HomeGain 2012 National Home Improvement Survey Results

Posted by: Louis Cammarosano on April 23rd, 2012

HomeGain.com announced today that it has released the results of its nationwide home improvement and home staging survey. Past findings from the survey have been a guide for thousands of home sellers in preparing their homes for sale.

HomeGain recently surveyed nearly 500 real estate agents nationwide to determine the top 10 low cost*, do-it-yourself home improvements for people getting their home ready to sell.

The top five nationwide home improvements that real estate professionals recommend to home sellers, based on average cost and return on investment (ROI) to sellers, are:

Costs are averages and rounded up.

Cleaning and de-cluttering continues to rank as the top suggested home improvement (since the survey was originally conducted in 2003). This low cost home improvement is recommended by 99% of real estate professionals. The average recommended cost for this project is $402 with a returning value of just over $2,000 to the home’s sale price, or a 403% return (ROI).

In past surveys, Home Staging and Lightening and Brightening were battling it out for the number two spot on the top 10 list. In the 2011 survey,  Lightening and Brightening reclaimed the number two position and held on to it in 2012. Home Staging, however, fell to the number five position.

The options to landscape the yard and repair electrical and/or plumbing stay in the top five, both jumping past Home Staging.

“In a buyer’s market, sellers need to dress their homes for success before putting them on the market,” said Louis Cammarosano, General Manager at HomeGain. “The HomeGain results show that do-it-yourself home improvements like cleaning and de-cluttering and lightening and brightening your home are cost effective ways of increasing your chances of selling faster and closing closer to the asking price than homes rushed to the market with no improvements.”

Rounding out the top 10 DIY home improvements are:

The home improvements with the highest price increases to a home’s resale value continues to be Updating the Kitchen and Bathroom ($3,255 price increase), followed by Repairing Electrical & Plumbing ($3,175 price increase) and Painting the Exterior of the Home ($2,176 price increase).

Surveyed REALTOR® commentary:

“Clients just need to clean and de-clutter.”

“We’ve had a few high-end homes staged and it didn’t do any good. Most likely because they were overpriced to begin with!”

“Resort area in Colorado. Most homes are well kept but even the nicest homes need focused attention when it comes to preparing to sell.”

“What I recommend a seller do will depend on their home. Power washing is commonly needed, and sometimes repairing cracked concrete walkways/patios/stoops. These items I wouldn’t consider to be improvements, but maintenance which many people fail to do.”

“We’ve found that we do our own home-staging vs. hiring a professional stager. The professionals we’ve hired in the past cost a lot and the home still sat on the market for over 6 months.”

“Money is tight and sellers do not want to put out any extra money before selling. Most are barely breaking even.”

“We Stage every home we can.”

“Staging is a requirement in our price band, 300k+”

“We are in a very hot market here in Seattle. I question the wisdom of staging a home when the market is this hot and we get multiple offers on nearly all listings at the moment. Proper pricing is always most important.”

“Some improvements might not add any dollar value but they will help the house sell faster.”

“Making the house fresh, clean and bright is important. New kitchens and baths are the major enhancers that people look for.”

“I don’t believe that staging adds any value except that it gets a property sold when others just sit and sit. To go in spending money and expecting it to improve the dollars in your pocket (whether you spend $100 or $10,000) is just unrealistic. I personally sold my home after upgrading to the tune of $15,000 to an already updated home, and I didn’t get more money but I got it sold.”

“Just sold a 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo that was professionally staged for $15,000 more than it was previously sold (deal fell) one year ago (it wasn’t my listing previously).”

“It depends on the condition of the property. Most of the time, I provide recommendations that help prepare the property for market. I find staging particularly useful when the home is vacant.”

“I help my clients with staging and emphasize de-cluttering and any improvements that are not expensive. Repairs to electrical and plumbing are a must.”

“If the property is priced right it will sell. People are not fooled by staging if the property is clean and nice. If it is too dated I recommend that they change light fixtures and make small improvements. Sellers take a gamble upgrading unless they bought very well and do it right.”

“I include professional staging at no cost to the seller when I list their home. I also pay a gardener to make the yards look clean & neat.”

“Staging helps to sell vacant homes much faster so long as it is lightly done. Even a few plants scattered about the kitchen/Great Room help. Homes around here in good condition sell very fast in this market.”


*The term “low cost” is defined as less than $5,000.

Definitions of Home Improvement categories:

Cleaning and de-cluttering: Remove personal items; wash and clean all areas of inside and outside of house; freshen air; remove clutter from furniture, counters and all areas of the home; organize closets; polish woodwork and mirrors. See complete cleaning checklist.

