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It’s no fun paying for renovations that you don’t get to enjoy yourself. Nevertheless, many sellers have no choice but to remodel before listing. But just because a home needs updates doesn’t mean it needs a total overhaul. Here’s how you can determine which projects are worth the money.

First, decide what asking price you want to set for your house. If you’re comfortable accepting a lower offer, you won’t have to put as much effort into cosmetic updates. Instead, you can focus your energy on fixing issues that might turn buyers away.

However, if getting the best price is a priority, you’ll need to offer all the same bells and whistles as other homes in your target price range. Review local listings to see what homes of a similar age and square footage are selling for, and use that data to inform your price point.

Next, determine where your money will have the biggest impact. There’s no point spending money on renovations that buyers won’t pay more for. The exception is major issues that affect a home’s livability, like a damaged roof. Most buyers don’t want a home that needs immediate attention, and those who do are likely to make a lowball offer due to the hassle. It’s worth your while to take care of repairs that ensure your home is ready to sell.

Conventional wisdom says that the kitchen and master bathroom are the most important rooms in any home. Buyers are reluctant to overlook problems in these rooms, especially if other homes offer the features they want. Sellers should also focus on the areas prospective buyers see first: the front yard, entryway, and living room. It’s hard to recover from a poor first impression, so it’s important that these areas look their best.

Finally, use Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report to determine which home improvement projects offer the greatest return on investment. While it’s rare to recoup 100 percent on any project, strategic improvements can increase your pool of buyers and shorten time spent on the market, all while minimizing the hit to your budget.

If you’re still not sure which renovations are a good investment, consider these improvements that can increase a home’s resale value:

Major Renovations

  • Roof repairs: If your roof is over 20 years old, has buckling or missing shingles, or shingle granules accumulating in the gutter, it’s time to pay for a new roof.
  • HVAC repair: You’re unlikely to get past the first open house if the heat or air conditioning isn’t working properly. Consider ENERGY STAR’s signs that it’s time to replace HVAC equipment.
  • New appliances: If your appliances scream 1990, it’s worthwhile to upgrade before listing. Most buyers want stainless steel appliances; opt for mid-range models unless you’re selling in a luxury market.

Mid-Range Jobs

  • New lighting fixtures: It’s hard to show off your home in its best light if there’s not much light to speak of. If lighting issues can’t be fixed with higher-wattage bulbs, you may need to replace or add fixtures.
  • Flooring replacement: Floors that are stained, scratched, or just outdated have a big impact on your home’s overall appearance.
  • New garage door: The garage door is a significant part of your home’s facade. If yours is damaged, outdated, or has stopped working, hire a pro to repair or replace it.

Low-Budget and DIY Projects

  • Painting: Garish colors or dated wallpaper are major turn-offs. A fresh coat of paint in muted, neutral hues offers broad appeal.
  • Floor refinishing: Some flooring problems can be fixed through refinishing, rather than replacing, especially when it comes to hardwood.
  • Landscaping: Make sure your curb appeal is drawing buyers in, not turning them away, by tidying the lawn, installing evergreen plants, and lighting the way with low-voltage landscape lights.

Ultimately, the decision of what to renovate before selling depends on the real estate market, your home’s condition, and the price you hope to get for your home. While it’s always wise to do your own research, your realtor will have the most knowledge about the features that matter in your local market. Talk to your agent about what buyers are looking for so you can spend your money where it counts.

Blog Courtesy of Seth Murphy