Small updates will have a more dramatic impact if home owners are careful to keep the styles consistent and find ways to draw out the home’s best features. Here are some tips from experts on how to make small improvements pay off.
Concentrate on big impact rooms. Be selective about what you do. Kitchens and bathrooms still usually offer the most bang for your buck, says remodeling industry expert Bill Millholland, executive vice president with Case Design/Remodeling Inc.
Go neutral. Don’t introduce too much color to the “bones” of the home. You don’t want buyers to see too much bold color on cabinets and walls and say, “‘I have nothing to go with red,’” says Terrylynn Fisher, crs, green, a staging consultant at Empire Realty in Walnut Creek, Calif. “Buyers will have a tough time seeing past it.” Stay neutral with walls, cabinets, and fixtures. Bring in pops of colors through accessories.
Consult an expert. A professional stager or remodeler can work within your budget and pinpoint where best to spend your dollars. For a list of contractors or interior decorators, ask colleagues or friends for recommendations or check the Web sites of organizations such as the Real Estate Staging Association or the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Know when inexpensive won’t work. Certain projects simply can’t be done cheaply, especially in a high-end home. “If it’s a luxury home, replacing the vanity with an off-the-shelf product from a big-box store isn’t going to cut it,” Millholland says. “Most consumers will be able to tell that you did something cheap. They won’t even see the value of it, so you’re better off cleaning what’s there and having it appear its best.”
Find inspiration. For design guidance, grab a catalog from Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, or Williams-Sonoma. “Anything you see in there is fairly consistent with what the average consumer is looking for,” Millholland says.
Plan your budget. Even small projects can carry a premium if a contractor is needed for installation. For labor savings, bulk your work, grouping several projects in a full day’s work rather than hiring a handyman or contractor for separate hourly jobs, Millholland says.
Complement the architecture. If it’s a two-story colonial home, avoid overly contemporary updates, such as stainless steel countertops. Likewise, if the exterior is modern or contemporary, stay away from traditional styles, such as dark wood or classic lighting fixtures, Millholland says.