MONEY selling a home

5 Ways to Deal With the Eyesore Next Door

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Stephan Zabel—Getty Images

Don’t let the neighborhood eyesore put your home sale at risk — take action with these 5 tips.

You’re almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that’s worthy of American Pickers, the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor homes so that would-be buyers won’t be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you’ll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem

This solution can be tricky. There’s really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

“Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick,” says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can’t hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? (“How did you know I had a cat?”) Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don’t notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: either they haven’t realized the condition of their home or they simply can’t manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. “If it is an elderly person, I offer to help,” says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it’s not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC — just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape!

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there’s no reason you can’t offer to help fix the problem. “Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it.”

3. Notify your HOA

If you live in a community with a homeowners’ association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of your home.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city

If your neighbor won’t mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

“If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up,” says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show Perils for Pedestrians.

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you “walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks.”

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least 6 feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be 6 feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small waterfall can drown out the racket.

“You only have one first impression,” says Ross Anthony. “You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property.”

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MONEY home ownership

Homeownership Hits Another Record Low

150624_REA_CantAffordHome
Alamy

Still can't afford a home? You've got company

For millions of young Americans the dream of ownership may be farther away than ever.

A decade after the housing bubble collapsed, America’s home ownership rate is still dropping, according to a new survey by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Just 63.7% of American households owned their own homes in the first quarter, researchers found. That ratio is the result of 10 consecutive years of declines since nearly 70% of Americans called themselves homeowners in 2004.

What gives? Despite a bull market and improving jobs picture, many of America’s would-be home buyers—Gen Xers in their 30s and 40s and twenty-something millennials—are still trying to get out from under the financial burdens imposed by the recession.

Most Gen Xers were just buying their first homes or getting ready to trade up when housing prices peaked in 2006. As a result, they had the smallest financial cushion when the recession hit. Unable to make mortgage payments, many were forced to rent again. Today homeownership rates for this age group has fallen to a level “not seen since the 1960s,” the study found.

While Millennials didn’t fall into that trap, they’ve faced their own hurdles. The influx of older renters has pushed up what landlords can charge, making it harder for would-be first time home buyers to scrape together money for a down payment. Over the past decade, the percentage of young renters age 25 to 34 facing a “cost burden”—meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing—has jumped to 46% from 40%.

What can improve the situation? On a policy level the researchers call for loosening lending standards, such as offering loans to borrowers with smaller down payments or lower credit scores. Of course, given that was a big part of what got us into the housing mess in the first place, that seems like a ticklish proposition.

A better bet may be that the economy will bail us out, with a slowly improving employment situation boosting incomes. One thing that hasn’t changed: Young Americans still want to own homes. Among renters in their 20s and 30s, more than 90% hope to buy a home eventually, according to a Fannie Mae survey cited by the authors.

 

 

 

 

 

MONEY sharing economy

Airbnb Says Renting Your Place Is Like Getting a Big Raise

airbnb-raise-income-report
Steve Lewis Stock—Getty Images

A new company report claims being a host nets you about $7,500 a year.

Airbnb is busting out big guns in its latest PR move. The lodging rental business has hired former White House National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling (now a consultant) to report on the impact of Airbnb-style home sharing on middle class incomes.

Unsurprisingly, Sperling’s new report comes to sunny conclusions: He claims “the typical single-property host makes an extra $7,530 annually” by renting his or her primary residence for about two or three months each year—the equivalent of a 14% raise for a household that pulls in the median income of $52,800 a year.

The paper—which surveys Airbnb earnings in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon—goes on to say that the extra cash earned via Airbnb can help offset the fall in real income for middle class Americans over the past 15 years.

Of course, not everyone might see Airbnb as a boon to the middle class. For example, some long-term tenants claim they’ve been evicted by landlords looking to profit from more lucrative short-term rentals.

And New York’s state attorney general has claimed that about 70% of Airbnb’s New York City listings are illegal, with most of the money going to landlords who are essentially operating unregulated hotels. That could mean lost tax revenue—and higher rents and housing costs for the city as a whole.

Even the statistics in the Airbnb report suggest the site’s customer base is not overwhelmingly middle class: 45% of Boston Airbnb hosts reported household incomes of more than $100,000 in 2013.

MONEY Housing Market

New Home Sales Hit 7-Year High

A worker walks on the roof of a new home under construction in Carlsbad
Mike Blake—Reuters A worker walks on the roof of a new home under construction in Carlsbad, California September 22, 2014.

