The Tip Jar: Cheaper ways to make your home more valuable before you sell

Think twice before that $50,000 kitchen remodel, there are most cost-effective ways to boost your home's value.
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Spring is here and it brings more than a change in the weather; it's also the time when a lot more properties start going on the market.

It's a seller's market right now. There's a dearth in supply and values are rising as a result, with homes being snapped up in some cases mere hours after going on the market.

But before it goes on the market, you want to get the valuation you're looking for, so The Tip Jar has spoken with Coldwell Banker Burnet Realtor Bruce Erickson to get some ideas about how to add value to your home without breaking the bank.

Where should you start making improvements?

Before you consider making major investments to a home you're going to sell, it's worth taking a look at smaller imperfections with the property that can be easily remedied and will make things look easier on the eye.

Erickson suggests starting by finishing any "half-baked projects" you have around a house and then tackling things that stand out as "subpar to its surroundings."

"A good example is an older appliance that doesn't match the others, or dated flooring in an otherwise updated space."

Bankrate has some ideas too, focusing on arguably the most important rooms of the house – the kitchen and bathrooms.

It suggests you could replace an aging faucet set, add new cabinet door handles, update old lighting fixtures with energy-efficient ones, add toilet seats and pedestal sinks and keep the costs in the hundreds of dollars.

US News Money has another cheap but effective idea: if you're using a bedroom as an office, change it back. It's more beneficial for buyers to see rooms how they were originally intended.

Which larger projects add more value to a home

When it comes to cheap ways to make a big difference – nothing beats a lick of paint.

Erickson says that "almost without exception," painting – whether DIY or by a professional – offers the best return to homeowners when it comes to selling.

If you're going larger, focus your efforts on improvements closer to the front door – whether an entrance hall or your living room.

"They will have a stronger first impression impact with buyers," Erickson says. "This applies to exterior elements, as well as what a buyer sees when the front door is opened. Oftentimes the decision is largely made in those first few steps."

While its known for property shows featuring people who demand open-floor plans and kitchen islands, this HGTV guide does have tips on cost/value efficient home improvements for sellers.

And two of its top five ideas relate to what Erickson is talking about – first impressions. It suggests landscaping improvements to the front yard and sprucing up the exterior by buying a new front door/painting the old one, replacing or repairing rusted railings, and painting your siding.

Which improvements aren't worth doing

Hold on before you sink $50,000 into that new kitchen – it ain't worth it.

"It's very difficult to get your money out of a larger remodel, such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation," Erickson says. "It’s hard to please all buyers with your choices; instead try to get them to feel like the home is livable as-is, and they can personalize it over time."

"Think simpler updates like replacing surfaces (countertops, flooring etc.) and light fixtures rather than completely reinventing spaces."

But that's not to say a significant outlay can't ever pay dividends. Renovator Cannon Christian told US News Money that homeowners should research what local house flippers are doing before deciding on whether to upgrade.

"Comparing the sales prices of, say, homes with older kitchens to homes with kitchens that have been updated is ... a good idea," he said. "If you see about a $50,000 difference, a $25,000 remodel is likely a smart investment. If homes with original kitchens are fetching close to the same price as those with renovated ones, save your money."

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