50 Inexpensive Tips to Dramatically Increase the Value of Your Properties
By Tai A. DeSa, Significa Corporation
Professional landlords and investors involved in property flipping should constantly seek to improve their property value while keeping costs low. Below is a list of 50 tips that we shared with our property investment club (the Lehigh Valley Real Estate Investors Group).
Tip #1: Add a basic alarm system. The number one concern for any resident is security. If a homeowner or tenant does not feel secure, then eventually they will move elsewhere. Many security alarm providers have lucrative introductory offers for equipment and/or installation. If you provide an alarm system for your tenants, raise the rent and offer a “free security system.” Or, have your tenants pay the monthly monitoring fee.
Tip #2: Install matching light fixtures and ceiling fans. Consider some track lighting with dimmers to highlight artwork or showcase a particular part of the room. Consider flex track lighting or suspended track lighting. The addition of a dimmer switch makes your lighting more versatile and is a great mood enhancer. Ceiling fans add value, and you may want to consider adding them in place of staid old light fixtures. If you don’t want to replace existing ceiling fans, make sure you clean the dust off the blades and update the decorative pulls at the end of the chain.
Tip #3: Do some basic landscaping, particularly in the front yard. The front yard is the first thing that potential buyers see, so don’t miss out on your chance to pique their interest. Prospective buyers and tenants make up their minds about your home as they walk the first 10 feet from their car to your front door. A junky yard will make them think that you’ve neglected maintenance. A pristine yard will reassure them that your home is well kept. Focus on a clean cut, straighten up the lawn edges, freshen the landscaping and add some color spots or striking shrubs for impact. Mulch is inexpensive, so use it. If your yard lacks interest, consider constructing a retaining wall. Use railroad ties, bricks, or stones to construct that wall. The landscape design should complement your home’s style and colors.
Tip #4: Get a new front door, or give the existing one a facelift. Paint the front door a complementary but bold color. Choose a color that says, “Look at me!” Once you’re finished painting the door, install a new doorknob that emphasizes sturdiness and class. Also install a new kick-plate that matches your lockset finish. Remember, while your prospective homebuyer or tenant is waiting for you or the real estate agent to let them in, they are observing your front door. If you have an old storm door, get rid of it. If you really feel the need for a storm door, install one of those with a lot of window space to highlight the bold color of your front door.
Tip #5: Install some blinds and window shades. Certain rooms could really use blinds or shades to emphasize style. The best places to start are the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and master bathroom. These are the four rooms that prospective buyers and tenants will study most when evaluating your property. Pick window shades that complement existing furniture or your paint color. If you want to stick with inexpensive vinyl blinds, then make sure all the blinds in the room are a matching color. When showing a home during the day, you should always have your blinds and shades open to let in abundant light (unless you’ve got a clear view of the mess in your neighbor’s backyard).
Tip #6: Get rid of photographs of people. You may love Aunt Matilda, but you don’t need to have her portrait posted all over the home you’re showing! Prospective buyers and tenants need to imagine themselves living in the home, not you and your family. If you are going to put up photos, display pictures of nature.
Tip #7: Clean off the tops of the water heater, furnace, oil tank, washing machines, and any other mechanical fixture. Most homeowners don’t bother to do this at all. Clean the dust and grime off the top of your furnace, water heater, oil tank, washing machines, and so on. This makes these devices look newer, well-maintained, and clean. If you have a dirty-looking furnace, don’t be surprised if your buyer demands a concession for a new furnace. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Tip #8: Make sure every light bulb in the house works. Always make sure that every light bulb in your home works. If the prospective homebuyer or tenant can’t see your place, then you can’t expect them to like your place. When people see lamps with one good bulb but three burned-out ones, they think that you don’t maintain the residence and they worry about other deferred maintenance. Where it’s safe, use higher wattage light bulbs in your lamps for a bright, warm atmosphere. Also consider slightly pink-tinted or full spectrum “natural” light bulbs to create a warm glow for your home. Don’t forget about the bulbs in your basement and in your exterior lamps.
Tip #9: Place decorative flowers and candles throughout the home. Fake (or real if you can water them regularly) flowers work wonders. You can often buy fake flowers at yard sales or in the clearance section of stores. Candles give the home a romantic or warm feel. Scented candles are best. Some scents are so strong that homebuyers can smell them even when the candle isn’t burning. Once you’ve sold or rented the home, pack the flowers and candles in a box and stage your next property.
