12 Fixes That Will Get You a Higher Price for Your House

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Older couple in front of a house for sale
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

If you’re looking to sell your home quickly and for top dollar, there are some lesser-known words that match the importance of the famous real estate phrase “location, location, location.”

Those all-important words? Curb appeal.

As the saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” When people drive up and first see your house, you want them to think of it immediately as a well-cared-for home that has been properly maintained.

“It’s you putting your best foot forward,” says Christy Biberich, the owner of Christy B. Design in Los Angeles who appears on the HGTV show “Brother vs. Brother.” “We do judge a book by its cover.”

While curb appeal gets buyers in the door, sellers who want to move their homes quickly need to take other steps. The strategy varies by neighborhood and market conditions, but staging a house to appeal to the maximum number of buyers can make a difference in how fast the home sells.

“Every property is completely different,” says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego, a company that helps sellers make improvements designed to get them top dollar. “The little things that get people through the front door matter first.”

Once prospective buyers are inside your home, you want to make sure the entire house puts its best foot forward. That starts with cleaning and decluttering, two improvements that cost little money and provide a big return.

Next, focus on low-cost “transformative improvements,” Biberich says. “The No. 1 thing you can do is paint.” She advises using neutral tones, but that doesn’t have to mean just white and beige, as gray and cream are also safe choices.

If, like most sellers, you have a limited budget, here are a dozen home improvements you can make to sell your house for top dollar.

1. Improve your landscape

Landscaper working in a yard
juefraphoto / Shutterstock.com

Put down fresh sod, replace tired bushes with new ones and add some color, either with flower beds or potted flowers. “Even just a little bit goes a long way,” Biberich says.

2. Spruce up your entryway

karamysh / Shutterstock.com

Buy a new front door or paint the old one. If your house number and mailbox look tired, buy and install new ones.

3. Change out light and plumbing fixtures

Ikea ceiling lamps
Tereza Koudelkova / Shutterstock.com

Gold light fixtures are long outdated, and brass is less popular than brushed nickel. Replacing outdated ceiling fixtures and bathroom faucets can give your home a modern touch for a minimal investment.

4. Clarify any spaces that might confuse buyers

Elnur / Shutterstock.com

If you have an odd alcove, add a desk or a dresser – something that will suggest how the space is best used. “Most homes have some funky or dysfunctional things that can be corrected,” Biberich says. Don’t keep would-be buyers guessing.

5. Do partial renovations

Woman cleaning a stainless steel appliance
Rob Marmion / Shutterstock.com

Rather than gutting an old bathroom, for example, consider getting a new vanity and refacing the existing tub. In the kitchen, keep the old cabinets but replace the countertops and the hardware.

6. Consider removing popcorn ceilings

Workers plaster a ceiling
Daniel Besic / Shutterstock.com

“Half the folks are going to walk out the front door” as soon as they see those, Christian says. But you need to be careful because the popcorn ceilings of pre-1979 homes are likely to contain asbestos, he says. That means this is far from a do-it-yourself project, and you need someone licensed to remove it. Newer ceilings, on the other hand, can be wet and scraped. Or, if it’s feasible and the ceilings are high enough, just put drywall over them and create new ceilings.

7. Remove window treatments, unless they’re current and high-end

Installing eco-friendly windows
Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock.com

Removing window treatments cuts the risk of turning off would-be buyers who don’t share your taste. Uncovered windows also let more light in. “You can never out-guess buyers on window coverings,” Christian says. Once you’ve got a contract, you can always offer buyers the ones you took down.

8. Return rooms to their original uses

Bedroom
Breadmaker / Shutterstock.com

If you’re using your dining room as an office, turn it back into a dining room. If your third bedroom is an office, turn it back into a bedroom. You can, however, display a photo of the room’s other potential use.

9. Replace dirty or worn carpet

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

You might try cleaning it first, but dirty carpet is always a turnoff for buyers. In some markets, you’re better off removing the carpet if there are hardwood floors underneath.

10. Depersonalize

Grandfather and grandson looking at old family photos and genealogy
UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com

That means packing away family photos and taking the children’s drawings (and everything else) off the refrigerator. You want a new family to envision themselves living in the home.

11. Clean thoroughly

couple cleaning
George Rudy / Shutterstock.com

Do a deep cleaning before you put your home on the market so everything shines. Be sure to wash the windows.

12. Paint

Woman paints room
Nataliia Zhekova / Shutterstock.com

Your daughter may love her purple room, but a prospective buyer probably won’t. Repaint all rooms in neutral colors. A fresh coat of paint also makes the house look newer and more modern.