You’ve got a handful of precious weekends—let’s say about 8—before you officially put your house on the market.
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and apply a little elbow grease, you can take your productivity to the max and boost your asking price by knocking out a few simple projects that increase home value.
Don’t have the money for a major renovation? No worries—expensive remodels aren’t as glamorous as the home improvement TV shows would like you to believe. You can’t count on getting your money back on any of the classic home makeover projects (buyers are too picky, and might gut your pricey granite, anyway).
We put together this list of DIY improvement ideas based on the latest research on the biggest home value adds, plus our conversations with the top real estate pros who can see a house through the eyes of the home buyers they work with.
Pick a few or all 8 to tackle in your limited free time to get your home in excellent shape for that exciting moment when the for-sale sign goes up.
Weekend 1: Declutter your house room by room
The no. 1 way to increase the value of your home before you sell is to declutter it (which makes cleaning much easier). This project could add nearly $2,000 to your home’s value, and shouldn’t cost you more than $300. That’s an ROI of 586%!
Decor by the Seashore, a blog dedicated to providing DIY tips for organizing your home, offers a guide to decluttering your house in one weekend or less.
To summarize, when you declutter your house in 48 hours, time is of the essence. So first, go room by room and estimate how long it will take to declutter each space—limiting yourself to 2 hours for the biggest projects, and completing the smaller ones, such as the bathroom, in about 30 minutes.
From there you can create a weekend decluttering schedule to time block your plan (accounting for breaks, of course)!
With large trash bags for junk, empty boxes for donations, a kitchen timer to keep you on track, and markers and sticky notes to label everything, you’ll have the supplies you need to jump right in.
As you declutter each space, move swiftly. The moment you go down memory lane, you’ll blow your schedule.
Here’s a pro tip: for those items you can’t help but belabor over, create a separate “indecision” pile that you can go through at the end of the entire decluttering process, rather than letting tough calls slow you down at every turn.
Want to take your decluttering to the next level? Check out our exhaustive decluttering guide for the messy, or download our decluttering checklist.
Your Deep Decluttering Checklist
Here's a checklist that you can print out and work through to declutter every room in your house.
Weekend 2: Suds up your carpet for a deep cleaning
The worst thing about carpet is that you could live in total filth and comfortably ignore it. With hardwood or tile, what you see is what you get. But carpet fibers are experts at hiding mounds of dog hair, allergens, dead skin and dust bunnies.
If you take good care of your carpets and vacuum weekly, then good for you—that’s a big part of the battle. But there’s nothing like a deep shampooing to make your carpet look and smell fresh again, like a baseball field that’s been mowed into perfect rows. Experts recommend you do this twice a year, anyway.
Replacing or shampooing your carpets has a 169% ROI. You can save costs by going the DIY route and renting a machine from a place like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or your local grocery store. You can find and compare machine rentals in your area using RugDoctor.
Accounting for the machine ($30 per day), cleaning solution ($17 per bottle), and pretreating solution ($6), cleaning all your carpeting could cost as low as $87, according to Consumer Reports.
Assuming that you can clean each room in about 20 minutes, this is a project you could knock out in a weekend (or even a day).
Weekend 3: Deweed your yard without using chemicals
Outdoor landscaping can boost your home’s value anywhere from 5% to 20%.
Not everyone has the time or money to drop thousands of dollars to overhaul their landscape design, but any little improvements you make to the outside of your home will be well worth the effort.
One top project experts consistently recommend is deweeding your yard the natural way—without harsh chemicals that could do more harm than good or pose a safety risk to yourself (or your furry friends!)
If your yard looks trimmed, tidy and weed-free, and you’re looking for some fast curb appeal boosters for a final touch, purchasing new house numbers and painting your door with a fresh bold color works wonders.
Weekend 4: Cover your walls with a neutral coat of paint
Paint livens up a room, freshens up a high-traffic area like a kitchen or living room, and cleans up old scuffs, splatters, stains, and even neutralizes bad smells.
Choosing a neutral color scheme and repainting makes it clear you stayed on the pulse of home trends and updates. About 68% of Realtors recommend painting walls, and 62% recommend at least paint touch-ups, according to a 2017 survey from the National Association of Realtors.
Mark Kiley, a top real estate agent in Concord, New Hampshire, suggests neutral tones like light beige and gray throughout the entire home. Does that sound limiting? Well, it isn’t.