Tip #10: Place magazines about luxury homes around the house. Magazines about elegant homes or sophisticated styles can put prospective homebuyers and tenants into the mood. When they see that bright, shiny issue on your nightstand or coffee table, they envision your property as the stylistic new home that they wish to live in. Grab some copies of Our House®, Elegant Homes, Beautiful HomesTM, and Better Homes and GardensTM.
Tip #11: Refinish your hardwood floors. Most people like hardwood floors, particularly if the floor has a luster to it. If your hardwood floors are stained, you still may able to sand them and apply a darker finish that hides stains. If your hardwood floors don’t need to be sanded but have dull spots or cracks, try some off-the-shelf refinishing agents or cleansers. Murphy’s® Oil Soap or Rejuvenate polish are personal favorites to restore that classic wood look.
Tip #12: Get rid of clutter. Space sells. If you have clutter, don’t stuff it in your closets, or your basement, or your garage. Throw it out or rent some storage space. Prospective buyers and tenants should not feel hemmed in because of all the boxes you have laying around or those old rickety chairs you can’t seem to discard.
Tip #13: Shampoo your carpet. Yes, many people like new carpet for obvious reasons. However, we can’t always afford to buy new carpet, for obvious reasons. Rent a carpet cleaning vacuum or hire a shampoo service. The proper detergent and equipment can get rid of old stains and make odors disappear.
Tip #14: Place air fresheners throughout the home. You’d be amazed at how easy this one is but how many people don’t actually do it. Potpourri and air fresheners set the mood. People tend to associate fresh scents with cleanliness and purity. Be careful not to overdo it with the air fresheners, or people will think you’re trying to hide an odor.
Tip #15: Powerwash the exterior of the home. Road dust builds up under overhangs and coverings. Mold, moss, or insects may accumulate on your siding. By powerwashing your place, you’ll make your house that much more inviting from the street. Even though there’s a For Sale sign in the front yard, be advised that many passersby will not call the phone number if the house looks dirty or old. If they do call the number, they may be looking to give you a lowball offer because they think you can’t afford the upkeep.
Tip #16: Install brushed-nickel or brass switch plate and wall outlet covers in the master bedroom, the kitchen, and the dining room. Many places I’ve seen for sale or rent do not have matching switch plates and outlet covers. Some are ivory, some are brown, some are white, and most are dirty. New outlet covers and switch plates can cost anywhere from a few cents to several dollars. You may want to consider installing brushed-nickel or brass covers in your most heavily trafficked rooms. These covers give the room a look of elegance and style.
Tip #17: Replace those old, worn-out doorknobs. I’ve seen doorknobs that are over 80 years old and have been painted over several times. Ugh! Doorknobs can be some of the most dirty, bacteria-infested items in the house, and don’t your prospective buyers know it! Replace those old doorknobs with new ones. If you have a brass theme in the room, go with brass. If it’s brushed-nickel you like (and that’s “in” nowadays), then go with that look.
Tip #18: If you have a paved driveway, reseal it. If your driveway is already paved but is cracked or otherwise in bad shape, repair it and/or use a driveway sealer. A sharp-looking driveway is the first thing a prospective buyer or tenant sees because that’s what they’re driving toward. Besides, the sealer prevents existing cracks from becoming worse.
Tip #19: Compile a full list of the warranties on the appliances and fixtures, and leave that list on the kitchen counter. If your home has been repaired in recent years, such as a new roof, or if you’ve replaced major appliances, be sure to have the receipts on hand to show interested buyers. Better yet, type up a list of the warranties and leave copies of that list on the kitchen counter. Many homebuyers need to feel secure that items in the house are in good working order. If your house is the only one with warranty information, these buyers may be more likely to make an offer (and a good one at that).
Tip #20: Run an air purifier to get rid of those lingering odors. You’re used to the odors in your house, but trust me, no one else is. If a thorough cleaning and some well-placed potpourri don’t do the trick, then it’s time for an air purifier. I have an EcoQuest air purifier, and it eliminates the bacteria that can cause odors. There are less expensive purifiers on the market, so take your pick. A good place to run an air purifier is the basement.
Tip #21: Refinish your vinyl or tile floors. Clean your vinyl and tile floors. If that isn’t enough, then it’s time to find the right chemicals, solutions, or polymers to make those floors look like new. Tile floors may need new grout. Perhaps you need to replace a cracked tile (I should hope you bought one or two extra tiles way back when for just such a need). Regarding vinyl floors, I am a fan of Rejuvenate polish. You can use a flat mop to apply it, and it fills in cracks and shines the floor.
