Top Home Upgrades That Really Pay Off

If there’s one real estate buzzword you’ve probably heard more often than any other, it’s “ROI”—return on investment. It refers to how much you get back on your home sale relative to what you invested into your home. Every homeowner strives for great ROI—after all, given that your home is your single-largest investment in the future, you want to get the most possible out of it. 

However, figuring out where to start can be an issue: with a nearly endless to-do list and potentially limited time prior to listing, where do you begin? In this article, we’ll review what you should think about and consider prior to listing as you prepare your home for the market.

Deal with These Potential “Deal Breakers” First

When most homeowners think about adding value to their home or making improvements ahead of selling it, they tend to think about remodeling the kitchen, renovating the master bathroom, or doing something cool with the backyard. While these are all good upgrades for an ROI boost, they’re actually not where you should start. It’s far more important and beneficial to deal with your home’s essentials and “deal breakers”—issues that could potentially derail an offer, slow down your home sale, or lead to diminished value—first.

So, what are deal breakers? Typically, this is anything that causes a buyer who has made an offer to either withdraw their offer or ask that the issue be dealt with prior to closing. Most of these deal breakers are serious, expensive, dangerous, or some combination of all three. Here are some examples.


A sagging roof that needs to be replaced is a no-go for most buyers. Once their home inspector discovers the problem, they’re likely to either ask you to have the roof replaced before moving forward, ask that you deduct the cost of roof replacement from your agreed-upon price, or—most likely—decide that this home just isn’t worth the trouble. Even a roof that just needs repairs could present an issue. If a home inspection finds that your roof is in poor condition and has missing or damaged shingles, this may prompt the inspector to take a closer look inside to make sure that those issues haven’t translated into a roof leak and water damage.

Mold & Mildew Damage

Mold and mildew issues are another common issue that can hold up a sale. Mold exposure can trigger allergies and make people sick. Most mold and mildew growth is caused by excessive moisture or the presence of water, which may also indicate a serious problem such as water damage or a leaking roof. If your home has mold or any type of water damage, call in a professional for mold remediation, and be sure to have a contractor inspect your home for any other related issues. It’s better to catch—and deal with—these issues now than during the sale process. Most states require sellers to disclose a past or current mold problem to buyers.

Other dealbreakers

These dealbreakers can be impacted by your price range, market, and location. However, here are some common home inspection findings that lead buyers to rethink their current position:

  • Problems with the air conditioning and heating systems
  • Structural or foundation issues
  • Extensive history of termites, including structural damage
  • Plumbing leaks and problems
  • Shoddy or dangerous electrical wiring
  • Permitting violations or a history of illegal construction

Making Improvements to Your Home

Now that you’ve dealt with the critical items that could threaten a successful sale, let’s review some projects that—while far less impactful—can cumulatively improve your home’s curb appeal, making it easier to sell at your desired price.

  • Replace your flooring: Aging carpets and linoleum floors aren’t going to impress many buyers. Consider putting new carpets in your living room and bedrooms, and vinyl or tile in your kitchen and bathrooms. Wood-like vinyl is really popular right now, and for good reason: it has all the great look of wood floors, but is incredibly durable and relatively inexpensive.
  • Make your home more efficient: Today’s homeowners are looking to save money in just about any way they can. Energy-efficiency upgrades—such as enhanced attic insulation, or new dual-pane windows—can really make your home more attractive to cost-conscious buyers who desire these features in their next home.
  • Remodel your home’s kitchen: If you’re looking to invest some money into your home and get most of it back when you sell, a kitchen remodel is the way to go. Kitchen remodels generally have a great ROI (on average, north of 80%!) and make your home much more attractive to buyers. To get the most value out of this project, focus on practical upgrades over luxury items, and high-quality materials over an expansive project scope.

If you’re considering making improvements to your home with the intent to see a great return on your investment, be sure to talk to your realtor. They’ll be able to provide you advice specifically tailored to your community and real estate market.

It’s Time to Get Started

Whether you’re planning on listing your home next month or next year, there’s no time like the present to start putting together your home upgrade checklist and knocking out items. To get inspired with even more ideas on how to care for your home and extend its value, check out this infographic from the team at King Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Chicago, Illinois.

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