In May, sales of new homes surged 87.5% in the Northeast alone.

New U.S. single-family home sales increased in May to a more than seven-year high, further brightening the outlook for the housing market and the broader economy.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday sales rose 2.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units, the highest level since February 2008. April’s sales pace was revised up to 534,000 units from the previously reported 517,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for 9.3% of the market, rising to a 525,000-unit pace last month.

The report came on the heels of a report on Monday showing home resales in May surged to a 5-1/2-year high. Data last week also showed building permits at near an eight-year peak in May and homebuilders were the most optimistic in nine months in June.

The new home sales report added to strong retail sales, consumer sentiment and employment data in suggesting the economy was gaining speed in the second quarter after output slumped at the start of the year.

Housing is being buoyed by a strengthening jobs market and steps by the government to ease lending conditions for first-time buyers through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance companies it controls. Young adults who are setting up their own households also are lending support.

New homes sales surged 87.5% in the Northeast, the largest increase since July 2012. Sales increased 13.1 percent in the West, the biggest gain in nine months. Sales fell 4.3% in the South and were down 5.7% in the Midwest.

The stock of new houses for sale was unchanged at 206,000 last month. Supply remains less than half of what it was at the height of the housing boom, good news for home builders who will need to ramp up construction.

At May’s sales pace it would take 4.5 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, down from 4.6 months in April.

MONEY moving

7 Ways to Reduce Stress During a Move

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Getty Images/Hero Images

Moving can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be a stress fest.

Whether you’ve decided to accept a new job offer in another city, found the perfect apartment on Trulia, or finally closed on the home of your dreams, a fresh start is always exciting. Packing all your belongings into boxes and lugging it all to a new home? Not so much.

We get it. Moving can be crazy and stressful — but there are ways to survive the process without aging yourself prematurely.

Here are seven ways to manage your stress before, during, and after you’ve boxed up your life.

1. Purge

Clutter creates stress. Minimize the junk clogging your closets and you’ll automatically breathe a sigh of relief. Clear the clutter from your home by organizing things you no longer need into three piles: Sell, Donate, and Toss.

Put big-ticket or valuable items in the “sell” pile. Then snap some photos and list them on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook. (Or go old school if the weather’s nice and hold a massive yard sale.)

Score a tax deduction by donating items to Goodwill or a local thrift store. Throw away or recycle any items that have little or no use left in them.

Here’s the most fun part: Eat through the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. Spend the weeks prior to your move creating oddball meals based on whatever happens to be in your cupboards. And don’t forget to drink all your booze!

2. Clear your calendar

Block off a chunk of time to focus exclusively on packing. Request a day off from work, find a baby sitter or family member to watch your children, or clear your schedule for a weekend. You’ll get more done by packing continuously for several hours than you will by packing in short bursts of time.

If possible, bribe some of your friends to help. Promise to buy them dinner and drinks if they’ll donate a few hours of their time to help you pack and move.

3. Accumulate boxes

Start accumulating a stack of newspapers and boxes several weeks prior to your move. Ask friends if they have leftover boxes from previous moves or visit local grocery stores and retail outlets, walk back to where the employees unpack the inventory, and ask if you can walk off with a stack of boxes. Costco and Trader Joe’s both keep a steady supply of boxes in-store.

If you’re willing to splurge, you can buy boxes from shipping and packing stores or your local home improvement store. The benefit to buying boxes is that they’ll all be standard sizes, making them easier to stack and load.

4. Plan

Don’t start packing without a strategy. One of the most efficient ways to pack your belongings is to methodically move from room to room. Clearly label each box based on where in your home it was packed. This way, when you unload boxes in your new house, you’ll know where each box should go.

5. Protect your valuables

The last thing you need is a nagging concern that you can’t find your wedding ring and passport. Those worries will stress you out more than almost any other aspect of moving!

Pack one suitcase as if you’re going on vacation and include the items you’ll need to immediately access, such as clean underwear, socks, and a toothbrush. Add valuables and the most important documents so that you’ll know they haven’t gone missing.

6. Give ample time and deadlines

Nothing is more stressful than knowing that you can’t start moving into your new home until 8 a.m., but you need to be out of your apartment at noon that same day.

If you can, allow for your time in each place to overlap. This may mean paying two rents or two mortgages for up to a month, but it will allow you the benefit of time — and that will work wonders on your stress levels.

