What Renovations Add the Most Value and Which Are Overkill?

Real Estate Agent with Rich Life Real Estate Team GA#242237

WHat Renovations Add the Most Value and Which Are Overkill?


When preparing a home to sell, it's always best to go through the home and make a list of items that are worn or may need to be repaired.  Doing this from the buyers perspective is the best way to gauge the priority of what needs to be done.  Most buyers don't expect a home to be in perfect condition, but there are some things that can cause great concern.  Having a good friend or two come throught the home and having them give you honest and objective feedback can really be a pluss. We get used to our homes and living in the home we tend to not notice these items as much.


Carpet - If the carpet is worn out, often in high traffic areas, is dirty, or outdated in style, it's time to replace it. Flooring is kind of semi-permanent, in that most people intend to keep it for 8-10 years and so it's expected to be in very good condition.  The prospect of having to replace carpet is a huge deduction off the top.  Berbers are out, and you won't want to go with anything too dark, too light or too colorful, stay neutral.  If the carpet is not worn, and is a good color, clean them if you can.  If replacing use a high quality pad!

Paint - Paint should be neutral and have modern colors, while what is acceptable sometimes varies from region to region, clean paint that looks crisp and professionally done always makes a big difference in marketing a home. This is one of the biggest bang for your buck renovations.

Smells - No matter how great you make the place look, if it smells like cigarettes, pet odors or strong spices, it will be a turn off for most buyers.  Ionic air filtration systems can remove even the strongest smells, and renting one of these for a few hundred dollars will be a great investment for some home sellers.

Garage Doors - Old wooden doors that have rot and flaking paint are a huge obstacle, and these can be replaced relatively inexpensively.  We recommend buying the hardware to make a normal garage door look like a carriage house door.  This renovation will make a big difference in curb appeal.

Exterior Doors - Badly dented metal doors, or wood doors that have a lot of water rot or where the stain is in terrible condition really hurt your curb appeal.  Staining, painting, or replacing doors as necessary makes a big difference in first impression.

Lighting - For $400-600 in materials you can often change outdated light fixtures to modern light fixtures, making the home feel so much more modern.  The difference here can be dramatic, and going form a regular light to a ceiling fan in bedrooms is a big value add.  Don't skimp here, a $69 ceiling fan will add a lot of value, but putting in a $12 one won't get you much return.

Programmable Thermostats - These save energy costs, but also make the home feel so much more updated. For $50-75 this is an item that just makes sense.  Some of them can actually be linked to your cell phone so you can control the climate without getting up or from a distant location.  In harsh winter areas they may help preserve your pipes!

Roof leaks - If the home has a pretty good roof with life left in it, but has a leak from a boot that needs caulking or a problem spot that needs to be addressed, a few hundred dollars repair can make a huge difference in the sale of your home.  Make sure to paint the ceiling too show no concern is created after the repair has been made.

Heating and Air - You will want to make sure that the furnace heats and the air conditioning cools.  Getting the units serviced so that you can show records of them being well maintained will make people feel very comfortable.

Termite Bond - Active termites can kill your deal very quickly, and a lot of buyers can't look past this issue, or will discount your home severely.  Replacing visible damage, and getting the home treated and  under a bond can be a great investment.  Often the damage isn't as expensive to fix as you would think, but this can be a deal killer.

Staining Decks - Replacing any rotted boards, and putting new top plates can make a big difference, and pressure washing and staining a deck may cost you $100 to do yourself but will really make a difference to the bueyr.

Pressure Washing Cement - Cement that is blackened from years of stain never looks great, and for less than a couple hundred dollars you can rent a pressure washer with a walk behind disc attachment that will make your cement look brand new.

Landscaping - Making sure the lawn looks green, is free of weeds, and is freshly mowed and edged, while also making sure flower beds have fresh pine bark or pine straw and flowers and neatly trimmed shrubs will add to curb appeal and make a buyer feel that you pay attention to detail.

Clean Windows - Windows should be in good repair and should open, close and lock.  Having them clean will make a very good impression.

Granite Remnants - Often laminate bathroom countertops can be replaced with granite countertops that have low proflie stainless sinks for $500-700.  This is often only a little more expensive than using new laminate, but makes a big difference in look and often a very positive for appraisals.

Framing in Mirrors - We love taking trim and trimming the outside edges of the mirror for a much more expensive look at a very low price!

Paint Cabinets & Replace Hardware - Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, and having very dated cabinets with ancient hardware is a big negative, and it's not very expensive to paint them and put new hardware on them! This can make one of the biggest differences!

Reface Cabinets Instead of Replacing them - This is a great way to make the kitchen feel much more updated for about half the cost of replacing the cabinets with new ones.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but it does give some low cost options that can improve the liklihood, timing and price your home brings on the market!

Comments (68)

Jared Garfield
Rich Life Real Estate Team - Buford, GA
Invest With The Best For The Highest Returns!


I agree, for the most part I never replace kitchens, except with foreclosures where the cabinets are terrible!  I bought a 4/2 in Birmingham a couple of months ago for $18,000 and we put a new kitchen in that one, but once we did $20,000 in rehab, we we think we will be able to rent it for $895 per month and sell it for about $69,000.  For retail sellers it rarely makes sense to do new cabinets, only countertops and hardware, perhaps painting if they were already painted.  I did add the suggestion that came above about Refacing cabinets for half the cost, because I felt that on some higher end homes this could make sense on a case by case basis.  


