Due to popular demand from the real estate community, HomeGain.com regularly conducts its nationwide home improvement and home staging Home Sale Maximizer™ survey. Past findings from the survey have been a guide for thousands of home sellers in preparing their home for sale.
HomeGain recently conducted a new survey of top 12 low cost*, do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements for people getting their home ready to sell. Nearly 1,000 REALTORS® responded to the survey.
The top five nationwide home improvements that Realtors recommend to home sellers, based on average cost and return on investment (ROI) to sellers, are:
- Cleaning and de-cluttering ($200 cost / $1,700 price increase / 872% ROI / 98% recommended)
- Home staging ($300 cost / $1,780 price increase / 586% ROI / 82% recommended)
- Lightening and brightening ($230 cost / $1,300 price increase / 572% ROI / 95% recommended)
- Landscaping ($320 cost / $1,500 price increase / 473% ROI / 94% recommended)
- Repair Plumbing ($385 cost / $1,250 price increase / 327% ROI / 88% recommended)
Costs are averages and rounded up. For ranges of values, see chart 1 below. For actual price increase, see chart 2 below.
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 98% of Realtors and costs less than $200 but has a returning value of nearly $1,700 to the home’s sale price, or an 872% return (ROI).
“Inexpensive cosmetic home improvements and basic improvements greatly enhance the value of the home,” stated Carol Wilson of Carpenter Real Estate in Indianapolis, IN (AgentEvaluator member since 1999).
In 2007 survey results, Lightening and Brightening had the second highest ROI followed by Home Staging. Two years later, Home Staging overtakes Lightening and Brightening.
“Many Realtors agree, especially in a buyer’s market, that sellers who make these recommended home improvements often get their homes sold faster and at higher prices,” stated Louis Cammarosano, General Manager at HomeGain. “We have customized our Home Sale Maximizer online home improvement tool to help identify and prioritize the projects that can increase the salability and selling price of your home.”
Rounding out the top 12 DIY home improvements are:
- 6. Update electrical ($400 cost / $1225 price increase / 310% ROI / 89% recommended)
- 7. Replacing or shampooing carpets ($300 cost / $1420 price increase / 586% ROI / 82% recommended)
- 8. Painting interior walls ($700 cost / $1770 price increase / 250% ROI / 94% recommended)
- 9. Repair damaged floors ($650 cost /$1600 price increase / 250% ROI / 91% recommended)
- 10. Update kitchen ($1200 cost / $2850 price increase / 237% ROI / 69% recommended)
- 11. Paint outside of home ($900 cost / $1815 price increase / 200% ROI / 81% recommended)
- 12. Update bathroom/s ($830 cost / $1430 price increase / 172% ROI / 70% recommended)
Try the Home Sale Maximizer Tool below:
In comparison to the 2007 survey results, the top five home improvements were the same, except that Lighten and Brighten and Stage home for sale were flipped for second and third top home projects.
The home improvements with the highest price increases to a home’s resale value is Updating the Kitchen ($2,850 price increase), followed by Painting the Outside of the Home ($1,815 price increase) and Home Staging ($1,780 price increase).
Home Staging is the second most valuable home improvement project to a seller when it comes to selling a home by ROI and third most valuable by price increase, according to surveyed Realtors. See additional analysis on Home Staging. Check the HomeGain Real Estate Blog regularly for updates.
