Even at a time where it seems like all a seller has to do is toss a “For Sale” sign on their front lawn and sit back and wait for the stampede of cash offers, it’s still the smart play to plan on a few simple home improvement projects that can offer a nice return on investment.

And when the market turns—because, after all, that’s what cyclical markets do—having a go-to list of small upgrades you can do to your home will help you stand out in a market filled with unprepared sellers.

1. Don’t Waste Your First Impression

If a full revamp of your landscaping isn’t in the budget be sure to at least spruce up the yard. Keep the lawn mowed and raked, the edges neatly trimmed, and the bushes or trees pruned.

The front porch should be clean and free of stuff, and a fresh layer of mulch always brings a nice bit of polish.

You can also give the front door a fresh coat of paint (“feng shui red” is still very popular), and swap out your old address numbers for some new, swanky ones.

A small step-up in effort would be to rent a power washer and clean off the walk, driveway, and the front of the house (be sure to adjust the washer so you don’t strip the paint). It’s actually kind of fun, and the difference a good wash makes can be quite surprising

2. The Nose Knows

Our sense of smell is pretty amazing, but if it’s constantly exposed to the same stimulus—AKA odors—it will eventually stop noticing. This can make for an unpleasant surprise when it’s time to sell your home.

You may not be aware of the (not-so-) faint smell of old shoes/cocker spaniel/last year’s attempt to make the perfect chicken tikka masala, but prospective homebuyers will.

Fortunately, the fix is pretty simple and dirt cheap. Grab a box or three of baking soda and sprinkle it over all of the carpets, wait an hour or so and vacuum it up. Then add it to some water and wipe down counter tops and garbage cans.

And don’t forget the garbage disposal, pour half a cup of baking soda into the disposal, and carefully add half a cup of white vinegar. Put in a stopper to keep the bubbles in the disposal area.

When it’s done fizzing like a grade-school volcano after a few minutes, pull the stopper and flush with hot water. If you’ve got dual sinks, clean them both at the same time.

3. Give Your Cabinets a Facelift

Brand new kitchen cabinets are a major expense, but a “facelift” is not only much less expensive it’s well within the realm of the average DIY-er.

Start by removing all of the doors and drawers and all of the knobs, pulls, and hinges.

Clean and sand everything wooden, and apply a fresh coat of paint. You can then either put the hardware back on or replace it with something nicer /more fashionable.

And while you’re spiffing up your cabinets, you can also give your appliances the once-over, too. Scrub the knobs, deep clean the oven, check behind the refrigerator. A little bit of elbow grease can really pay off here since a nice kitchen is at the top of every homebuyer’s “must have” list.

4. Mind the Gaps

Specifically, those that are the result of nails in walls, missing grout, caulking, sealant, etc.

Some nail holes and a missing bit of caulking may not seem like much, but they can make a potential buyer worry that where a lot of little things have gone unattended, there might also be big things.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you can replace all of the grout and caulking in the bathrooms. Some studies have shown that minor upgrades such as these can actually have a greater ROI than a full-blown re-do of a bathroom.

5. Make a Goodwill Run (or three)

One of the great parts of shopping for a home is imagining what all of our stuff will look like when we move in.

So imagine how a home buyer must feel when they look inside your closets and see that they’re crammed to the rafters will all of the stuff the staging specialist didn’t want to be visible.

There’s no room for their imagination because your stuff is taking up all the space!

So start the process of pruning your stuff before you show your home. The less of your stuff you have in your home , the easier it is for potential buyers to see themselves in it.

6. When in Doubt, Paint

Inside at least, outside, too, if it needs it.

There’s just something about a clean, fresh coat of paint that brightens and lightens a room. All of the small bits of damage and discoloration that are just a part of living in a home are suddenly gone and smooth, unblemished walls are all that remains.

7. Don’t Forget the Floors

If you have old carpet on your floors, strongly consider either replacing it or pulling it up to reveal the hardwood underneath (assuming it’s in good repair, of course).

Old, worn carpet is one of those things that homebuyers have a hard time looking past.

If you already have hardwood floors, have them sanded and polished. Where newly painted walls make a room look bright and clean, restored hardwood floors give a room a warmth and glow that just can’t be beaten.

8. Make it Easy to See How Great Your Home Is

Does your lighting design leave something to be desired? Like more light? Or fixtures that don’t scream, “I’m a fad that is well past its time”?

Like skinny jeans and avocado toast, lighting has its fashionable trends. Make sure yours is up-to-date and adequate for each room.

9. Save Locally, Save Globally

Solar panels are hot (no pun intended) items, but something as simple and much less expensive as new attic insulation can not only save money but also has a better chance of recouping your investment.

Other possible areas of energy savings include updated HVAC systems, efficient windows, and water heaters. Even implementing all four would be considerably cheaper than a new solar system, and would not only save you money before your home sells but would also be a huge enticement for a new owner.

Whichever ones you opt for, be sure to have some “Before” and “After” energy bills to show how much you’re currently saving.

A Game of Inches

Whether the market is hot or cold or home mortgages are easy or difficult to qualify for, it’s a wise—and profitable—seller that sets themselves a step or two above the competition.

Want to learn more about small home improvement projects that can reap big rewards?  Answer a few questions here and a home lending expert will contact you!

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