The 7 Best Updates to Sell Your Home and Make More at Closing

By Alex Long

Posted on August 31st, 2022

painting a room blue

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Investing a little time and money in your home prior to listing can pay big dividends at the close of escrow. But before you go crazy at your neighborhood Home Depot, you need to know which projects are going to give you the best return on your time and investment.

HomeGain conducted a study with over 500 real estate agents in order to find just that. This post outlines their findings on a number of home improvements, including information on how much each one costs as well as data on what you can expect to earn back at closing. Costs are based on national averages.

Before you make any updates to your home, we recommend getting expert advice. You don't want to spend too much on an update that won't get you more at closing than what you put in before listing.

Each neighborhood and house is different, so while these seven updates to sell your home are all good ideas, they aren't guaranteed to be the right spend for your situation. A good, local realtor can help, and we recommend our partners at Clever Real Estate. Clever offers a 100% free agent-matching service that can connect you with several hand-picked and pre-vetted local agents who can help sell your home — and save you thousands.

With Clever, you can sell your home for just a 1% fee for home sales over $350,000, or for $3,000 for home sales below that amount. Traditional realtors charge 2.5-3%, which we think is just too much. There's no catch, just savings.

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1. Clean & Declutter

The #1 recommendation of the 500 surveyed agents is simply to clean and declutter your home. Rent a storage unit to store whatever you don’t need on a day-to-day basis and remove personal photos and artifacts from the space.

  • Avg. Cost: $402
  • Value Added: $2,024
  • Return on Investment (ROI): 403%

2. Improve Your Landscaping

An inviting entryway will wow buyers. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, plant fresh flowers, slap a new coat of paint on the front door and add fresh mulch to planters.

  • Avg. Cost: $564
  • Value Added: $1,777
  • ROI: 215%

3. Lighten Up

Brightly lit rooms can make your interior feel larger and more welcoming. Swap dark window coverings out for light or partially transparent options or use white slip-covers on furniture to give the room a lighter feel.

  • Avg. Cost: $424
  • Value Added: $1,690
  • ROI: 299%

4. Paint

A fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into your home. Incorporate white or off-white to make rooms feel larger.

  • Avg. Cost: $968
  • Value Added: $2,002
  • ROI: 107%

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5. Take Care of Invisible Repairs

If you know one of your major systems has issues, it might be wise for you to get it overhauled prior to selling. Updating major systems like plumbing and electrical usually means significant long-term savings for buyers, a big perk that can increase your final sale price.

  • Avg. Cost: $808
  • Value Added: $3,175
  • ROI: 293%

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6. Stage Your Space

Staging means making adjustments to a room to create a more inviting environment. Overall, staging should emphasize the strengths of your home, soften its weaknesses, and attract a wider range of potential buyers.

To accomplish this, use model homes or furniture stores you’ve visited as inspiration, choose neutral colors, and incorporate sparse but deliberate decor. You can do this yourself for little to no cost or you can hire a professional stager to do it for you.

  • Avg. Cost: $724
  • Value Added: $2,145
  • ROI: 196%

7. Consider Your Carpets

99% of the real estate agents surveyed recommended that a seller shampoo or replace their carpets when listing their home. Clean, bright carpet that smells fresh not only looks great, it also gives your space a much newer feel.

  • Avg. Cost: $671
  • Value Added: $1,747
  • ROI: 160%

Need help finding a contractor to replace your carpet? HomeAdvisor can help you get quotes today, completely free of charge.

Other Considerations for Home Improvement Updates

What’s the Market Like?

Determining whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market can guide your decision-making process as you decide which updates to tackle. If it’s a seller’s market, you may be able to realize the highest return by simply cleaning, decluttering, and staging appropriately.

If it’s a buyer’s market, you may have to go above and beyond to keep the days on the market low. In this case, your highest return on investment will come when you update your bathrooms, kitchen, and finishes throughout the home, such as light fixtures and cabinet pulls.

Who's Your Target Buyer?

If you have a home in the suburbs, your target market is likely young couples and families. In this case, investing in turning an office into a third bedroom by adding a closet will have a high return on investment, because it makes the home desirable to the larger number of buyers seeking a home in your neighborhood.

However, if you live in an upscale condo above a downtown bar, converting a second bedroom to an office or entertaining space might increase your return on investment by appealing to young, single buyers.

What Do the Comps Look Like?

Knowing your neighborhood is a simple way to determine where your highest ROI might be. If your house is the only one on the block that has a crumbling driveway and poor landscaping, how will you convince a potential buyer to step inside? In this case, you’ll realize a high return on investment if you tackle the curb appeal to meet the expectation of the those looking in your neighborhood.

On the other hand, if all the houses in your community are run-down starter homes, investing in upgrades can put your home in a limbo of sorts. You don't want to be in a position where those looking in the area can’t afford your house, and those who can afford it wouldn’t purchase in the neighborhood.

To summarize, three guiding principles to follow when determining which projects to tackle for the highest return are:

  • Be conservative in a seller’s market and ambitious in a buyer’s market; focus on kitchen and bathroom updates.
  • Create the ideal home for your target buyer; choose projects that are important to them.
  • Match the neighborhood; choose the projects necessary to match the comps.

Want some super accurate comps from a real estate professional? Our friends at Clever can get you a free comparative market analysis. Here's how: With Clever's agent-matching service, you'll connect to up to three local agents (or more, depending on where you live). Each agent will give you a marketing plan and pricing strategy about how you should price your home based on local comps. You pick the agent who's the best fit, and they'll help sell your house for just a 1% listing fee.

Want to learn more? Plug in your ZIP code below to get started. You'll be redirected to Clever's home evaluation tool so you can get a free online estimate of your home's worth before talking to a Clever agent.

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Posted in Home Improvement, Selling a House