When you have a home on the market and start cleaning out the rooms and making everything presentable, one area that often gets overlooked is the garage. In fact, the garage sometimes ends up looking worse as it’s used as a storage spot for items from other areas of the home.
The problem with this centers around the fact that many buyers care about the garage, and if they don’t see a place where they can envision parking their car, setting up a workspace or storing their own stuff, it could put a damper on a possible sale.
After all, a cluttered or messy garage may send the wrong message to a prospective buyer, as it’s next to impossible to visualize what a garage can offer if all buyers see are old boxes, oily floors and junk piled everywhere.
However, a clean garage can subconsciously imply that you take better than average care of your home. It may also give a feeling of newness to a property.
Start by getting rid of everything you don’t need. For years, the garage has probably been the dumping ground for old clothes, unused gym equipment and broken toys and appliances. Either donate things to a local charity, hold a garage sale, sell things on Craigslist, or put it all on the curb for pickup. The idea is to minimize the best you can.
While you don’t have to remove everything, you should organize your belongings. Start by getting a bunch of cartons or crates and storing everything neatly. This means putting all your holiday decorations together, placing your garden tools in one spot and putting all those trash bags full of nicely folded clothes inside a container.
Lighting is vital to a garage, as most tend to be dull and drab. Replace light bulbs in all the fixtures with the highest wattage allowed, and if the only light operates on a pull string, replace it so that it’s not dull. If your garage has windows, keep them clean so the light shines in.
If you really want to go all out, some larger upgrades include adding industrial flooring, painting the walls and ceiling and replacing any parts of the garage door that are rusty and not working properly. Also, if you have an automatic garage opener, check to make sure the batteries work.
While it’s true that no one is probably looking at photos of the garage when they do their initial search for homes they want to visit, once a house hunter comes in and sees your dreamy garage, it could be the final factor in selling your home.
If a kitchen renovation is on your radar screen, and you plan to stay in your home long-term, you can figure on spending $20,000 or more – especially if you plan to rip out counters and re-configure your space.
But if you’re thinking of upgrades that increase your home’s resale value, as well as your own enjoyment, there’s a lot you can do at minimal cost to bring your kitchen up to date.
Designers advise putting your money into six specific areas to get the most bang for your update buck:
- Appliances – Replace basic white or black appliances with stainless steel, which will not only update the look of your kitchen but will likely be more energy efficient.
- Cabinets – It’s amazing what a coat of white paint will do to make your kitchen pop. But if tired, old cabinets are beyond painting, re-facing them will save you big bucks over replacing them.
- Hardware – Replacing standard cabinet hardware with fresh, bold designs is the easiest (read, ‘cheapest’) way to upgrade the look of any kitchen. Choose hardware that’s trendy, like brass, which is making a comeback, or contemporary styles that make a statement.
- Countertops – High end stone and ornate beveling is in vogue and expensive, but granite is becoming more affordable. Shop around for a good deal and this upgrade may cost less than you think.
- Backsplash – A snazzy backsplash is a focal point in the kitchen, and the right one can draw the eye away from kitchen flaws that might otherwise be glaring. Choose subway tile, which is a classic and sought-after option, or add a splash of color with a variety of reasonable materials available at most home stores.
- Lighting – An instant style makeover can be as simple as replacing that old overhead fixture with recessed lighting, under-counter lighting, and/or new accent lighting over a breakfast bar or kitchen table.
Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home, or you simply want it to look its best, check out these quick, inexpensive, and often do-it-yourself upgrades that personal finance editors at Bankrate.com suggest will do the job without putting you in the poorhouse:
Start with curb appeal. It provides the first impression of your home. Keep the lawns mowed, the shrubbery trimmed and the walkway clear. Adding potted plants to the front porch and/or putting in a weekend to add a colorful flower bed can be well worth the cost in curb appeal.
Spiff up the entry. If you can’t afford a new front door, put a fresh coat of paint on the existing one. Add a handsome, substantial-looking handle and lock set, because a nice, big piece of hardware on your front door adds a look of solidity to any home.
Make your kitchen cook. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones. If the budget can handle it, think about replacing or re-facing old cabinet doors, or giving the old ones a coat of paint.
Give appliances a facelift. If your appliances don’t match, check with the manufacturers. You may be able to order and easily install new face panels.
Buff up the bath. Simple things like a new toilet seat or a pedestal sink can make a big difference. A bathtub renewal or re-grouting doesn’t cost much, and DIY floor replacement is a snap today with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles.
Look underfoot. Professional carpet cleaning is a good investment, but think about replacing your worn carpeting or adding area rugs to update the look. Or, if the budget will allow, consider replacing that old carpeting with wood or look-alike flooring.
Let in the light. Take advantage of natural light by opening or removing heavy draperies. Replace outdated light fixtures with attractive new ones, perhaps one with fan blades in the kitchen.
The higher a down payment is on a house, the cheaper the mortgage will be. It’s simple math.
The traditional down payment of 20 percent for a house is just that — traditional. There are all types of loans that can range from zero down to 3, 5 or 10 percent of a home’s purchase price required upfront as a down payment.
Saving big — such as 20 percent — is a smart way to prepare to buy a house because the more money that’s put down, the more favorable the loan terms can be. Whatever amount you want to come up with for a down payment, there are different ways to save for it. Here are a few:
Divide it into increments
Let’s say you’re planning to save for five years before you buy a house. If you want to save $50,000 for a down payment, you’ll need to save $10,000 per year. Divide that by 12 and your monthly savings goal is $833.
However you accomplish it, that’s your monthly goal — saving $833 per month. It’s a big number, but it’s a lot smaller than seeing the ultimate goal of $50,000, and is easier to comprehend than an annual $10,000 goal. With that goal in mind, your next step is to figure out how to get there each month.
Save money everywhere you can
Any expenses you can save can add up to monthly savings — as long as you put that savings aside in a savings account for your down payment fund.
Look at cutting cable TV, cell phone service, gardening and housecleaning bills, and any other expenses that can either be cut back or eliminated. Put the difference in your savings account.
Work extra and sell your extra stuff
Two people can save for a house by working an extra two hours per day. There are all kinds of jobs in the “gig economy,” from dog walking to house sitting, driving Uber, tutoring and selling a service or product online.
If you have extra stuff that you’re not using anymore, sell it online. If your old bike is collecting dust and is in good shape or can be repaired inexpensively, chances are someone will buy it.
Whatever extra money you make, invest it and let it work for you for the next five years. Compound interest from a mutual fund that you contribute to monthly can grow a lot faster than a savings account can.
Before investing, know that you can lose some or possibly all of your investment. So only invest as much money as you’re willing to risk losing. The longer you invest, the more likely you are to ride out market volatility and meet your financial goals.