Simple improvements to sell your home in a recession

Updated April 17, 2017

In today's competitive housing market, it's tough to get the top price for your home. That's why you'll want to try these affordable, do-it-yourself home improvement projects, which can add real appeal and help lead to a "sold" sign in your front garden.


Before you put your home on the market, become the minimalist you never were, says Marybeth Dennett, real estate professional in North Devon. Clean out those cupboards, and remove at least half of your items in each room to create more of a spacious look. “It’s the most affordable change that sellers can make when selling their abode,” she says.

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Polish furniture and floors

Dennett recommends rubbing floors, baseboards and furniture with polish. “There’s something to be said for that old adage ‘cleanliness is next to godliness,’” she says. When each room exudes a pristine feel, buyers may find it hard to resist your home’s charm.

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Upgrade lighting

Update your lighting with modern fixtures to brighten and add warmth in your home, suggests Jill Hosking, interior designer from Durham. “Lighting sets the mood in each room for how light and bright a home feels as a buyer tours it from room to room,” she says. Hosking recommends positioning lamps in at least three locations in each room to form a triangle of light at eye level.

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Fix the front porch

When buyers approach a home, they're looking for clues that the home has been well cared for and maintained, Hosking says. Front porches and steps with cracks in the concrete or bricks should be a top priority to enhance your home’s curb appeal. Patch, caulk or paint the area so buyers are encouraged to enter your home.

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Upgrade mirrors

Small accents in your house may create a sense of “home” for prospective buyers. Get creative with affordable projects to help buyers visualise themselves living in your abode. Hosking recommends upgrading bathroom mirrors by framing your existing mirror with molding or paint around the edges or staining the mirror's frame to coordinate with your vanity cabinets. A modern, fresh accent in each room adds a classy touch to your home’s décor.

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Update kitchen appliances

The kitchen is one of the most critical areas of a home to potential buyers. Keep yours looking fresh and modern by updating old, dilapidated and mismatched appliances, recommends Wendy Slaughter, an interior designer. You don't have to buy brand-new items; a used or refurbished appliance that fits the look and feel of the kitchen will work just as well.

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Mulch and edge flower beds

Slaughter recommends devouting just a few hours to spruce up the landscaping around your home, which can add a lot of curb appeal. “Edge your flower beds with an edging spade, and spread some mulch,” she says. If you're having photos of your home taken taken, wet the mulch as it provides a crisper look, she adds.

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Paint the front door

Take streetside appeal to a new level by welcoming buyers with renovations to the front entrance. “Nothing turns buyers off more than a dirty, hard-to-use, worn-out front door,” Slaughter says. “Make a great first impression with some fresh paint.” If you want a modern look, Slaughter recommends high-gloss black paint with brushed nickel hardware.

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Clean carpets

If your carpet needs a pick-me-up, avoid the cost of replacement with deep cleaning. John Wilder, an award-winning contractor, recommends using a mixture of ammonia and water mixed 4-to-1 with a cup of vinegar and a cup of powdered oxygenated bleach to bring the life back to carpeted areas. “It will deodorise your carpet and your house and make it cleaner than professional carpet cleaners,” Wilder says. “You should be able to clean your whole house full of carpet for less than £30.”

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Regrout tile

With a little bit of sweat, you can makeover bathroom and kitchen tiles with a do-it-yourself project that adds a classy look to your home. Wilder suggests updating the grout on your existing tiles. Use a scraping tool to remove a layer of grout on your tile, he says. After mixing a batch of grout, force it into the lines and dry it with a soft dry cloth. "Your tiles will shine like new and it will look as if you installed new tile,” he says.

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Remove wallpaper

Everyone has individual tastes, which is why it is important to keep your home décor neutral when it’s on the market. Mannie Tantawy, a certified home stager in Knightsbridge, London, says wallpaper needs to be removed before showing to potential buyers. “Wallpaper is very taste-specific, and not everyone will like what the seller chose, so it is important to remove all wallpaper and then paint the walls a neutral colour,” she explains.

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Paint interior walls

Adding a fresh coat of paint to each room is one of the most affordable and effective changes you can make to your home when selling, Tantawy says. “A fresh coat of paint on the walls in a neutral colour makes a significant difference and brightens up the rooms and makes a home look new,” she says. Although you may prefer mahogany or lime green walls, most buyers can better visualise their own preferences without the colourful distractions.

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Update kitchen cabinets

Make your kitchen look brand new by touching up the finishings on your cabinets. Tantawy recommends staining or painting cabinets white, a rich chocolate brown, grey or a cream colour to freshen up the look. “Painting or staining outdated kitchen cabinets is also an affordable way to make an otherwise outdated kitchen look updated,” she says.

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Cut the grass!

When selling a home, drive-by appeal relies on landscaping and garden maintenance. Scale down those overgrown shrubs and bushes to fit the house and plant colourful flowers in front of the house, Tantawy suggests. Trimming large tree branches or removing large trees that are an eyesore also shows off your home. Keep your grass cut short and trim each week, too.

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Assess big repairs

In some cases, your realtor may recommend more extensive repairs and renovations like installing a new roof or windows. “This is particularly true in today’s mostly buyers’ market where sellers must provide a move-in ready property to get the attention of a few buyers,” says Debbie Farson, owner of HomeWise Referrals. Though these repairs might be costly at first, they can often easily pay for themselves when buyers are willing to pay more for the home.

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About the Author

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.