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5 cheap ways to increase home value

Bethany Lyttle

Selling your home this summer? Cheap tweaks can pay off big time. “And even when these don’t equate to big dollars, they may help sell your property faster,” says Adam Hade, an associate broker with Houlihan Lawrence in southeastern New York state.

But choosing which improvements to make is where many homeowners go wrong, according to Hade. “They over-improve or improve in ways that don’t really matter to the buyers in their particular area,” he says.

Exactly the reason you should consult with a qualified realtor in your neighborhood before investing in any improvement projects. They can tell you if buyers are looking for nurseries or extra bedrooms and can actually save you money by preventing well-intended but unnecessary upgrades.

One such superfluous improvement is splurging on high-end kitchen appliances. “While a buyer may appreciate chef-quality ranges or top-of-the-line fixtures, a well-kept lower-price brand will rarely break a deal,” says Hade. “On the other hand, worn carpet, dirty grout and clutter will give the impression that the house is not well-maintained and lacks sufficient storage,” he adds. Details like these make it difficult–and even impossible–for many prospective buyers to envision themselves living there.

A home’s layout is another adjustable feature sellers should take advantage of. Dina Landi of Rebecca Riskin & Associates in Montecito, Calif., suggests reconfiguring your home’s layout to meet market demands. Substituting one room’s use for another is a cheap way to transform a three-bedroom home with a den to a four-bedroom home. Or a home that has a dining room with doors can be reconfigured for use as a main floor master bedroom.

The best way to improve home values on the cheap is to do what needs doing–and nothing more. Here are five smart and simple ways:

Don't Add a Room, Invent One

Main floor master bedrooms, nurseries, and crafting rooms are desirable, but many homes don’t have them. If you have a den, attic, or bonus room, decorate it to look like one of these. Your realtor can tell you what clients in the area are looking for.

Create Multiple Seating Areas

An empty stone terrace becomes an instant second dining room with the addition of patio furniture. Add to that, the furniture emphasizes the size of the space and creates a destination. Hade, the realtor with Houlihan Lawrence, recommends creating spaces like this inside and out.

Fix Right for Your Home Type

Every home has a personality and a function. Buyers seeking a little lakeside cabin aren’t looking for granite countertops. So, don’t add them. Young families aren’t looking for an elaborate master bath. So focus on the yard. The cozy look of a wood interior is what buyers want from a log cabin. So, don’t paint or drywall. Stain the deck, instead.

Get Creative with Cabinetry

This house in Katonah, N.Y., features a gorgeous kitchen renovation. “By painting the cabinets instead of purchasing new ones, the owner was able to create a wonderful space without investing in new cabinetry,” said Hade, who is listing the house. Changing the hardware is another way to update cabinetry without buying new.

Group Potted Plants

Set at a front entry, three large terra-cotta pots filled with colorful blooms create instant curb appeal. So, why landscape? Lining the perimeter of a deck or terrace with potted annuals enhances those spaces as well. Selling in winter? Fill the pots with seasonal foliage, such as holly branches or pine boughs.

See full list: 5 cheap ways to increase home value.