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Which Renovation Will Return the Cost of Investment?

Everybody wants a nicer home, but while some home improvements may improve your lifestyle, they don’t necessarily add equal value to your house. Although the return on investment partly depends on where you live, here are some general rules:


Real estate brokers say the more you do to enhance your home’s “curb appeal” (or how it looks when a potential buyer pulls into your driveway), the more likely you are to sell it at the price you want.

Kitchen & Bathrooms

A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that remodeling your kitchen or bathrooms was one of the best ways to add value to your house. On average, 88% of the cost of kitchen remodel is recouped in the resale of a house, the survey says, while 82% of the cost of remodeling a bathroom is recouped.


Adding a room or garage to your house is one of the more expensive improvements you can make, but it can pay off. The NAR survey says that about 84% of the cost of an addition is recouped when a home is resold. However, the association warns, “only careful design and seamless execution makes this pricey piece of work pay off at the closing table.”

Finishing Rooms

Converting underused rooms-such as a basement – into a more functional space can make the house more livable, but you won’t necessarily get all your money back. The NAR survey showed that on average you’ll get 75% back if you convert your attic into a bedroom and about 69% back if you refinish your basement.

Landscaping and Decks

Making the yard look better always improves curb appeal, but if you put $10,000 into your backyard, don’t expect to see all that money back.


Because your agent makes a living through buying and selling homes in your neighborhood, they are most likely to know what features are important and which improvements will spur offers and stimulate a faster sale. Don’t over-invest in renovation costs.  Buyers frequently prefer a more reasonable purchase price and the luxury of decorating to their taste.

Fix Up For A Faster Sale


  1. Be sure your lawn and shrubbery are kept trimmed at all times. Consider removing overgrown trees and shrubs that hide the house from the street.
  2. Keep the garage doors down at all times.
  3. For a touch of color, have a seasonal flowers growing in beds and containers.
  4. Make sure your driveway is in good repair. Pressure wash concrete drives and walks to remove stains and car drippings, and put a fresh coat of sealer on asphalt drives.
  5. Make sure patios and decks are clean and in good repair. Replace any rotten wood and nail down loose boards on decking or steps; pressure wash if necessary.
  6. Garage sale time! Clear out everything you don’t intend to keep and tidy up what’s staying. Make sure garage doors and openers are in proper working order.
  7. Check all railing and fencing to make sure it’s in good repair and freshly painted.
  8. Pay special attention to the area around your front door. Make sure your doorbell works, clean all cobwebs, leaves, and other debris that may have accumulated there. Give the front door a fresh coat of paint.  If needed, paint is one of the most cost effective fix up items.
  9. Check for broken windows or leaking seals on thermo-pane windows; replace if necessary.
  10. Make sure all outdoor lighting (especially front porch) is clean and shiny; replace if necessary. It is especially important that the entrance to your home makes a good first impression on prospective buyers. This sets the tone for the whole showing.
  11. Check your mailbox. Is it straight and upright? Neatly trimmed around?
  12. Before you start indoors, walk across the street in front of your house and look back (like a buyer will see it). Does it present an appealing exterior and grounds?