Home staging: Add fresh flowers; removing personal items; reduce clutter; rearrange furniture; add new props or furniture to enhance room/s; play soft music; hang artwork in walls. See complete staging checklist.

Lightening and brightening: Open windows; clean windows and skylights inside and outside; replace old curtains or removing curtains; remove other obstacles from windows blocking light; repair lighting fixtures; make sure window open easily. See complete lighting checklist.

Landscaping: Front and back yards; add bark mulch; rake and remove leaves, branches and debris; plant bushes and flowers; add planters and hanging plants; mow grass; water lawn and plants; remov weeds and dead plants; manicure existing plants; any yardwork that improves the curb appeal of a home. See complete yard checklist.

Repair Plumbing: Update leaky or old faucet spouts and handles; repair leaks under bathroom or kitchen sinks; laundry room pipes; toilets should be in good working condition; remove mildew stains. See complete plumbing and electrical checklist.

Update electrical: Update electrical with new wiring for modern appliances and/or Internet and other audio/visual equipment requested in homes today; door bell should work; service sprinkler systems; fix lights and outlets that do not turn on; replace old plug points with new safety fixtures. See complete plumbing and electrical checklist.

Replacing or shampooing carpets: Steam carpet thoroughly; replace worn carpet; securing carpets to floor; eliminate creaks in floors under carpets by driving nails into creaky area (through carpet).

Painting interior walls: Fresh coat of paint in rooms throughout the house; remove dated wallpaper; whitewash dark paneling; paint front door; have leaks repaired and watermarks covered. See complete interior painting checklist.

Repair damaged floors: Patch, repair or replace hard wood floors; clean and wax linoleum; replace missing tiles; re-grout tile floors; eliminate creaks in floors. See complete floors and carpet checklist.

Update kitchen: Updating moderately priced appliances like microwaves, dishwashers, stoves; repair damaged counter tops; fixing cupboard doors; repairing broken shelving or pantry; fix hardware like doorknobs and cabinet handles; repair any water damaged surfaces or areas; garbage disposal should work properly; retouching with paint if needed. See complete kitchen and bathroom checklist.

Paint outside of home: Fresh coat of paint around exterior of home and garage; paint shutters; paint window ledges; repairing damages to chimney; paint or re-stain fence. See complete exterior painting checklist.

Update bathroom/s: Update moderately priced bathroom fixtures; sink; toilets should function properly; fix leaky faucets; repair shelving and towel racks; add new towels and mats; repair vanities and mirrors; clean sliding glass shower doors; replace shower curtains; re-grouting tiling. See complete kitchen and bathroom checklist.


HomeGain surveyed nearly 500 real estate agents in each of the U.S. regions. All agents might not necessarily agree on the same pre-sale strategy. See “% of agents recommending” column above. Differences of opinions may vary based on the climate of the market, region of the country or condition of the home in question.

Try the Home Sale Maximizer Tool below:

Get the Home Sale Maximizer widget for your website by clicking here.

Home Sale Maximizer Home Improvement Tool:

If you are preparing to sell your house, Home Sale Maximizer can help identify and prioritize the home improvement projects to focus on to increase the saleability and selling price of your home. Home Sale Maximizer is a free, quick and easy-to-use tool for homeowners, and it’s also a great resource for real estate agents to provide to their home seller clients.



20 Comments on “HomeGain 2012 National Home Improvement Survey Results”

Debbie Oulvey

The 12 components that are listed are ALL part of a Staging plan. A professionally trained, experienced Home Stager does not propose lightening and brightening in lieu of decluttering, or painting instead of refinishing floors. If a property requires all of the above, then ALL will be included in the Staging Plan. Home Staging is an extension of the marketing plan for a proeprty. It is not as simple as fresh cut flowers or pretty pillows on a sofa. I am confused by some of the statements made by the real estate industry. For example: “I don’t believe that staging adds any value except that it gets a property sold when others just sit and sit.” Isn’t THAT the value – it gets the property SOLD when the competition sits idle for months forcing that seller to continue with the mortgage and tax payments (and open the door for low ball offers because buyers know the seller will be anxious to sell)? Is it possible for HomeGain to interview professional Home Stagers throughout the country and include actual Staging industry statistics in its reporting?

HG Blog Admin

@Melissa Thanks for your comments. Please note that the agents were not told beforehand how to define “home staging.” The home improvement definitions in this blog post are NOT mentioned in the actual survey.