Tip #22: Spend a day looking at Open Houses held by property sellers. After observing what other people do with their homes, you’ll view your property with a fresh perspective. Plus you’ll get a feel for what the market values are in your neighborhood. Top athletes check out the competition. Top businesspersons check out the competition. You should too.
Tip #23: Oil your door hinges so they don’t squeak. You may not notice the squeaking hinge because you’ve heard it so many times, but buyers will wonder what else needs maintenance. Oil those hinges. Also make sure that every door opens and shuts with ease. Sometimes doors get misaligned and they don’t shut unless you apply lots of pressure.
Tip #24: Replace your doorbell if it is old or worn. One of the first things a prospective homebuyer notices is the doorbell. Is it old? Does it work? Does anyone in the house hear the bell? Imagine if you’re home, waiting for a prospective homebuyer to stop by, and you can’t hear them ringing the bell. Doorbells are inexpensive items, and a new one (at least a new button) will impress your visitors.
Tip #25: Clean, clean, clean. Once the potential buyer walks through your front door, they should be wowed by the cleanliness. A sparkling home just screams that it’s been properly maintained. Even if you clean regularly, chances are, there are things you don’t notice because you live there. Consider spending a couple hundred dollars and bring in the professionals for a thorough cleaning. With a window cleaning, your house will surprise you with a new look.
Tip #26: Modernize that kitchen. As the hub of family interaction, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Brighten the cabinets with a fresh coat of paint or some updated hardware. Add a new faucet or light fixtures to rejuvenate the space or change the window coverings for a more modern feel. Buyers are always interested in the kitchen, so try a quick facelift that will turn up the heat on your bottom line.
Tip #27: Brighten up rooms with new paint. This one is obvious but many people still don’t do it (or do it properly). New paint may be one of the most effective dollar-for-dollar value enhancers. You can hire a professional or do it yourself. Choose neutral colors for most rooms, but don’t be afraid to use a bold color (red? black? violet?) on a wall or two to create contrast or style. Just don’t go crazy with the bold colors. Also consider painting the walls and trim complementary colors.
Tip #28: Give the master bedroom a bold and romantic look. People associate the master bedroom with romance, authority, comfort, and style. Give the people what they want! Buy some new bed sheets or throw pillows. Consider a new comforter. Set up candles and flowers. Get rid of junk. Don’t leave any clothes laying around.
Tip #29: Add crown moulding. It is available in countless colors, widths, and styles – from simple to elegant; classic to contemporary. Moulding can give an ordinary looking room the special touch needed to make it really stand out.
Tip #30: Add landscape lights or a decorative street lamp. A classy street lamp gets attention, even during the daytime. Landscape lights can really establish security and elegance at the same time. I’ve seen prospective homebuyers view a home during the day, and then insist on coming back at night to see how the place looks. You don’t have to overspend, but consider adding or updating your exterior lamps.
Tip #31: Install a new mailbox. Mailboxes can be relatively inexpensive. Install a new one so your prospective buyers and their prospective houseguests don’t have to look at that dingy old thing on the front of the house.
Tip #32: Remove weeds from between concrete slabs and walkways. This is a sure sign of property neglect and a big turn off for potential buyers. Nowadays, you can buy weed-killing chemicals that destroy unwanted plant life in hours. Or you can try a solution of 20 percent bleach and 80 percent water.
Tip #33: Build a new garage or add a carport. Every homeowner knows the advantages afforded by a garage, and every prospective buyer will see a garage as a big plus. A new home garage is a great property enhancer that increases the market value of the home. Carports are a less expensive option. Many basic carports retail for $795 to $995. I’ve seen people fall in love with the interior of a home but fail to put in an offer because they complained about the lack of a garage.
Tip #34: Install an automatic garage door opener. Another fine way to increase property value is to install a garage door opener. Select a model with a multi-code garage door opener remote that routinely changes the code for additional security.
Tip #35: Enhance your porch or doorstep with pots or baskets of blooming annuals. This is an inviting and fragrant way to boost visual appeal and add eye popping color. You can find flower pots at dollar stores, and a bag of topsoil may cost only slightly more than a dollar. I like to keep flower pots at many of my properties for sale, and once they’ve sold I take the pots (flowers and all) and plant them on the doorstep of the next property I want to sell. A tip to keep the flower pots light is to place some empty water bottles in the base and cover them with soil. Sometimes the flowers won’t need a lot of dirt, and the empty bottles create space but not added weight. Make sure you water the plants often enough, because dead plants will have the opposite effect of what you intend.
