their own changes. Shanty cabinets can be a major distraction to would-be buyers and prevent them from seeing the space’s potential, but you shouldn’t devote your entire budget to new cupboards that may ultimately get altered.
Sink hardware is another easy update to consider. Does your kitchen have:
Even new drain traps can make an important difference. No one wants to think about years of grime and buildup in their “new” kitchen sink!
If the sink is porcelain or acrylic, consider switching it out for a more durable material like stainless steel for both a practicality boost and an updated look. You also might want to consider the depth and division: if yours is a shallow, single sink, then a deep, double unit is a more modern alternative. Sink installation can be more complicated, so unless you have experience with home contracting it might be best to hire a professional for installation.
You should also check your kitchen plumbing to ensure it’s in good working order, especially if your home is or will soon be on the market. Replace broken hoses, repair faulty disposals, and make any other small fixes, even if they don’t directly affect your way of life right now. It’s better to nip problems in the bud to avoid their escalation, especially in a room you’ll always use. Plus, even if you don’t normally use your garbage disposal, for example, having it operational while still living in your house might end up being a major convenience for you!
A kitchen’s countertops can be a major indication of an older, worn-down space, but it can be a costly update to make. Laminate is one of the least expensive material options, but you lose durability, which could be a significant downside for potential buyers. Ceramic tile comes in all colors and sizes and is easy to clean, though you may want to opt for dark-colored grout to conceal stains. Corian is a great, albeit more expensive, alternative, because while it’s stronger and easier to clean, it can come in varieties that look identical to expensive granite or marble countertops. Consider your budget and how long you’ll be in your home before selling it; if you’ll be living there a few more years, go with what will meet your culinary needs best.
If you do opt to install new kitchen countertops, your main focus in choosing a material should be practicality. Keep in mind your area’s climate. For instance, if you’re near the coast, choose a material that holds up well with high humidity and salty sea air. Most buyers will appreciate something that’s easy to clean, and ideally, a surface that’s at least somewhat heat resistant.
A kitchen’s lighting can be a dead giveaway for the era in which it was built. Fluorescent soffit lighting in particular screams the 1970s. A large budget will allow you to update however you like, ideally with a balance of natural, ambient, and task lighting. Undercabinet additions can do wonders for a dim kitchen, especially if there’s little to no natural light to work with.
Because the kitchen is one of the most utilized spaces in the house, it’s also worthwhile to consider making it more energy efficient with lighting. Look for ways to maximize the sunlight it receives during the day, and consider adding a single, bright overhead light for nighttime use. Be conservative with your choice in fixtures if your home is headed to the listings page: buyers tend to be turned off by those that are overly ornate. If your budget allows, have different fixtures linked to different switches so lighting can easily be adjusted according to the task at-hand. Perhaps the easiest lighting update to make is to switch to LED bulbs that not only last longer, but actually use significantly less energy than standard bulbs.
Updates you make to your kitchen appliances will greatly depend on your budget, and it’s important to consider the investment. If you’ll be living in your house for several more years, it’s probably worth it to spend the money to replace an old refrigerator or stove since you’ll use its replacement. Even a new microwave can make an older kitchen look more modern, so if you’ve been putting off replacing yours, it can be a handy home value-booster; best of all, if it’s not mounted, you’ll get the elevated look and still get to keep the unit once you move out!
If you’re not looking to replace the appliances, simply swapping out the front panel of your stove or dishwasher can elevate the room’s overall appearance. Some dishwashers actually come with two-sided face panels that you can easily switch without professional assistance. If you’re buying a completely new panel, stainless steel tends to be one of the more contemporary options.
If you do opt to replace any of your kitchen appliances, look for those that are Energy Star certified. This will keep your energy bills lower while you’re still living in the home and can be incredibly attractive to new homebuyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Bathrooms are often the second most important room to update in the interest of home value. The changes can be as simple as replacing the toilet seat, installing a new faucet, adding modern tap handles, or updating the hardware on cabinets. If the plates on your electrical outlets and light switches are old and dingy, spend a few extra dollars on fashionable new plates for easy accents. If you’re planning ahead, make gradual changes over time so the work will feel a lot less overwhelming. Plus, your wallet won’t face any major blows!
