For the millions of homeowners pitching "For Sale" signs in their yards, what can make or break a good deal comes down to well-conceived home improvement projects. Lou Manfredini, national home improvement expert and Ace Hardware's "Helpful Hardware Man," advises homeowners to focus their time and money on the five simple projects that add maximum value.
"Homeowners don't need to spend a fortune on their home in order to make a fortune," explains Manfredini. "In fact, homeowners can make a big impact on the value of their home with simple, inexpensive upgrades and touch-ups. The key is to make your dollars work the hardest in the right areas."
With the right strategy and creativity, homeowners can maximize their home's resale value -- even in the midst of record home sale declines and pricing down-turns. According to Manfredini, here are the five ways how:
1. Renew kitchens and bathrooms. Updated kitchens and bathrooms continue to be at the top of the list for potential buyers. While costly gut renovations provide high returns on investment, other smaller cosmetic upgrades are equally as important. "Homeowners can take on a smaller kitchen or bathroom remodeling project at 25 to 35 percent of the cost of a major renovation, and oftentimes the return percentage is higher," adds Manfredini. Homeowners are advised to replace or refinish floors, old counter tops and cabinetry, as well as switch out existing cabinetry knobs and even faucets.
2. Remove the Clutter. Uncluttered rooms give potential buyers the illusion of extra square footage, which is a key selling point, and a better opportunity to picture each room as their own. Customized closet, kitchen and garage systems, which conveniently package together all the necessary shelving, hanging rods, hardware and other essentials, can either be built or bought for under $500 at Ace Hardware stores.
Another big idea is to extend livable space to the outdoors by creating a simple outdoor living room, which is on every homeowner's wish list this season. For resale purposes, a home should come with the basics, such as an attractive stone patio or deck, so potential buyers can quickly envision and utilize the space. A garden pond is also easy to install and adds quick appeal, especially in favor of more costly professional landscaping projects.
3. Touch it up with Paint. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to give your home a facelift is with a fresh coat of paint -- both inside and out. Manfredini suggests special formulas, such as Ace Sensations(TM) with Scotchgard(TM) paint, which are environmentally friendly and stain-resistant for greater durability. Neutral color palettes show the best during open houses, but there is some creative license in color selection. Add a rich, bold color in small doses throughout the house or in unexpected areas, such as the front door, entry hallway, guest bathroom, stair risers, or even on one focal wall in the living room.
4. Create curb appeal. First impressions are everything when it comes to selling a home. Pay special attention to the appearance and condition of the front of the home. A few must-do projects include: mow the lawn; seed bare patches; add potted plants and colorful, seasonal flowers to the front porch; add sidewalk lighting; replace the door knocker and address numbers; and be sure the door bell is working. These easy improvements make a potential buyer's first welcome and final goodbye more inviting.
5. Fix the flaws. While cosmetic enhancements are important to a home's bottom-line, nothing will have a potential buyer running for the door faster than noticeable damage. "Buyers become wary when they see small, yet overlooked fixes," cautions Manfredini. "They can't help but think, 'If something this simple isn't repaired, what bigger problems might be lurking.'" To avoid signaling neglect and wear, repair projects should include: spackling over cracks, holes and uneven wall textures; refinishing stained or discolored hardwood floors; stabilizing stair railings; fixing squeaky doors and tightening or replacing leaky faucets.
For more information on home improvement, ideas or help with home projects, visit your neighborhood Ace Hardware store or go to www.acehardware.com for more of Manfredini's expert advice.