Tip #36: Give your old BBQ grill a makeover. Degrease it first, rinse well; repeat if necessary. Once totally clean and dry, refinish it using a bright fireproof/high-temperature paint. Select a color that complements your home’s exterior look. Or try something fun that will really stand out, such as orange, yellow, or blue.
Tip #37: Install shutter and window box sets that match. Shutters and window boxes add charm and character to a home. Some people prefer to place fake flowers in the window boxes, while others prefer the real thing.
Tip #38: Install a skylight dome or roof skylight. People like natural light, especially light from above. Skylight installation also increases natural lighting in rooms; making them more inviting and cheerful.
Tip #39: Build a mini herb pantry. Many homes are sold based upon the setup of the kitchen. An herb pantry can be something as simple as a cubby hole built into the wall between studs. Or it may be a closet area converted into an herb pantry with a glass door.
Tip #40: Add something “green,” like solar panels. Green is good these days (or any day). Many homebuyers need to feel like they are doing something good for the planet, while saving money at the same time. Solar panels are en vogue again. Consider installing some of them. Another green activity that enhances value is to add insulation where it’s needed.
Tip #41: Empty out that cluttered basement. Many basements can be downright scary. You certainly don’t want that impression. When selling your property, I suggest you empty out the basement as much as possible. Take your junk to the trash dump or place it in storage. Homebuyers need to sense that they have lots of open space (to store the junk they have in storage).
Tip #42: Trade in those old, leaky faucets for shiny new ones. We all know that kitchens and bathrooms can attract buyers, or repel them. The centerpiece of any kitchen or bathroom is the sink, and the centerpiece of any sink is the faucet. Replace them yourself or hire a handyman. You’ll often find perfectly good faucets on the clearance shelf at home improvement stores.
Tip #43: Change the filter in your air conditioner. You want to avoid that musty, stale smell when it is operating. Whether it’s a window air conditioner or a central air system with ductwork, change the filter.
Tip #44: Hang a large mirror in the living room. It creates virtual space and the illusion of greater size. Buyers and renters love open space. Give it to them!
Tip #45: Make sure the colors of your kitchen appliances match. A kitchen with a yellow refrigerator, a stainless steel range, and a white microwave may look okay to you, but it doesn’t look right to buyers. Make sure you match the colors. This may not require purchasing all new appliances. Sometimes it’s a matter of ordering the right color panels.
Tip #46: Hang new towel bars and toilet paper holders. Once you’ve replaced the bathroom faucet, you’ll want to change the towel rack and toilet paper holder to match it. Always make sure that you have a roll of toilet paper on the holder. I suggest you hang a decorative towel on the bar too. That makes the bathroom look complete.
Tip #47: Run a dehumidifier. A perpetually damp basement or bathroom can be the breeding ground for mold, odors, and insects. Neither mold nor odor nor insect helps your cause. Run a dehumidifier to dry out the air and cut down on the musty smell.
Tip #48: Paint the fence or railings surrounding your home. A freshly painted fence creates a tremendous Wow! factor. Prospective homebuyers often observe the exterior of a property before even considering whether to view the interior. If your exterior is old and decrepit, then you simply won’t have many showings. By repainting the fence, you may even inspire your neighbors to paint their fences and railings to keep up with you. Spray paint works well on metal or cast-iron railings. Be sure to use primer first.
Tip #49: Install new street numbers on the front of your home. When prospective buyers or tenants are driving around the neighborhood trying to find your address, their eyes will gravitate toward bright, shiny, new street numbers. I should hope that those shiny numbers are affixed to your house. It only costs a few dollars to buy new brass or brushed-nickel numbers to boldly identify the front of your property. This is money well spent.
Tip #50: Use throws in colors that match the room to cover up worn sofa and chair upholstery. You could attempt to buy all new furniture to spruce up a room in the place you want to sell or rent. Or if all new furniture is not in your budget, buy some throws and pillows to place on your furniture.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog on how to increase the value of your properties. We hope that these tips will aid you in your property investment buying and selling. We at Significa are grateful to be aligned with people like you.
About the Author: Tai A. DeSa is Chief Executive Officer of Significa Corporation, a professional real estate investment company based in Pennsylvania (www.significacorp.com andwww.significadeals.com). DeSa is a graduate of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to entering the real estate investment business, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He is the oldest in a family of 11 children and was valedictorian of his high school class. DeSa is also an Associate Broker with Keller Williams Real Estate (www.thetaidesateam.com). He is an organizer of the Lehigh Valley Real Estate Investors Group (www.lvrig.com) and an Area Director with Business Network International (www.bnidvr.com).