Picking the right spring projects to tackle this season could sell your home faster—and at a higher price.
It might be hard to believe, but spring is just around the corner, and that means homeowners around the country are prepping to sell their homes. As you consider selling your property and getting it ready to go to market, you’re likely toiling over which improvement projects to invest in and which to skip.
A recent study commissioned by Zillow and executed by The Harris Poll has some surprising insights into which of these spring projects most homeowners chose to tackle. Paired with data from Thumbtack, a home management platform, these findings show which projects can be most valuable while you’re preparing to sell your home—and just how much homeowners pay to get these projects done.
The Zillow study concludes that upgrades like fresh paint, carpeting, and landscaping are some of the most common ways to invest in your property. But it also found that about 30 percent of homeowners regretted not doing more projects before listing, saying they believed some fixes would have yielded a higher sale price.
Whatever you decide to do with your home, now is the time to start. “If you’re thinking about selling your home during the spring home shopping season, start rolling up your sleeves and get busy now,” says Zillow’s home trends expert Amanda Pendleton. “These projects always take longer than you think. This is prime time.”
The Top Spring Projects for Home Sellers
The Zillow survey shows that people who sold their home within the past two years most commonly completed interior painting (40% do this), carpet cleaning (35%), and landscaping (33%) before listing their properties. According to the accompanying Thumbtack data, the average seller spent $1,432 to paint their interior, $174 to clean their carpets, and $3,782 to landscape their yard. It bears mentioning that Thumbtack data shows sellers who replaced their carpets, instead of simply cleaning them, spent $1,679 to do so.
Looking at this data is a good indicator of what other sellers around you may be putting on their to-do lists: If every other seller of a comparable home in your area has a freshly painted home while your walls are a little faded, your home won’t be able to compete for buyers’ attention as much, which could dim your prospects. Consider what other sellers are doing and identify the main areas of improvement in your home. Hopefully, there’s some overlap between those two lists, which can give you a good sense of where to focus your home improvement energies.
The amount of money you spend on these projects can vary, but what’s important is that you choose the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your home’s appearance and cleanliness. “If you’re thinking only about resale you want to be smart,” Pendleton says. “Choose projects that make your home clean, safe, and functional.”
The good news is, many of these projects have DIY potential.
“Don’t have the money to hire a painter? Consider a paint party,” says Scott Beaudry, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Universal. “There’s nothing like friends and pizza to accomplish the job.”
In the Zillow survey, about 27% of respondents opted to remodel their kitchen before selling their property. It cost the average seller about $10,355 to do so, making kitchen updates the heftiest project on the list—but not necessarily the most valuable, as Pendleton says that the average kitchen remodel only earns about 50 cents on the dollar during resale.
Beaudry says if you want to spruce up the kitchen but can’t afford updates like all-new cabinets, consider having them repainted instead. “There is no reason to break the bank here,” Beaudry says. “Be sure to consider projects that update the home rather than involve a complete remodel.”
Focusing on Curb Appeal
The 33% of sellers who focused on curb appeal updates were on the right track: Curb appeal is one of the key features that can draw a potential buyer into your home, whether they’ve seen a for sale sign while driving past your property or your listing photos caught their eye. Yards are also a major selling point for buyers nowadays, as families who were cooped up at home in 2020 and 2021 saw new value in having a larger lot with more outdoor space.
“Simply put, an outdoor space is now an essential extension of the indoor space,” Beaudry says. “The pandemic has caused a reimagination of not just the indoor space, but the outdoor space as well. Entertaining is not just an indoor thing, it’s an outdoor thing as well. And it’s not just about entertaining: Self-enjoyment is just as important [an aspect], if not the most important aspect, of an outdoor space.”
While landscaping proves to be the most expensive of the top three spring projects, according to the Zillow and Thumbtack data, it might just be the investment potential buyers are most interested in.
“When deciding on what outdoor projects to take on to increase that curb appeal, view it from a buyer perspective,” Beaudry says. “I often suggest the acronym PLACE: Paint, Landscape, Appealing, Clean, Enjoy. These are all the things prospective homeowners consider when purchasing, so why not consider it as a seller.”
Pendleton says staging your backyard is all about showing a potential buyer how your space can be enjoyed. That might mean adding a patio or an outdoor dining area so they can envision parties in the space. Zillow data shows that homes with pizza ovens in the backyard sell for 2.3% more than expected, she says. Additionally, an outdoor kitchen sells a property for 2.2% more and a firepit can boost the sale price by 1.8%.
Other Springtime Projects to Consider
It might not be among the most-completed tasks, but Beaudry suggests hiring a pro to do a full inspection of your home before you list it.
“Many simple and not so simple repairs can be found with proper inspections,” he says. “As a homeowner, we sometimes don’t see the little things, and again, the not so little things that can threaten a home sale and are paramount to a successful closing.”
You can also take advantage of that spring cleaning mindset by clearing out clutter before listing.
“There’s nothing worse for a buyer than not seeing the home and the potential it has in store for them because of an overabundance of furniture and personal items,” Beaudry says. “Consider a garage sale to reduce those unneeded items and make a few bucks at the same time.”
And if you’re worried about getting to every project on the list, don’t stress. “These are strategic improvements,” Pendleton says. “You have to prioritize these things because you can’t do them all. Just look where you can make a biggest impact.”
Kristine Gill, Better Homes & Gardens