There are plenty of gorgeous hues in the grey family alone, such as Passive by Sherwin Williams with a green undertone; a mid-tone cool Thundercloud Gray by Benjamin Moore; and a true slate gray called Vessel Gray by Valspar.
Complete a paint project in a weekend and potentially see 1 to 2% of a property value increase when it comes time to sell. Keep things simple and neutral, and you’re set.
Weekend 5: Play matchmaker with your hardware
Remember when we said that major home makeovers are risky investments? That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make small upgrades to key spaces like your kitchens and baths to impress buyers.
One easy and inexpensive project is to update all your hardware, across these rooms and even the entire house.
Kiley says every fixture in your home (light fixture, sink, door knob and light switch plate) should show a cohesive style. It’s an inexpensive way to make your home look move-in ready and up to date.
“It’s one less thing for a buyer to worry about once they buy the home,” Kiley says. With projects like this already checked off the honey-do list, a buyer is more likely to make an offer.
Weekend 6: Update your light bulbs to LED to boost efficiency
If you’ve lived in the same house for decades, you might be used to buying the same replacement light bulbs to swap out the ones that burn out year over year. It’s just something you do on autopilot!
But light bulb technology has come a long way toward becoming more efficient. In fact, LED lights last 25 times longer and use 75% less energy than their incandescent counterparts.
If you replace your fixture bulbs with LEDs across your entire house, inside and out, that can be a huge selling point you can highlight in your listing description when it comes time to sell.
LED bulbs cost more upfront but can save a household $1,000 over a 10-year period by reducing energy usage. They make noticeable difference in older bathrooms that feature a long row of round bulbs over the mirror. These bulbs stay cooler much longer and don’t give off unwanted heat while you’re blow drying your hair or getting ready in the morning.
Consumer Reports highly recommends the Feit Electric 60 watt replacement light bulb. When you go shopping, just be sure to select a pack at homewares store like Lowe’s or Home Depot with the right bulb base that will screw into your current fixtures.
Collectively, energy efficient upgrades like using LED bulbs or installing Energy Star certified windows, for example, can boost your home’s value by 1-3%.
Weekend 7: Install smart home tech features that buyers love
Got one of those thermostats that looks straight out of 90s? It no longer lights up, so you have to turn on a light to set it before bed?
This small outdated feature might not make or break your home sale, but modern smart home technology such as the Nest thermostat, which you can control from your smartphone, can be a big value add for millennial buyers especially.
When you think about decking your house out with smart home tech, you don’t want to go crazy with the latest, greatest, most expensive fad. Instead, go for investments in three categories: locks, lights, and security.
In addition to smart thermostats, bells and whistles such as the August Smart Lock, Ring Video Doorbell, Phillip’s hue white smart light starter kit and Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors could help you fetch at least 3% more for your home, according to Consumer Reports.
Weekend 8: Neutralize odors and infuse your home with a citrus scent
In a 2016 experiment conducted by realestate.com.au, 44 home buyers were split into groups to tour the same home infused with various scents: brownies, hot bread, freshly made coffee, citrus, and dirty socks.
The results showed that the smell of citrus can boost buyers’ perceived value of a home by $100,000.
Before you can add scents to a home, however, you have to pinpoint any smelly culprits and neutralize them.
“If the place smells like your dogs, then the buyer’s not thinking about how they would live there,” says Kiley. “They’re thinking about how you live there.”
Be sure to clean your carpet, mop the floors, put pet beds through the washing machine, move litter boxes and dog toys to the garage, close shoe boxes, and scrub down the bathrooms to take care of the biggest offenders.
Then, avoid using chemical cleaners or air fresheners to achieve the citrus smell.
Instead, add a few drops of lemon or orange essential oils to a spray bottle as a mister, put some small pieces of citrus rinds down the garbage disposal, or simmer sliced citrus fruit in over the stove in water.
Hungry for More Value-Add Projects? Make a To-Do List With Your Agent
If you’re serious about selling your home and want to get the biggest return on investment, talk to a real estate agent and ask them to do a walkthrough of your house. They’ll be able to point out any areas that need TLC before you list.
This dialogue is key to success, Kiley says, because your agent is trained to look at the little details in your home that buyers will comment on and notice. Your agent will direct your dollars and time toward the most important projects, so you don’t waste any time and effort on work that won’t pay off.
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