  1. Start by walking through the house and making a list. Do your carpets need shampooing? Floors need a fresh coat of wax? Dust all ceiling fans, especially the blades and wash light fixtures.
  2. You’re going to have to pack when you move anyway, so go through all your closets and pack up everything you don’t need for the next couple of months. A closet with only a few neatly arranged items creates an impression of abundant storage space.
  3. Thin out overcrowded rooms. Ever notice the model homes sparse furnishings? This make the rooms look larger. Consider renting a storage facility to store excess lamps, tables and large items that eat up space in a room.
  4. Go through and pack up most of your family pictures and collections of model ships, stamps, quilts, or anything that might cause a buyer to stop and look at your collections of stuff instead of your house.
  5. Check all light fixtures to make sure all the bulbs burn. Use the largest wattage bulb that you safety can to give off the most light.
  6. Wash all your windows and make sure window treatments are clean and in good repair. Keep the window coverings open whenever possible to let in more light.
  7. With a good degreaser, wipe down everything in the kitchen so it feels clean to the touch. Clean your stove and oven; replace oven pans if needed.
  8. Go through your kitchen cabinets and pantry to make sure they’re neat and tidy; give any food that you don’t plan to use right away to the local food pantry.
  9. Make sure your sinks are clean at all times and free of dirty dishes and utensils.
  10. Remove all excess items from your counters to give the impression of lots of work surface.
  11. Pleasing aromas add to the appealing atmosphere you’re trying to establish for your buyers; consider baking something prior to the open house to give off  an appealing scent.
  12. Clean all light switch places by taking them off and washing with soap and water, replace if necessary.
  13. Make sure the bathrooms are spotless at all times with fresh towels, decorative soaps, and all fixtures are shiny, scrubbed, and in good repair.
  14. Check all faucets and shower heads to make sure they’re spotless and free of leaks and drips.
  15. Repaint interior rooms if needed with neutral colors.
  16. Repaint ceilings if necessary.
  17. Don’t have large space-eating houseplants sitting around; give them away or ask a neighbor to store them until you move.
  18. The more light you can get into a room, the bigger and more spacious the room will appear. When you leave for a showing, turn on lights in rooms that are normally darker than you would like and make sure the window coverings are open to admit outside light.
  19. Mirrors are an old decorator trick to bring in more light as well as make rooms appear larger; either hanging on a wall or on a stand.
  20. Pack away and store out of season clothes. Get rid of extra hangers. Straighten up your shoes (consider some inexpensive shoe racks).
  21. When painting, don’t forget the interiors of closets and the closets doors; make sure all closet and interior doors open and close correctly.
  22. Check where ceilings meet wall and clean all cobwebs. This is a commonly overlooked area when cleaning, along with tops of tall furniture items such as hutches and entertainment centers.
  23. If you have a pet, make sure there are no odors. You may not notice odors since you live with your pet every day. Have a neutral third party give your home a “Sniff” test

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Sale

1.  Depersonalize.
Walk around your house and start looking for personal touches. You’ll want to remove any personal items you find so potential buyers have no problem visualizing themselves living in your house. Start by taking down all the adorable photos of your kids. You can put them up again in your next house. Also, tackle the most personalized spot of the house, the refrigerator. Take EVERYTHING off it. You don’t want strangers looking at your children’s report cards, your budget, your calendar, or whatever else you have taped up there. Also, it really cleans up the kitchen to have a refrigerator free of papers and photos.

2.  Break the clutter addiction.

You know where they are- those clutter stashes around your house. It’s time to get rid of them once and for all. Not only will your house look less junky without the clutter, but you may also find a few things that you’ve been looking for. Take a large garbage bag (or two) and a box, and get to work. Throw away all that you can and donate the rest. If you find anything in the clutter that you simply must keep, make yourself also find a place to put it. No more junk drawers or piles on the countertop or beside the bed. It is time to break the clutter addiction once and for all.

3.  Make your home appealing.

When selling a home, curb appeal can’t be underestimated. How many potential homebuyers drive around neighborhoods, see the outside of a home that they like, and then have their real estate agent schedule an appointment? If it appears that you’re decorating with overgrown weeds and peeling paint, not too many people are going to drive by your house and want to take a closer look. Instead, get your house ready to sell by cleaning up the outside. Paint if needed, or at least touch up the paint on the shutters and trim. Add some potted plants to your front porch. Create a look so that your home shouts out, “Hey, come see what’s inside!”

4. Take care of any stinky situations.

Your home may smell and you may not even realize it (especially if you have pets or if you smoke). Have a friend, especially one who can be painfully honest, sniff around your house and point our trouble spots. Clean the carpets or furniture if needed. Change the litter box everyday. Then, start cooking. If you have potpourri or scented candles around the house, that can be a clue to potential homebuyers that you are trying to disguise smells. Instead, bake food that smells delicious – cookies, pies, cakes – and leave some out for sampling.

5.  Start cleaning.

One of the most important things that you can do when selling a home is to thoroughly clean your house. Scrub the baseboards, moldings, and the blinds/ Clean the carpets. Get your wood or tile floors to shine clean as if your mother-in-law is coming. Also, there is nothing wrong with getting a little help. Spending some money on a professional cleaning service can be well worth it. It will get the job done faster, and hopefully better, than if you did it by yourself.

A last and final tip: If you are considering selling your home, take an afternoon and go to a new home community. Walk through the model homes. Notice how sparse they are. Model homes are depersonalized, de-cluttered, and very clean. Aim for that same look for your own home when you’re looking to sell.

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Ben Lee

Real Estate Broker
Licensed Attorney


Cal BRE #01808926

310.858.5489 direct

310.704.6580 cell


Coldwell Banker

Beverly Hills North Office
301 N. Canon Drive, Ste E
Beverly Hills, CA 90210


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