6 Improvements That Will Get You Top Dollar on Your Home (and 1 That Is the Kiss of Death), According to a Real Estate Expert

Big moment: You’re finally ready to spruce up your house and get it ready to sell. (After all, it’s a seller’s market right now.) But which home improvements are most likely to boost your list price—and what are the not-worth-it renovations that are only going to set you back? We chatted with Rachel Stults, lifestyle expert at to get her take.

8 Things First-Time Homeowners Never Realize

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Worth It: A Fire Pit

There’s huge demand right now for upgrades that maximize your yard, such as outdoor kitchens, outdoor living rooms, even features as simple to add as a fire pit. “The more you can do to make your backyard feel like an extension of your home, the more attractive your home will be to buyers—and the more money you can fetch,” says Stults.

Worth It: Landscaping

Curb appeal isn’t just about your home’s exterior paint color. Landscaping—say, a pristine-looking lawn or making the effort to plant shrubs in vibrant colors that pop—actually counts for a lot, says Stults.

Worth It: A Home Office

Thanks to COVID-19 and the increasing option to work from home, this space is more important than ever before, Stults explains. Buyers are eager to see a dedicated home office in the listing, and sellers are quick to highlight them. If you don’t have this space already carved out on your property, it pays to do what you can to stage one, says Stults. “Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can make a home office in a nook under the stairs, in an unused part of the dining room, or even in a closet,” she explains. “In fact, there’ a big surge on Pinterest right now for inspiration around designing a ‘cloffice’—a portmanteau of the word ‘office’ and ‘closet.’”

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Worth It: Your Driveway and Sidewalks

According to Stults, you’d be surprised what a difference removing any weeds popping up through cracks can make. Other low-lift improvements: Patching the concrete and finishing it with a sealer. Also, a pro trick to make the pics you snap for your listing more photogenic: “Hose down your driveway and walkway for a fresh look that sparkles,” Stults explains. (For ground-in stains, it may be worth renting a pressure washer for the day—they’re usually about $40 at home improvement stores like Home Depot.)

Worth It: Kitchen Light Fixtures

The kitchen consistently ranks as one of the most important rooms in your home to focus on upgrading, says Stults. (If you take on even a minor kitchen remodel, you’ll likely recoup 78 percent of your costs, she adds.) But if you can swing an entire reno, there are certain spots where you’ll see a major impact. Top of the list? Light fixtures. Or you could simply change out the hardware on your cabinets and drawers. A new backsplash—even a temporary peel-and-stick one—can make a difference on the sale price of your home.

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Worth It: Hygienic Bathroom Features

The bathroom is another room in your house where you’ll see a major impact on the price of your home. With the pandemic on everyone’s minds, a face lift that includes changes that prioritize hygiene is a win right now. “Look into installing smart lights or touchless faucets,” says Stults. “You might even consider installing a bidet—after all, who knows when we’ll have a toilet paper shortage again?”

Not Worth It: Anything Too Personalized

Yes, painting and retiling will usually pay off, says Stults, but zeroing in on a paint color or tile pattern that’s too specific or bold can backfire. “You might be obsessed with all things purple, but a potential buyer will only see your purple passion project as walls that need to be repainted or tile that needs to be ripped up.”

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...