The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home // Phase II: Improvements

We continue this month's topic about Home Selling and today we’ll discussnPhase II: The Improvements. 

What upgrades or changes to your property will cause the average buyer to be willing to pay extra?

Not all physical improvements will give a positive return on investment or ROI. Some improvements simply bring the property up to the marketing standard.   

Let’s go over some of the ROI improvements (in my opinion) that will add value when selling your home.

#1 - Landscaping

Curb appeal is the most powerful first impression a buyer gets when they first pull up in front of your house.  And as they say, first impressions are lasting impressions. 

Having well-maintained and attractive landscaping in the front yard makes a house look happy and loved.  If a nicely manicured front yard makes them want to come into the house, a cleanly landscaped backyard makes them not want to leave.  This is the one-two punch that you’re looking for.

As a general rule, younger shrubs and plants make a house look younger and accentuate the home itself.  Planting flowers is always a good idea, because they give great color and life to a property and make it come alive.  

This is not to say that mature trees and shrubs need to go.  In fact, mature trees give character to a house and can be an extremely valuable feature both for shade and aesthetics.

Before you do anything, take the time to drive by some of the nicer new homes or newer homes in your area.  Notice the landscaping. Notice the shrubs and bushes and flowers especially. Notice that the plants for the most part look young.  It’s clean and does not look overgrown. Visit a local nursery or two and talk to the staff there. You may have to talk to two or three people to find one with some real landscaping expertise, but that can be a very worthwhile conversation.  

Finally, your best bet is always to consult with a professional landscaper.  You can probably get a great referral from your real estate agent or home-stager.

#2 - “Green” Upgrades

One of the bonuses of creating a home that’s friendly to the environment is that it also makes your house worth more!  Of all the improvements and upgrades that you can make to your home, it has been shown that “green” improvements often deliver the most “return on investment” in terms of dollar-for-dollar added value to your home.  

Here is an overview of some of the best “green” upgrades you can make.

  • Let’s start with a very simple, no-brainer maintenance item that should be done regularly whether you’re planning to sell right away or not, and that is to replace the filter(s) in your central heat/air conditioner.   
  • Next, check the ducts in the attic that they are sealed, insulated, and that the air flow is unobstructed.  

This improves the flow of air and also the quality of the air by removing potential allergens.

  • One final tip for greening an older, existing HVAC unit is to install a digital thermostat with programmable timers if you have one of the old mechanical thermostats.  A thermostat ensures the heating system installed in your house works optimally. 
  • A newer arrival (the last 10 years or so) in the line-up of green, energy efficient upgrades are tankless water heaters.  They heat water on demand and can easily supply immediate hot water in a normal family home. 
  • If a house has old single-pane windows, installing energy efficient double-pane windows can make a huge difference in maintaining a comfortable home.  
  • Adding insulation in the attic lowers utility bills and keeps a house warmer in winter and cooler in summer while dramatically reducing heating and cooling bills.  
  • Ceiling fans are also a great “green” feature.  They circulate the air in the room which makes it feel cooler in the summer.  
  • Adding more natural light is a great feature that almost every buyer will love.  Light and bright makes a home look more welcoming, pleasant, and bigger all at the same time.
  • When it comes to electrical lighting, going from incandescent lights to fluorescent or LED lights makes another significant difference.  LED and even fluorescent lights reduce heat production and lowers energy consumption.  
  • In addition to all of the energy and aesthetic benefits of greening your home, there are sometimes government credits for making certain “green” upgrades to your home.  


#3 - Fresh Paint, Flooring, & Roof

Repainting the interior and exterior of a house is one of the most common update items that can give you a great return on investment when you’re planning to sell.  Replacing flooring can be slightly more costly, but can also make a big difference, Finally the condition of the roof is more than just a cosmetic issue, it’s also a significant structural component of your property.  This chapter will focus mostly on painting simply because it is typically the most cost effective improvement to consider.

