Home Investments That Pay Back

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In case you’ve been out of the real estate loop, here’s a little not-so-secret secret: even during the chilly months, the market continues to be hot, hot, hot. If you’re thinking of selling your home, now is as good a time as ever, with plenty of buyers and low inventory in the Bergen County area. There are myriad steps to take before selling, but one of the most important is to consider investments that will add value to you home. Plus, with all the added time we’re spending at home lately, now is the perfect time to update, upgrade and uplift. We spoke with Realtor Sara Deutsch of Keller Williams Realty about home investments and improvements, both major and minor, that will make your home stand out, and help you get top dollar.


Big Ticket Items

When doing any major renovations, try to stay neutral if you are considering selling in the near future. “Trends come and go, but classics stick forever and appeal to a broader range of buyers,” says Deutsch.


Kitchen. “The kitchen is the heart of any home, it’s number one” says Deutsch, so any improvement to this space will help you boost value. If your kitchen is old and outdated, consider a full floor to ceiling renovation: cabinets, flooring, countertops and appliances. While a full kitchen renovation is pricey, these updates will always increase your home’s worth.

Budget-friendly option: Often, the steep price tag that comes with a kitchen gut makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. If that’s the case, consider a simple refresh. Painting cabinets will update the look immediately. If you can go a bit further, consider replacing countertops. Quartz and granite countertops are typically what buyers look for. Also, make sure appliances are working properly, and replace anything original. “Everyone wants stainless steel,” says Deutsch.


Bathroom. The number two space (no pun intended) is the bathroom, particularly the master. If you’re doing a full gut, create a spa-like space that flows with the style of the master. Since the buyers are generally the ones inhabiting the master, “they want it to feel like an oasis: relaxing and inviting,” says Deutsch.

Budget-friendly option: Rather than renovating the full space, update with a new vanity and fresh coat of paint.


Basement. If you have an unfinished basement, consider finishing at least part of the space. “People see this as an extra living space and added square footage,” says Deutsch. This will add significant value to your home.

Budget-friendly option: If your home has a basement, organize it in a way that it feels less like a storage unit and more functional.


Windows. While not a major renovation, the cost of replacing original or old windows can quickly add up, depending on how many need replacing. “Original windows can be a deterrent from someone buying your home,” says Deutsch. Plus, new windows will help lower your energy bills over time by keeping out cold or hot air from outside, and keeping in your heat and air conditioning.

Budget-friendly option: Replace some windows that are original, in drafty areas, or in rooms in which you spend the most time.


Backyard Fence. All buyers are looking for outdoor space, particularly now that we’re more confined to our homes. “It’s less about what you have outside and more about the appearance of it,” says Deutsch. Privacy is important to buyers, so consider a fenced-in yard, with white vinyl being a popular choice.

Budget-friendly option: Installing a full fence can get pricey, but arborvitae trees can also do the trick of adding more privacy to an outdoor space.


Decks, Patios and Pools. There’s a reason pool and deck installers were booked solid last summer. Everyone wants their outdoor space to feel like a mini escape. Adding a new deck with long-lasting Trex material, a paver patio or an in-ground pool will add value (particularly during a pandemic). If putting in a pool, boost the value with a pool heater, gunite pool construction (versus a liner pool) and salt water (versus chlorine), all of which are considered more desirable.

Budget-friendly option: Paint and seal or stain your deck instead of replacing it to make it look new. Replace any old pool liners and be sure to fix and replace any cracked tiles.



Minimal Updates

There are smaller, less expensive changes to make that will freshen up a space and make it feel new.


Floors. If your wood floors are in good shape, sand and stain them to offer a very big return on investment. If you have laminate flooring, consider updating to hardwood or engineered hardwood, both of which are more desirable.


Paint. Repainting walls will make the space feel clean and new. “Do this very close to the time you’re selling your home so it stays looking fresh,” says Deutsch. Stick with neutral colors such as grey, white and beige, as buyers want to picture themselves in your space, which is often hard with trendier palettes. “Not everyone wants what’s trending.”


Light fixtures. “New light fixtures give people the impression that you’re taking care of every aspect of the home, and makes it looks well-maintained,” says Deutsch. New light fixtures will brighten up your space, and be sure to change out any bulbs that are not working properly.


Smart Technology. Particularly for millennials and first-time buyers, smart technology is extremely appealing. “You can make the entire home a smart home, or consider minimal updates such as a nest thermostat,” says Deutsch. The more control someone has over the security and functionality of their home, the better.


Staging. Swap out small pieces of furniture, update artwork, get new bedding and window treatments to freshen up a home and create a nice atmosphere. These small purchases will boost your home’s value for next to nothing. When staging a home, play to the season you are selling. During the winter, light up your fireplace (if you have one) and burn a pumpkin spice candle to create warm ambiance. During the summer months, open windows, lay out some lounge chairs and set up outdoor seating.


Curb appeal. Don’t underestimate the power of curb appeal, as the outside is the first thing people see when they pull up to your house. Simple landscaping such as adding flowers and bushes and seeding a lawn can easily boost a home’s appearance. Adding a pop of color, such as red or blue, on your front door will help it stand out (yes, this is the place to infuse a touch of personality and embrace your colorful side.) Repair any loose shingles or holes in your siding as well. These small improvements will make your house more desirable without emptying your pockets.


While fully renovated homes and new construction are currently flying off the market in Bergen County, buyers really want a home with that “wow” factor, no matter the size. These investments will help you enjoy your home before you sell, and help sell your home to a future buyer for top dollar.

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