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By Raani Starnes

Top home improvements to consider before selling your house

When preparing your home for the market, decisions need to be made as to which home improvement projects will provide the most bang for your buck. There are certain upgrades that are likely to be worth the investment, and the following list will help you prioritize your renovations.

1. Landscape

Surprisingly, landscaping will usually provide a return of over 100 percent. You will want to focus on the front yard since curb appeal is the first thing people will notice, but landscaping the backyard is probably also a good idea.

2. Repaint

If your walls haven't been painted in the last few years, consider repainting them in a popular neutral color. Painting is one of those projects you will likely be able to do yourself, so it can be relatively inexpensive compared to other upgrades. Painting, along with other small repairs, will usually more than pay for itself.

3. Replace old carpeting

Stained carpets can be a major turn-off for potential buyers. Sometimes having the carpets steam-cleaned is enough, but if you do decide to replace the carpet, you may want to consider a wood laminate or other hard floor, since some people perceive all carpeting to be unsanitary. The financial return on new flooring can vary greatly, depending on the square footage, materials used and other factors, but it is usually quite profitable.

4. Consider remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms

If your house is getting a lot of showings and is priced right based on real estate comps in your neighborhood, it may be time to call a contractor for more major renovations. In a hot market, remodeling your kitchen and bathrooms could really pay off. Ask your real estate agent if he or she thinks major repairs will be worthwhile. There are no guarantees in real estate, but it might be worth taking a gamble.

When it comes to the bigger projects, buyer perception that upgrades cost more than they do can often allow you to get a better-than-expected return on your investment. This is especially true for improvements that make a home seem "like new," so you will want to make sure your updates are truly updates in the sense that they are in keeping with current trends.

The kitchen

Remodeling the kitchen is a low-risk investment, since the average return on a minor kitchen remodel is around 98.5 percent. Countertops made of durable materials such as granite or quartz will last longer than laminate surfaces and are sure to impress potential buyers. Stainless steel appliances and stylish cabinets will improve the ambiance in your kitchen. A deeper sink not only looks elegant but can make it easier to wash large pans. If your kitchen already has some of these features, consider focusing on the more minor details like replacing outdated fixtures. Remember, small updates often turn out to be the better investments.

The master bathroom

The average return on a minor bathroom remodel is 100 percent, but a larger remodel project comes close to that. A large soaking tub with a separate shower just might be a dream come true for future home buyers and will transform a run-of-the-mill master bedroom into a luxurious master suite.

The right home improvement projects will set your home apart from similar properties in your area. This will help the house appraise higher when you are ready to sell. Be forewarned, though: once your home is looking its best, you may never want to leave.

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