You’re using your COVID time wisely — improving the house!

But if you’re preparing to sell it, be careful what projects you choose. Some will obviously add value, others may break the back or the bank but deliver nothing at the time of sale. You may be surprised at the things that Won’t translate to cash but cost you plenty!

Things that pay are almost always cosmetic. I know! Seems so shallow! But it’s true — appealing to the buyer’s eye will pay you all day long. I can’t tell you how many buyers have chosen the cute 3-bedroom cottage over the 4-bedroom low-slung ranch style. Even when the ranch was the better value! So, even though there are things in your house that drive you nuts: A floor that squeaks, too little storage in the closet, cracks in the garage floor, unmatching hinges, fixing them will not pay you the way these projects will:

Paint. Paint pays. All day long. If your interior paint choices date from the 1990s, or even the early 2000s, consider an update in a color that anyone can accept. Turquoise may be in stylistically, but it’s far from being universally accepted. The best paint for sale prep is one that doesn’t call attention to itself. When in doubt on color, ask your Realtor. We’ve seen it all!

Any paint that is in bad shape — peeling, fading — is best taken care of before you market the house. A buyer will always want more in a paint allowance than it actually costs to paint. Consider painting the front of the house or touching up paint so that the house looks fresh. Peeling paint makes buyers think of your house as a fixer, and their offer will reflect it. If your paint is already in good condition, there’s no need to paint, even if you never liked the color yourself. If you want to make a high impact change, paint the trim and the front door and add a new kick plate.

Flooring. Often you don’t need a new carpet, just a clean one. A professional cleaning can make a carpet look new, smell new, and many carpet professionals will do stretching as well. Try it before opting for new carpet. Most carpet cleaners guarantee their work and will return if you’re not satisfied. If you need new flooring but the budget is limited, spend the money in the big impact rooms like the living/dining/kitchen.

Lighting and Countertops. If you have a choice between updating lighting and updating countertops, choose the countertops. Buyers concentrate on those items at the strike zone (think baseball), noticing the chips, stains and wear marks on counters but not the most expensive and beautiful new light fixtures above their heads. If budget is limited, do the kitchen counters and leave the baths as is.

Additions through subtraction. Old drapes, ruffled valances and broken blinds, old shelving units and yellowed corrugated patio covers can be removed without replacing them.

Outdoors. Put the effort into the front yard. Focus on making the front of the house visible to the street by cutting back overgrown trees and bushes. And remember: bark dust is never wrong. Smells good, looks good! Don’t spend money on a professional redesign of the front yard if a good sprucing will suffice. Don’t buy potted plants or flowers if you can’t be there to water them. Fresh flowers are lovely. Dead flowers, not so much.

If you’re considering making a change in your house, it’s a great time to call your local Realtor for a walk-through and consultation before you start calling contractors or swinging hammers.

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