You are sure right about window cleaning, what a difference that makes.  I also think taking screens off and storing them can really brighten up the front of a house.

Nov 05, 2013 03:51 AM
Amy Gutschow
RE/MAX - Sheboygan, WI
Professional Real Estate

Great post, Jared, thank you so much for sharing. Sometimes such an easy alteration can make such a huge impact in your sale. This would be a great thing to keep in mind to share with buyers!

Nov 05, 2013 06:50 AM
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team
Great post Jared. We tell people the front door is your best payback and nothing else to get you more than $.50 on the dollar.
Nov 05, 2013 07:26 AM
Marnie Matarese
Showing you the best of Sarasota!

I showed a home today that has been on and off the market for the last three years.  The current owners decided to take a Florida Ranch home and transform it into a Venetian Palace decor.  Needless to say, everything they did was wrong, wrong, wrong and very expensive to boot.  So, it sits on the market with none of their "improvements" being of any value.

Nov 05, 2013 10:31 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Jared, I like this list because the cost of the updates are within reason and budget for many homeowners.

Nov 05, 2013 02:25 PM
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

Updates should only be done within your price point.  Townhomes should not have granite & expect to recover the costs.  Try new carpet & paint to freshen it up. 

I personally think that laminate floors are just looking cruddy over the last few years.  I hope they go out soon.

Nov 06, 2013 05:12 AM

1500 - 2000 dollars Floor refinishing job is a must to consider when renovating you house , or if thinking of selling you house.

average 2000 dollars refinishing and sanding make you home worth twice as much as you think!

Nov 07, 2013 10:16 AM
Dolores "Dee" Mauriello
Keller Willaims - Wayne, NJ
Realtor, Homes For Sale Wayne NJ

Your blog post offers lots of wisdom, these home improvement tips are very accurate. I love the idea of framing mirrors. I am going to attempt that project in my own bathroom. Thanks for sharing.

Nov 09, 2013 04:52 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA


Your list makes too much sense. The seller who will not do these things is going to be a hard seller to deal with when the house lingers on the market and/or the offers come in lower than expected.

Saying “I told you so” at that point only makes it worse.


Nov 16, 2013 12:57 PM
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

That is a long list...and it is a very good list.

Dec 05, 2013 12:33 PM
Jared Garfield
Rich Life Real Estate Team - Buford, GA
Invest With The Best For The Highest Returns!


Thank you, I'm glad you found some benefit from the post!




You are so right, I've just taken on a property where the client has followed a lot of this advice and it has made all the difference!

Dec 05, 2013 01:21 PM
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct


        Nice to see real estate investment heading in the right direction. Remodelings Cost VS Value of Home Improvements show a two year positive gain. For more check out this AR post Cost Vs Value 2014.

Jan 29, 2014 11:33 PM
Fred Cope
Reliant Realty in Nashville, TN - Nashville, TN
Looking For Homes With A Smile

Jared, thaks for taking time to compile this list.  I printed a copy to put in my listing presentation folder.  Giving a seller a copy lends weight to my point--it is no longer "my opinion", but the opinion of 63 professionals.

I just gave my wife a copy--even spouses benefit from seeing the weight of the argument.

Wishing you the best...

Jan 30, 2014 09:16 AM
Jared Garfield
Rich Life Real Estate Team - Buford, GA
Invest With The Best For The Highest Returns!


Thank you very much for letting me know, I'm very glad that I can provide some value to the Active Rain Community.  Hopefully, it will be easier to swallow without your having to tell them all of these things.  Coming from 63 of us is more palatable for sure!

Jan 30, 2014 09:26 AM
Michael Dagner
Brokers Guild Classic - Denver, CO
Your Denver Homes Realty Expert

Jared, a thorough list of ideas with the emphasis on value, vs wasting money and time. 

Nov 14, 2014 12:40 PM
Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster
Maricopa Real Estate Co - Maricopa, AZ
A Maricopa Agent who Works, Lives & Loves Maricopa

Thanks for sharing. People are always wondering what are great returns on their investments and which aren't. 

Nov 14, 2014 01:44 PM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Excellent post....well deserved feature!  I was glad to see Women of Westchester Working Together comment on rugs because I recommend Berber all the time.  It's quite popular here in NH.

I've found that many times sellers who are hesitant to make improvements that their agent has recommended will make those same improvements when I suggest them.  Happens all the time.  Part of the reason is that I fully explain the value to them in doing so.  Part of the reason is that sellers sometimes see real estate agents as having something to gain, whereas a stager doesn't. 

Nov 15, 2014 06:30 AM
Women of Westchester Working Together
Women of Westchester Working Together - West Harrison, NY
Women helping Women get ahead

Excellent point Sharon Tara .  Since I work w/ a ton of buyers, I explain to them what the new buyers do...so that they know what makes senses.

Also, sometimes it helps hearing the same thing from different people.

Nov 15, 2014 06:34 AM
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

It is usually better to repair and replace worn and broken items in a home over giving the buyer an allowance to replace them.

Nov 15, 2014 10:13 PM
Trisha Bush-LeFore
Preferred Properties Land & Homes - Walla Walla, WA
Providing Realtor Services in the Walla Walla Area


Great tips!!!!! Very doable for homeowners and would add to the value without breaking the bank. Thanks for sharing these with us. 

Nov 17, 2014 02:24 AM