Surveyed REALTOR® commentary:
“You have said it all, clean, de-clutter, clean your carpets, clean up the outside, de-weed, and make beds, etc. and a clean bright homes sells.” – Konnie Shaw, RE/MAX Platinum, Howell, MI, AgentView agent
“In this market price is the most important factor — but when so many REO’s are dirty and have dead lawns, it’s important to fertilize the yard & trim, and to have inside neat & clean. Big remodels aren’t wise — better to keep price low.” – Allison White, Realty World, Auburn, CA
“Homes in move-in condition sell faster and for more money than homes that need updating, new carpets and paint. Cluttered homes are definitely a turn off to most buyers.” – Terry Lohrbeer, Long and Foster Real Estate, Doylestown, PA
“Most of the things on the list above is what I recommend. It does not add much value because in this market just to compete with other active listings you need to have all these things done.” – Corine Holland, ProFlex Realty, Midlothian, VA
“Today’s buyer is looking for the ‘Best Bang for the Buck’. So it is necessary to get your home to the best selling condition possible AND price accordingly to be the home that is chosen amongst the competition. With proper marketing, and preparation, there is a great pool of buyers for nearly every property.” – Steven Bond-RE/MAX Results-Provo, UT www.UtahFeaturedHomes.com
“First impressions are huge! I recommend simple, cost-effective landscaping improvements (mow,de-weed, mulch in the beds, trim the shrubs & trees), especially out front. A crisp, sharp-looking yard is a sign of how the home is maintained as well.” -David Hooker, John Horton Realty, Austin, TX, AgentEvaluator Platinum Club agent
“In the Mid-West, we have Buyers that want ‘move- in’ ready and spotless homes. The homes that are picture perfect sell faster and for top dollar in their market.” – Christine Moscinski, Realtor & ‘HouseHunter’ eHouseHuntOnline.net, GOBBER GMAC REAL ESTATE Chicago’s Western Suburbs
“In today’s market, home improvements made before putting a home on the market usually results in the home selling faster, not necessarily adding a great deal of value to the selling price. Market appeal is critical. Often times, a clean, well organized home with client staging is the one that sells.” – Ann Howell, Windermere Real Estate, Prescott, AZ
“Many of these are positive influences that make a house sell faster, rather than big monetary gains (except for staging, which is both time and money enhancing.)” – Betty Custer, Keller Williams Realty, Westborough, MA
“Bringing the home up to FHA standards is critical and cosmetc cam generate an extra 10K in value. Buyers right now want lower prices.” – Diane Varni, RE/MAX Allegiance, Woodbridge, VA, AgentEvaluator Platinum Club agent
“I prefer my clients de-clutter and possibly paint a very obnoxious colored wall if possible but in our market the staging doesn’t affect the sale as much as lowering the price b/c of appraisal issues. They can improve the house as much as they want but if it’s only going to appraise for x amount of dollars either way b/c all the homes homes didn’t have these improvements then why try to spend y amount of dollars on improvements that (a) the buyers will not like and would have preferred to do themselves or (b) you won’t be able to get back b/c the house is already priced as high as the appraisal will allow? Staging has worked well for me previously in better markets, but in our area today the price rules and do it DIY’ers are preferring to buy cheaper and do the work themselves for some instant equity.” – Charles Burgess, Washburn Real Estate, Rutherfordton, NC
“Get the furnace cleaned, inspected, and certified. Same goes for the roof. Finishing off the basement when able. Just laying down a wall to wall carpet or finishing off a small space can add value while costing a small amount to Seller.” – Effy Lamp, Long and Foster Real Estate, Phoenix, MD
“A home that is in move in condition is still selling faster and higher than the basic improvements cost even in this market.” – Eva Burns, RE/MAX Professionals Select, Naperville, IL, AgentView agent
“Focus on clean and de-clutter, inside and out. I recommend that home owners rent temporary storage to hold excess furniture and stuff in closets. Everything possible to make home appear larger and more spacious.” – Greg Fowler, Lake Highlands Property, Dallas, TX, AgentEvaluator member
“Making your home look like a model home with neutral paint, updated flooring, and updated light fixtures can get you a 150% return on your money. You always can tell when a house was built if it has the old original light fixtures.” – Jami Van Den Bogaert, Keller Williams Realty, Springfield, MO, AgentEvaluator agent
“Repair any other deficient maintenace items, like clean gutters, rake leaves from flower-planting beds, clean windows, make house smell good.” -Jay Kaiser, Fisher Realty, Brevard, NC
“Make sure their light fixtures sparkle, switch plates are fingerprint free, and replace their front door kickplate, door handle lock, and deadbolt.” – Kyle Davis, RE/MAX Select Properties, Ashburn, VA
“I recommend my clients update all light fixtures/ fans / and inside door handles that match (brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze) if needed.” – Kimberly Coffey, Harbour Pointe Realty, Montgomery, TX, BuyerLink agent
“Service Furnace or Boiler, Straps on Water Heater, Clean or replace entry door, Check for missing shingles, fence posts, take summer photos if selling in the winter.” – Peggy Kelly, Dynamic Properties, Anchorage, AK
“In my opinion the above do it your self may not add value but will certainly make the house more attractive compared to the competition. De cluttering is very important, A clean house an inviting house.” – Purnima Talwar, Keller Williams Realty, Englishtown, NJ
“I would recommend landscaping front yard. Curb appeal is vital if not buying a fixer. Simplicity and neatness are fine. If plumbing and wiring are not visably in good shape, they will worry to msny buyers far too much; they must be fixed. If such defects are found by home inspectors, the home seller will most probably have to fix them in order to complete te sale In this area double pane windows are definitely a must unless price is very cheap.” – Norma Stone, Coldwell Banker Legacy, Albuquerque, NM
“Carpet replacement is the number one easiest way nothing says ‘buy me’ like the smell of new carpet, and a ‘carpet allowance’ doesn’t work. Staging and decluttering next most important. And board the animals at Grandmas while you are on the market!”
