01. Paint and landscape

When it comes to return on investment, it’s hard to beat a fresh coat of paint—and not just because it boosts curb appeal, according to Bennett Carr of Sotheby’s in Beverly Hills, Calif., but because it also makes buyers more confident that the infrastructure is sound. “If something looks poorly maintained, it makes buyers very suspicious about the underlying condition of the house,” Carr says. Next: Bring on the boxwoods. The other essential project is landscaping. “People make more money on paint and landscaping than on anything else.”

02. Open up the view

Now that you’ve improved the interior and the exterior, find ways to “open up the dialogue between the inside and the out,” Carr says. “I had a client take out a house wall to open up a city view, and that expenditure of about $50,000 brought him another half million dollars on the sale price. Whatever your view—even if it’s only a garden—open it up.”


03. Create an outdoor kitchen

Maximize the potential of your outdoor entertaining areas. Erika Granath of Balistreri Realty in Boca Raton, Fla., suggests upgrading to a full outdoor “summer” kitchen. This might include a bar, a pizza oven and a fireplace or fire pit. “Buyers are wowed by great outdoor spaces,” she says.

04. Put in a pool

High net worth home buyers don’t have the same issues with swimming pools—concerns about maintenance and insurance costs, basically—that other home buyers do. So don’t be shy about adding a pool. In the Sunset Hills of Los Angeles, where Carr sells homes, “A pool will probably pay quadruple what it cost, particularly if it’s part of a whole landscaping package and has easy access to the entertaining rooms of the house.”

05. Create an entertainment room

Home theaters are common enough in new construction to be considered a necessity. You can easily spend $250,000 installing one, but it’s possible and probably advisable to do it for less. Any boost in appraisal value will reflect improvements such as soundproofing and cabinetry more than the electronics, which will need to be updated or customized for the buyer anyway. Most important is creating a luxurious and comfortable space.


06. Bring kitchen details up to date

If you’ve been in your house for some time, consider updating your kitchen. The cherry-wood cabinets and dark granite countertops that were in vogue a few years ago have been overtaken by lighter colors. And the closer you can get your cooking and cooling appliances to restaurant quality, the more they’ll add to your sale price.

07. Create an open kitchen

Updating a kitchen means more than improving the surfaces and buying new appliances, suggests Mona Hellinga, who specializes in estates along Chicago’s Gold Coast and North Shore for Koenig & Strey. Especially in homes built in the early 20th century or earlier, kitchens were closed off from the entertaining areas. Now, “people like to have kitchens open to the family rooms. Families are much less formal than they used to be, and people don’t have as much live-in help as they used to have.“

08. Exploit every inch

Putting your space to better use—or creating more of it—can bring a home in line with buyers’ expectations, says Hellinga. “It doesn’t cost much to convert attic space to finished space. It adds square footage, and adds space that they can dedicate to whatever they want.” A maid’s or other small room adjacent to a master suite can be converted to a walk-in closet, also attractive to potential buyers.

09. Pump up the garage

In South Florida, three-car garages are now standard for new construction at the $1.5 million-and-up price, so consider an expansion if your garage isn’t that big. At the very least, suggests Carr, make sure that the surfaces in the garage are well finished and freshly painted. Hellinga finds that car collectors in northern climates appreciate not just epoxy-finished floors, but also heated garages.

10. Install a generator

As major power outages become more frequent due to climate change, a generator sufficient to keep your home going for up to two weeks has become more than just an attractive amenity— it’s part of a home’s suite of safety and security systems. Jim Magliaro, appraisal operations manager for the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, says that a generator is “an investment in the protection of your home,” and may well reduce insurance premiums.