Cost-Effective Home Improvements

What are the most cost-effective home improvements?

Actually, homeowners’ biggest bang for the buck isn’t improving anything — it’s fixing something that’s broken.

As a listing agent, I’ve seen Buyers deduct $3 (or more) for every $1 in needed repairs.

Why so much?

A) because it’s a hassle; B) because the amount is uncertain, especially if the issue is electric or plumbing-related; and C) because mortgages are (still) cheap, but money for big-ticket items like roofs, furnaces, and central air conditioners is out-of-pocket — and scarce.

Return on Investment

That said, there are some conventions about what prospective Sellers are well-advised to spend money on — and what they should skip.

It’s cliché, but new paint and carpet (or hardwood floors) are still at the top of most Realtors’ lists.

A less obvious item is new Kitchen cabinetry hardware; I’m always surprised by how $200 – $300 can make older cabinets look fresh(er) — vs. spending thousands replacing them.

New light fixtures are another one.

New windows are a loser nationally, but in cold climates like the Upper Midwest can actually add value (especially if the current windows are so bad that Buyers are going to discount 3:1, per above).

Last but certainly not least is painting the basement ceiling.  See, “Voila!  No More Scary Basement!”

The photo (above) — from colleague Karen Antone’s listing at 3228 Dakota in St. Louis Park — shows how dramatic that can be.

P.S.:  So, what should Sellers avoid doing?

The classic example is putting new counters in an otherwise dated Kitchen.

Instead of giving the Kitchen an updated look, cheap, it typically just makes the old(er) cabinets, appliances, and flooring . . . stand out more.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

Leave a Reply