“I usually take them to the curb and have them walk me inside. We look at the doors, walkways, etc. to have curb appeal and then the first impression when the door opens. I like them to give a cosmetic allowance if carpet/flooring/windows need work as that induces the buyer to pick their own and they seem to be happy with that. I do recommend that they paint any garish colors and neutralize the house. I used to be an REO director and I used to say I was ‘vanilla ing’ the house.”
“Keep pets and litter boxes out of sight. Do not smoke in the home…if it is still present, have it treated with Ionization to remove the smoke, remove and clean window treatments and slipcovers and air out the home.”
“Clearing and organizing spaces such as: closets, attic and garage spaces can make a big difference to how a home shows.” (East)
“Brightening, cleaning and updating will add more value because it is what the buyer will see first that makes them want to buy the property.” – Karen Harrison RE/MAX of Orange Beach www.karensgulfproperties.com
“Sellers need to understand that improvements should be made to a home for their comfort and enjoyment not for ‘higher’ resale value. The market sets the price and sellers are still not reasonable with pricing – ‘My house is better (aka worth more) than my neighbor’s because I added this and changed that – that isn’t always the case.” – Scott Koltz , Broker Associate , Keller Williams Success Realty in Barrington, IL
Additional survey results taken from Realtor comments:
Clean and Declutter:
- 9 Realtors recommend fixing doors and/or door knobs (3 East, 1 Mid-West, 4 South, 1 West)
- 11 Realtors recommend washing windows (5 Mid-West, 2 South, 3 West, 1 East)
- 5 Realtors recommend updating and/or cleaning window treatments (2 Mid-West, 2 South, 1 East)
- 7 Realtors recommend inspecting and/or fixing roofs (1 East, 3 Mid-West, 2 West, 1 did not leave a Region)
- 8 Realtors recommend removing all traces of pets (6 West, 2 Mid-West)
- 5 Realtors recommend removing odors or improving smell of homes (2 South, 2 West, 1 Mid-West)
- 3 Realtors recommend cleaning the chimney (3 East)
- 4 Realtors recommend having fresh flowers (3 South, 1 East)
- 6 Realtors recommend depersonalizing the home by removing photos and personal items (4 South, 2 Mid-West)
Lighten and Brighten:
- 9 Realtors recommend fixing or installing new light fixtures (3 South, 2 East, 4 Mid-West)
5 Realtors recommend servicing furnaces (2 East, 3 West)
*The term “low cost” is defined as less than $5,000.
Average price of a home in areas where Realtors were surveyed? 85.9% of homes were priced under $350,000.
WEST: AK, CO, HI, MT, WA, OR, CA, NV, ID, UT, AZ, NM, WY
MID-WEST: IL, ID, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI, MI, IN
SOUTH: TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, TN, KY, GA, FL, SC, NC, WV, VA
EAST: PA, NY, MD, NJ, NH, CT, DE, MA, ME, VT, RI
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 received survey responses from nearly 1,000 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. The percentage of agents that agree on the positive impact of a particular pre-sale activity is summarized 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.
See the HomeGain Home Improvement Survey Press Release