No one wants to see a dirty bathroom floor, especially in a home they’re contemplating buying. Replacing it is actually a lot easier these days than it used to be. Many vinyl tile coverings can be fitted directly over existing floor. Half-bathrooms can even be fitted with laminate or hardwood, but for full bathrooms, you’ll want to ensure the material is water-resistant and won’t warp from humidity in the air.
If a new floor isn’t an investment you can make, a major scrubbing might be enough to make bathroom floors look like new again. Make sure to wear protective eye and breathing gear as needed, especially with bleach products. You can hire a maid or cleaning service to do the job for you if you have limited mobility, depending on the size and number of bathrooms, you’ll likely only need to hire them for a few hours at most.
Countertops, Cabinets & Storage
Bathroom counter trends have seen significant changes in recent years, with a shift away from tile and toward materials like marble, granite, and quartz. Laminate is a low-cost option that can give a truly elevated look, but it isn’t always incredibly durable against heat and humidity; if you’re not planning to sell your home anytime soon, it may not look very new once the house does go on the market. As with the kitchen, the bathroom should have an easy-to-clean surface.
Your options for updating bathroom cabinets will be similar to those for the kitchen. Scrubbing the interiors and re-lining surfaces with fresh contact paper can be low-budget wonders. Refacing the outside can be as detailed as you like, from new hinges to a fresh coat of paint to stenciled accents. Decorate with neutral tones and simple features; the goal is to create a soothing atmosphere.
Make sure each bathroom has adequate storage that allows you to keep the space organized and clutter-free. Adding a small pantry or hanging cabinet can help maximize the space, but make sure you don’t store anything heavy up high and create a hassle for yourself in the process. Some people prefer to keep their storage completely out of sight, but others embrace the chance to get creative by repurposing other items and making the storage double as décor. Do make sure you keep the floor clear of as many tripping hazards as possible, especially in small bathrooms.
Showers & Bathtubs
Again, the first step is to give your shower and tub a good, thorough cleaning (or hire a cleaning service to do so). The cleaning process might even give you insight into smart updates to make: if, for example, you realize what a hassle it is to clean around the grout of tiny tile, perhaps switching to large subway tile can give the space both a color boost and make it easier to maintain. Keep in mind that buyers will be looking with a critical eye, so the more “cons” you can keep off their list, the better!
Replacing tile can be costly and usually requires the hiring of a professional. Instead, re-grouting and replacing chipped tiles can help give your bathroom a fresher appearance. Installing a shower door in place of a curtain can not only reduce the tripping hazard for you now, it can add a permanent sophisticated touch.
A new shower head, a contemporary faucet, and new handles can also help modernize even the most old-fashioned of bathrooms. Don’t underestimate classic looks, however, especially with pedestal sinks and clawfoot bathtubs. Replacing worn items is still important, but don’t choose modern hardware if it will clash with the tub it’s going on.
For those with large budgets, consider installing a walk-in shower. A wide enough space will make it wheelchair friendly should you need it now or as you age, but keep in mind the lip should be flush to the bathroom floor. Not all potential buyers will want to completely lose their bathtub, especially in master bathrooms, so consider hiring a contractor to install both a walk-in shower and an adjacent tub if you can.
Closets & Storage
Adding storage to your home can make your life a lot easier now, as well as add important value to your home in the long run. Budget will play a major role in the kinds of expansion you can make, but every minor improvement can make a difference. Seek every opportunity to create more storage space in every room, especially bedrooms.
Many homes, both old and new, have opportunity when it comes to storage. If you have the budget and space to create a few extra closets throughout your home, take advantage. It can be an especially beneficial addition to a den. Adding a closet means creating an extra bedroom.
A walk-in closet is a luxury many people dream of, and often a detail included in real estate listings. Rolling pocket doors can be a major help in maximizing the space, and shelving both above and below clothes rods can allow for even more storage. And don’t forget the lighting. A simple hanging fixture or several bright sconces can both brighten and elevate the look!
For the closet space you currently have, organize and maximize it. Installing new shelving is a straightforward task if you’re handy, and even just adding a few additional shelves in underused space can make a big difference. If you’re a novice, it’s better to hire a professional for this task; if the shelves aren’t installed correctly, they could collapse and cause expensive damage to the wall.