Also, create minideadlines for yourself. Promise yourself that you’ll pack up one room per day, or that you’ll unpack for two hours per night after you move into your new home.

7. Delegate

Finally, the best way to reduce stress is by outsourcing and delegating. Use online resources like TaskRabbit and Craigslist to search for people who can help you pack and move. Before they leave, ask them to help assemble furniture and move big boxes and furniture where you want it.

As the saying goes, many hands make light work. And when you’re moving, you need as many hands as you can get.

Read next: How to Be a Dream Tenant and Snag Any Rental You Choose

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MONEY home improvement

How to Beat the High Cost of Replacement Windows

For Sale sign illustration
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I don’t want to replace the gorgeous hundred-year-old windows in my house (especially not for the $1,500 each my contractor quoted me!), but the triple-track storms are another story. What would I have to spend to upgrade those?

A: You’ll be happy to know that new storm windows will produce nearly as much energy savings as full replacement windows at less than a quarter of the price—and they’ll reduce your house’s long-term window maintenance needs too.

Many of the same technologies used in replacement windows, such as weatherproof gaskets to stop drafts and low-emissivity glass that blocks the flow of heat through the pane, are standard in today’s storm windows too. And the storms will keep water away from the windowsill, which helps prevent rot in what is generally the most rot-prone spot on any old house.

“Your existing triple-tracks are probably decades old,” says contractor Les Fossel, of Restoration Resources in Alna, Maine, “which means they’re bare aluminum color, the rubber holding the glass is dried out and cracked, and the panes rattle in their tracks every time the wind blows.”

Here are four options that Fossel recommends to his clients. Any of them will upgrade both the appearance and effectiveness of your current storm windows.

Triple-tracks (about $200 per window, installed): These are the same traditional format you already have, with two glass panes and a screen, each set in its own track so it can be raised and lowered with the seasons and removed for cleaning. Factory made to your window sizes, today’s products are far more efficient than your aging units and will also be less noticeable because you can order them to match your house’s trim color.

Double-tracks (about $350 per window, installed): These factory-made storms also have two panes and a screen that you position up or down, but the three components live in only two channels. Rather than sliding them up and down, you remove the screen and/or window from their shared channel, then rearrange and reinstall them. This takes slightly more effort at the change of seasons, but it makes the storm about 1/4-inch thinner and therefore a bit less noticeable on your house.

Wood exterior storms ($500 per window, installed): A single pane of glass inside a contractor-built wood frame that’s painted to match the trim, this type of storm hangs from hooks mounted on the window trim and sits flush with the exterior trim for a nearly invisible look. You’ll want to also have a few screens made in the same fashion so you can swap them onto a few key windows seasonally to allow fresh air into the house.

Interior storms: ($150 per window, installed): These whole-window storms cover the window from the inside, maintaining the antique, stormless look of an old house. Factory made with thin aluminum frames painted to match your interior trim, they simply press tight inside the window opening. They won’t protect the sill from weather damage, but they look a whole lot better than those plastic shrink-wrap window insulation kits.

MONEY

The Hidden Costs of Homeownership Are Way Higher Than You Think

man fixing sink
Andersen Ross—Getty Images

In some areas, they add up to more than $1000 a month.

Buying a home is so much more than finding the perfect place, applying for a home loan and budgeting for a monthly mortgage payment — it’s thousands of dollars more than many homeowners expect. American homeowners pay about $9,500 annually in unexpected home expenses, according to an analysis by real estate company Zillow and Thumbtack, a company that helps consumers find service providers.

The bulk of those expenses come from necessary bills like property taxes and insurance — things all homeowners need to deal with but many forget to factor into their expenses when determining what they can afford in a new home. On top of that, many consumers find themselves unprepared for the cost of home maintenance, particularly if the home is very different from where they’ve previously lived, either in structure or location.

“Homebuyers too often fixate on the sticker price or monthly mortgage payment on a house, and don’t budget for the other expenses associated with ownership — which can add up quickly,” said Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow chief marketing officer, in a news release about the analysis. “For example, new buyers can get really excited about having a backyard of their own for the first time, without budgeting for how they plan to maintain that space.”

These so-called hidden costs vary by location, but nationally, they average $9,477 annually. To arrive at that figure, Zillow analyzed data like property taxes and insurance, and Thumbtack assessed service costs for five common maintenance costs homeowners hire professionals to complete, like carpet cleaning and yard work. The companies also looked at the costs in 15 large metropolitan statistical areas. Here’s how the costs vary in some of the most populated areas of the country.

15. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.
Annual unexpected homeowner expenses: $7,550

14. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga.
$8,043

13. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo.
$8,146

12. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
$8,789

11. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
$8,865

10. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.
$9,782

9. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.
$10,100

8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.
$10,647

7. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.
$10,672

6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif.
$11,333

5. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
$11,549

4. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
$11,953

3. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.
$12,236

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
$13,287

1. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-N.H.
$13,930

Determining how much house you can afford is only one of many things you need to figure out financially when buying a house. A large down payment and high credit score will help you access the best interest rates on a home loan, but don’t forget to shop around for estimates on other expenses as well, so you are prepared to handle the full cost of your new place. Without proper planning, you may find yourself in a challenging financial situation that could jeopardize your ability to pay for your house or make other important payments, which could cause credit damage and long-term harm to your finances.

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MONEY home improvement

5 Fantastic Fire Pits for When You Have Money to Burn

You can buy your own portable fire pit for as little as $100 or hire a pro to create custom designs like these, starting at $2600.

  • Modern Fire Pit Vessel

    Melissa Jones

    An outdoor living area designed by Phil Kean Designs in Winter Park, FL connects the main home to the guest home with a center garden sanctuary. A $2,225 black granite saturn fire vessel from Stone Forest, with lava rock and a separate natural gas kit for $390 is the main feature of this landscaping project. To create a garden sanctuary to use day or night, the design objective of this outdoor living area was accomplished with a raised seating area surrounding the stone fire pit. If you like to move your outdoor space around and don’t want to commit to a permanent fire pit, portable fire pits like the saturn fire vessel may be just what you’re looking for. You can buy a portable fire pit from your local hardware store that has individual character and a unique appeal, ranging from $100-$400 depending on the style and size.

  • Concrete and Copper Fire Bowls

    Giovanni Photography

    If you want to save yourself from the hassle of building your own fire pit, add a unique enhancement to your landscape design with a decorative fire bowl. Similar to a fire pit vessel, a fire bowl is a high quality natural gas or propane fire pit that typically comes in copper or concrete and can be operated remotely from your home or pool operated system. This home in Quail West in Naples, FL designed by Marc-Michaels Interior Design, includes multiple fire bowls around the pool and a circular fire pit made by Grand Effects set in front of lounge chairs in the private courtyard. Easy to install on any deck or patio, you can get your own modern fire feature for your landscaping starting at $2,800, depending on the size, shape, and style.

  • Gas Fire Pit Table

    AAA Landscape Specialists

    A modern twist in landscaping, this San Diego outdoor living project for a single-family residence features a spectacular fire pit in the corner of this backyard retreat. Installed by AAA Landscape Specialists for $3,200, this home’s gas fire pit table was made from relatively inexpensive and long-lasting concrete masonry blocks that are typically used for building retaining walls. While firebrick forms the flame retardant interior wall of the fire pit, the exterior is finished with travertine noche veneer stone for an elegant aesthetic appeal. Bring a piece of paradise to your backyard by adding the elegant touch of colorful fire pit glass rocks, to make you feel as if you’re in a fancy restaurant or luxury hotel while in the seat of your home. Many homes build a fire pit in an outdoor table for extra space to hold food or rest drinks while you entertain and relax.

  • Permanent Stone Fire Pit

    Alderwood Landscaping

    Blending effortlessly with nature, this large fire pit project brings the natural northwest environment to life. Built by Alderwood Landscaping in Sammamish, WA, the $7500 backyard fire pit features basalt boulders and natural stone veneers to produce a backyard escape for the ultimate relaxation. Without the extra landscaping and plumbing, building a masonry fire pit can cost you less than $500 depending on the size of pit and type of stone you choose. Whether you’re starting your landscaping from scratch or only adding a fire pit, hire a professional to make sure your backyard addition abides by all fire codes and regulations in your local neighborhood.

  • Round Stone Fire Pit

    Create a focal point on your patio or in your backyard with a round stone fire pit that is simple, but still makes a statement. This fire pit in Aurora, Ohio is the perfect place for a crowd of friends to gather and socialize or roast marshmallows. For $12,000, the professionals of House of L designed an affordable luxury fire pit fit for extravagant living. The fire pit features a custom blend of stone with limestone cap and a chipped edge detail. The fire pit has a gas start for easy light up, bringing the ultimate comfort to this home’s backyard. One of the more popular fire pits to DIY, you can make your own stone fire pit in the ground by digging a hole about ten inches deep, setting and layering stones with masonry adhesive, and then adding a fire ring and gravel inside.