Melissa Marro

HG – Thanks for the clarification. I did think you might want to read my commentary on this which includes several comments from other home stagers (included anon from a private chat room) on the topic of your article. It spurred quite the debate, primarily about the effect of poorly trained and cheap home stagers. http://stagingandredesign.com/2012/home-staging-home-gain-2012-top-10-diy-home-improvements/


Can anyone elaborate on how the cost and benefit dollar values are determined?

HG Blog Admin

Hi Julie. The costs and benefits are averages based on survey respondents’ answers. We ask them to share how much they recommend for each project along with the expected return.

Michelle Molinari

I would venture to say that 90% of the homes I stage have either A.) replaced one or more light fixtures, or B.) Added new fixtures in places where they did not exist in the first place.

This week one of our homes is getting 12 light fixtures inside & three more outside replaced, and 3 new ones wired & installed over counter peninsula is located. bank of cabinets is being removed from over the peninsula and re-located in the breakfast nook to open up the dated space. I call that lightening and brightening, and I call that electrical work.

Replacing a blue toilet – that would be plumbing.

All the orange exterior trim is going white, the six overgrown holly shrubs are getting yanked, and new flowerbeds with landscaping are going in their place. That right there would be called “curb appeal.”

Not to mention 1/2 the house is getting new flooring, and new counter-tops are going in the kitchen. Price point of house presently: $140,000. Investment in staging & all the prep: $15,000. New asking price: $159,000. And it will sell in days, not weeks, just like all our other properties do with this particular agent.

Staging is about looking at the “big picture,” predicting, addressing and rectifying what will hold a house back from a speedy & lucrative sale, and not wasting anyone’s time and money.

Preparing a property to become show-ready to sell as near to asking and as instantaneously as possible is how we SAVE our seller’s MONEY.

Some people would rather risk their equity and some agents would rather dilly-dally around the real reasons a house isn’t selling and placate buyers until the price reductions sell the house for them.

Juliet Staging

Fantastic article that everyone involved with real estate should thoroughly read.


Great post!
And yes, I agree that staging a home to make it more sellable is very important

Advanced Misting System

I have to agree with some of the statements above about staging. You dont have to go overboard by replacing every fixture or updgrading everything. Just the basic maintenance. everything should be working and up to code to where the buyer wont be stuck with big maintenance and repair fees. This wont necessarily raise the value of the home but will help it to sell quicker.


Great article! Staging is really important and choosing the right material for staging is important as well. We have to consider the durability too!

Scottsdale Custom Home Builder

I agree for the staging to make home organize. THis is awesome, thanks posting them all. I’m looking forward for the new post. God bless & more power.

GaryL Jamerson

This is a very good read. As a hardwood flooring licensed contractor, what would be the best strategy to be known among professional home stagers? Is there a website or group association I could visit?

Gary – owner at http://www.garlasonsfloors.com

julie wanstedt

Hi Gary:
I have a couple suggestions. First, I suggest you Google “Home Staging City State”. That should return results in the same area you service. Second, the national association is the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA)which has a directory of their professional stager members. You can search your area there as well. Their website is realestatestagingassociation.com. I’m a staging pro in Ohio and I have developed (and need) strong relationships with local vendors that I can depend on to complete projects as part of my staging plan.
Hope this helps!

Melissa Marro

Gary – Check out the Real Estate Staging Association. (http://realestatestagingassociation.com)


for various low cost home improvements I agree for the staging to make home organize. Houses are not homes-they are structures. A Home is full of memories that get packed up and move with the family to the new house making it your new home. http://affordablepainterswindsor.ca/ Improvements made to increase the comfort of the improver not a future owner.

Mark Donovan

I’d also suggest that all the gutters be cleaned prior to listing a home. Backed up gutters can lead to surprise water issues in the basement, splashed up debris along the base of the house siding and erosion around the perimeter of the home.

MCAS Roofing & Contracting Inc

I have to say I am a little surprised that new roofing did not make the listed. While it might not be the cheapest project for someone to take on, it definitely gives the residential or commercial buildings a face lift. I know many of MCAS Roofing & Contracting’s clients in Westchester NY have had a lot of success selling their properties after updating or replacing their roofing. It also provides a very good ROI as you will end up getting most of your money back. Roofing is a huge project and very few people want to buy a building knowing they are going to have to immediately replace the roofing.

Technology Staffing Columbus

I don’t think anyone would have thought that cleaning your gutters would add so much value to your house. It is something everyone should do before listing a house. This would seem like common sense. I cannot believe that roofing is not on this list. This would be a problem in places with cold winters.

Bedroom Lighting

Thanks for the top five nationwide home improvements.

stone supplier

Great post Louis! Thanks for sharing the valuable info.

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