Bedroom, Living Room, Common Areas & Other General Considerations
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While there’s no need to remodel your entire home prior to selling, there are a few considerations to keep in mind with the rest of the home. Start by making sure furniture and décor allow for sensible pathways throughout the home, creating as much open space as possible. Mirrors can be an excellent way to make small spaces look bigger while still being a pleasant accent to a room or hallway. Lighting should also be evaluated throughout the home; the brighter the home, especially in natural light, the better!
As you start to look ahead to selling your home, consider painting bedrooms, hallways, and living areas in neutral tones if they aren’t already. Your entire home doesn’t have to be bland and colorless, but opting for pops of color with your décor and furniture may be wiser. Buyers like to imagine their own touches being added to the houses they visit, so you want to make it easy while still presenting them with a cozy environment.
Replacing old carpet tends to be a given when it comes to selling your home, and you might want to consider opting for a different surface altogether. Laminate or hardwood floors are not only beautiful, they’re easier to clean and don’t have the tendency to hold allergens like carpet does. Additionally, choosing these materials instead of particularly hard ones like granite or marble makes it easier to move around as you age, especially as your mobility needs evolve, with less danger of serious injury if you do fall.
Popcorn ceilings are another telltale sign of your home’s age and can be a serious turnoff for buyers. They’re relatively easy to remove yourself, but because the process requires extended periods standing on a high ladder while scraping, you’re better off hiring a professional. Make sure you’re aware of your home’s risk for asbestos and advise your contractor as necessary.
Find opportunities to make your home more energy efficient, be it with a new, Energy Star certified central air conditioning system or re-insulating exterior doors. Ceiling fans are an excellent way to keep homes cooler in the heat without driving up electricity costs, while thick-paned windows can better preserve heat in the winter. Self-regulating thermostats are slowly becoming an expected quality, and some models can even synch to a smart home system. Don’t go too overboard with specialized technology modifications, however, as the rate of new advancements can make them obsolete in just a few years.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make aging-in-place modifications to your home. Accessible homes will be appealing to other seniors looking to buy, those with disabilities, and families with an aging loved one to care for. Many alterations can even help guarantee the safety of small children, adding textured gripping to the shower floor, for instance.
Finally, don’t forget the first thing potential buyers see: your home’s exterior. Perhaps the easiest way to identify opportunities is to stand outside and view your house with the critical eye of an inspector: Is anything broken? Does anything immediately look old? Is your yard attractively decorated and well-kept? Again, simple changes can make an important difference, but there are a few major ones to consider, as well.
An often overlooked quality to consider changing in your home is the garage door. If it’s broken, dented, rusted, or otherwise visibly aged, replacing it can bring as much as an 84% return on investment. Simply adding a fresh coat of paint in a neutral, inviting color can help your house stand out in a good way if your budget is limited, and can be completed in the course of an afternoon.
Your home’s entryway is another important consideration. You want potential buyers to feel eager to enter your home, so creating a beautiful pathway to the front door can be all the difference. Stone pathways, especially those with decorative inlays, offer a beautiful, memorable entry. Take the material you use into special consideration, avoiding those that will be especially slippery in the rain and any with uneven surfaces; not only is this a walking hazard for you, it might be a turnoff to parents with young children still learning to walk or buyers with mobility issues.
Make repairs and improvements to any windows, shutters, siding, and exterior doors that are easily visible from the street. A single broken window frame can be a distracting eyesore, and loose or crooked shutters immediately make a home look worn down. Depending on the age of your home and the kind of damage, many repairs may be simple to complete. For lengthier processes, however, take into account how much time you’ll spend outside in the elements and consider hiring a professional for big projects; dehydration can be especially tricky in older adults, so leaving the manual outdoor labor to others is often wise.
There’s no need to completely restructure your yard’s landscape, but making some aesthetic improvements can really elevate your home’s curb appeal. Adding evergreen shrubs and a few potted plants are simple, easy-to-maintain improvements that can beautify just about any yard. Planting a shade tree in the front or backyard can give you a cozy spot to picnic under, and placing it strategically can even keep your house cooler and reduce energy costs. Fill in bare patches in the grass as you see them, and keep your lawn trimmed and weeded.
If you’re still a few years away from selling your home, make value-boosting alterations as you have the money and opportunity. Talk to your neighbors about improvements they’ve made to their homes and any deal-makers or breakers they had on their wish list. With the right insight and strategy, you can make the most impactful adjustments to your home and see it sell at the top price.