Home Improvement Projects That Will Pay Off for Sellers

With low inventory levels and a strong housing sellers’ market in California, you may be thinking it’s a good time to sell your home—or start making some improvements in preparation of selling. A few upgrades may be the difference between a disappointing home-selling experience and finding a buyer willing to pay your asking price or maybe a little more.

So, without draining your bank account, what can be done to your house to maximize its value when it comes time to sell? Below are some home improvement projects that are relatively inexpensive—a few thousand dollars or less, and much less in some cases—that could be the difference in convincing potential buyers that yours is the perfect home for them.shutterstock_50097079

Fresh paint. This is an inexpensive first step, along with a thorough cleaning, that should be done by nearly all homeowners ready to sell. The scuffs and seemingly minor blemishes you may have gotten used to can turn off a potential buyer. Avoid bold colors. The purple your son or daughter may be fond of in their bedroom may make others cringe. Real estate agents recommend staying neutral with colors to appeal to the most buyers.

Front-yard facelift. In short, curb appeal is crucial—and first impressions count. Having a nice yard tells people you take pride in the home and it is well cared for. Small upgrades like a paver pathway or adding new bark mulch under a tree can have a significant impact. A splash of color with some fresh flowers or a few bright planted pots is an easy way to perk up a front yard. Be sure your shrubs and hedges are trimmed; crisp lawn edges are always a nice touch.

Front door. A new or repainted front door can be an easy and fairly inexpensive way to make a positive initial impression with prospective buyers. It’s a custom touch that adds visual appeal and can set your home apart from similar-looking facades in the neighborhood.

Lighting. Experts universally agree that dark spaces are not appealing. Adding canned or recessed lighting to a bathroom or kitchen can dramatically alter a room’s appearance. Because electrical jobs can be tricky and potentially dangerous for novices, hiring a qualified contractor may be a wise choice. The Contractors State License Board is a good place to start, with the “Check a License” online tool providing information on whether a contractor is licensed, insured, and in good standing. CSLB licenses nearly 300,000 contractors in 43 different classifications.

Bathroom. A few upgrades can enhance the appearance of a bathroom immensely. Replacing dated fixtures or adding a mirror can provide a modern look, and re-grouting a shower may be well worth the time and effort.

Kitchen. Experts often single out the kitchen as a potential deal-breaker when it comes to selling a home, but it’s easy to spend a lot of money on upgrades. Because kitchens are often a matter of personal taste and may be overhauled by new owners anyway, focus on any negatives that could be potential turnoffs. Have you been getting by with a particularly old dishwasher or microwave? Could your cabinets use new hardware or refacing? Does the counter tile grout need a good scrubbing? When it comes time to show the home, avoid cluttered countertops by putting away everything but absolute necessities—the more visible counter space the better.

Flooring. Experts say that old, worn, or dirty flooring can be a major buyer turnoff. As a starting point, any carpets should be thoroughly cleaned, with particular attention paid to the entryway area. If deep-cleaning isn’t going to be enough to revive your carpets—and you can afford it—consider investing in new carpets or engineered wood flooring. If you already have wood flooring, brighten them up with a mopping or other product treatment.

If you decide to hire a contractor for any home improvement projects, remember that anyone who contracts to perform work in California valued at $500 or more for combined labor and materials costs must have a valid CSLB license. The CSLB website provides information on finding and hiring the right type of contractor and on home improvement contracts.

If you’re looking for a real estate agent, or have any questions about buying or selling a home, the Bureau of Real Estate offers a license search, consumer information, and more in the “Consumers” section of its website.


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