    Get more gardening and home improvement ideas at Porch.com.

     

MONEY home improvement

8 Home Upgrades That Are Worth the Splurge

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Peter Zoeller—Getty Images

Whether strictly for resale value or for your own enhanced quality of life, these home features pay off.

In the real estate game, there are home features that always win (a great kitchen, a gorgeous master bath) and others that … well, don’t. (Almost anyone who’s owned an in-ground pool will regale you with the costly horrors.)

When you start thinking about home upgrades, these are the eight features that are worth the splurge, whether strictly for resale value or for your own enhanced quality of life.

1. A fancy new front door

Location, location, location is certainly important, but also: curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal. One of the quickest and least expensive ways to change the look of your abode is to switch up your front door.

Remove that rusty storm door and swap in a new steel-reinforced model in a bright, contrasting color; high-gloss hues are especially appealing. If your home is a lighter color, consider stripping the paint off your existing door and then staining it dark ebony for a dramatic contrast.

2. Professional landscaping

A serious landscaping upgrade is almost always worth the cost. Front plantings significantly improve initial impressions of your home, especially when they’re installed by a professional. Landscape architects not only know how to maximize planting space and choose appropriate foliage based on your soil type, but they also can put in lighting, pathways, and fencing for extra flair. (Rule of thumb: More is often more, as long as it doesn’t obscure your home’s exterior.)

And black thumbs, rest assured: Landscape architects will leave you with long-term strategies on maintaining and pruning your newfound greenery.

3. High-quality wood deck

Speaking of outdoor space: Think of a new back deck as a lower-cost expansion of your home. In warmer months, a new deck can add hundreds of extra square feet to your living area. You don’t need elaborate patio furniture or decor to make an outside space feel alluring; throw rugs, floor pillows, and string lighting do the job nicely.

And potential buyers are always fans of nice outdoor spaces — the ROI on a deck or patio is higher than on many other home improvements.

4. Extra bedrooms

Sure, it’s fun to think creatively about that empty attic space. (A recording studio, perhaps?) But when it comes time to list your place, an extra bedroom is a surefire draw.

Buyers always covet extra rooms, whether for future children or houseguests, and you’ll instantly attract those shopping in a higher budget range. Strange man caves, on the other hand, can turn off prospective buyers; even home offices prove unappealing to many, especially those who don’t work remotely and don’t want to redo the space.

5. Kitchen refresh

Well-appointed, newer kitchens are a guaranteed hit among buyers. Here’s the trick: Keep the renovations on the lower-cost side — a huge remodel rarely pays out in the ways you hope.

Instead, paint or replace the cabinet fronts, swap in higher-end drawer pulls, replace the countertops, upgrade an appliance or two, and replace or refinish any worn-out flooring. If you add detailing like a backsplash, keep it as neutral as possible, lest your design preferences turn off future buyers.

6. A bold garage door

Here’s another upgrade you might not have considered. Changing your garage door can change the look of your whole house.

If your car is one you’re proud of, think about swapping in a glass-paneled door; even minimalist windows help break up the lines of your home. A bold accent color can also add to your home’s aesthetic appeal.

7. New siding

There’s a twofold effect here. First, by updating your home’s siding, you’ll improve the home’s appearance, especially if the old siding is worn or warped, while avoiding the future maintenance costs of repainting.

Today’s siding options are far improved over those of previous generations: They’re fade-resistant and low-gloss, and some varieties even come with a grain pattern so as to more closely resemble natural wood. New siding can also improve the energy efficiency of your home, saving you money over the long term — and you can always document those energy upgrades for prospective buyers down the line.

8. Hardware, paint, and fixtures

You don’t need a five-figure budget to subtly upgrade the look and feel of your home. Instead, swap out the ceiling lights, upgrade your bath fixtures, change the doorknobs, and replace your mirrors; even changing the light bulbs will alter the ambiance. It can be worth it to splurge on the little things that buyers notice.

And of course, repainting rooms can refresh your home’s color palette. But when it comes time to sell, consider choosing neutral shades so potential future owners can project their own visions onto the space.

Read next: 5 Home Upgrades That Just Aren’t Worth It

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