Just like you may get dressed up to go out, you want to “dress to impress” when it comes to presenting your house to the market.  Fresh paint on a house has been compared to putting on make-up for a lady. It’s inconvenient, but the result is worth the effort.  Fresh paint makes the house look nicer, newer, and more attractive.  

What color paint should you use?  Aaah...what a great question. For the exterior it’s generally best to go with a color that is fairly conservative and that fits in with other homes in the neighborhood.  There are always exceptions and there are a lot of options, however earth tones are usually a safe bet. If you are just not sure, this could be a great question for a professional decorator.  And you can probably get a safe recommendation from them just by having a conversation with one.

Your goal is to make the property look appealing and attractive to the largest cross-section of potential buyers, so you want it to look clean and fresh.  The goal here is typically NOT to make a statement or be distinctive with your color. Go for pleasant, not loud. Remember the goal is to make a sale, not to make a statement with your colors.


Here are the most common reasons to replace flooring.  First is carpet. If it is outdated, stained, or anything other than a neutral color, it will cost you.  Replacing it with a nice, neutral-color carpet that is appropriate for the price range of your home can make good sense.  Two things to keep in mind. A better quality padding makes the carpet feel much nicer, so avoid low quality padding. Also, you want an installer who knows what he is doing.

A trend in a lot of areas is more hard-surfaced flooring such as hard wood, tile, or even high-quality laminates.  Even in rooms that have traditionally been carpeted, such as bedrooms, hallways, and dens, more people are opting for hard surfaces.  The two main benefits are that hard surfaces can last longer and they are more friendly to people with allergies because they are easier to keep clean.  Whatever decisions you make on flooring, it pays to do your research and consult with experts before you start.


The most important issue with your roof is really more functional than cosmetic.  Its main job is to protect your house. Replacing the roof can be quite expensive and should really be considered only if it is necessary. There are exceptions to this, but they are really beyond the scope of this book. The first and usually the simplest step is to call your insurance agent and have them send out an insurance inspector/adjuster to check the insurability of the roof.  If they say it is in good shape, you should be in good shape. 

#4 - Kitchens and Bathrooms

There are two rooms in a house that are consistently the most important to buyers.  The first one is the kitchen, and the other one is, you guessed it, the bathrooms.  

Step one is to de-clutter walls and counter tops in both the kitchen and bathrooms.  

It may be an inconvenience to put your toaster or blender away off the counter every day for a while, but it makes a big difference in the “look.”  I know it’s a pain to have to unplug the hair-dryer and curling iron and put them away, but it will definitely make your home show better and be more attractive to buyers.

Remember, the way people live in a home, is NOT the way they look for a home when planning to buy it.  

Once you get beyond cleaning and de-cluttering, now the bigger decisions begin.  Should you update the kitchen and/or bathrooms or not? It doesn’t take long to spend a lot of money in these two rooms, so again before you go all out, get some expert advice.` 

Next, consider your appliances. In the kitchen, appliances vary widely in their energy efficiency and looks.  

Updated plumbing fixtures and light fixtures can be done on a tighter budget and can add pop to kitchen and bath.  There is a wide range of options and price ranges.  

Another option “green” option to consider in the bathrooms is to install water-conserving toilets such as dual-flush toilets.  


Some homeowners make the mistake of thinking that the more upgrading and remodeling they do, the more money they will make for their house.  They watch a remodeling show on television and decide they need to do a major remodel to get more money for their house.  

Keep in mind that return on investment is what you’re looking for.

If you are planning a home improvement project and want to know if it’s a good idea to invest in it, how much to invest, or need a second opinion, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section.

I’ll make sure to answer every comment here and help you as much as I can.

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July 17, 2019

Violeta is a Licensed Real Estate Broker in the States of Georgia and Florida, and the Founder of The House Squad Real Estate SHOP. She has been actively selling real estate for over 15+ years and speaks 3 languages beside English. Her goal is to educate the public of their options, and how they can add more to their bottom line when buying, selling or investing in real estate.