Whether you just bought a house or you have lived there for a while, the fastest way to increase your home’s value is by making a plan. Never start working on a project without having your resources and your broad picture in mind. Do your homework first and you will fare better if upgrades are made intentionally and not on impulse. Home improvement projects cost about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar. The other 75 to 80 cents spent go directly back into the home through increased value. So many homeowners are remodeling homes in this current market because they can’t sell for the price they want or need.

List the things you want to change and the updates you would like to make. Don’t worry about organization, just write it all down. Take a guess on how long you may want to live in the house. This will affect how much you want to invest in updating or remodeling the property.

Take the list and categorize the projects by how much they may cost, including your time and money. It’s OK to list an outdoor tennis court, but keep your financial picture in mind. Collect pictures of home projects you like and do some research on-line. Once you have a categorized list, prioritize what is “must have” and what is a dream. See if you can find a reasonable balance. Then prioritize the must-haves.

Doing small home improvements can really pay off. Are you torn between improving your home’s decor, versus making upgrades you know will increase your home’s resale value? Many homeowners are surprised to hear that doing a little bit of both will actually pay off.

Start by making two lists — upgrades for your home value and upgrades just for you. Upgrades for your home may consist of replacing old faucets, permanent lighting and doors. Upgrades for you are furniture, artwork and window treatments. Gone is the dartboard approach to picking projects and wondering if what you are doing is really making a difference. With this plan, you will see real progress.

Once you have a plan, talk to your Coldwell banker realtor to see what sort of return those improvements may bring. Some will add considerably more value to your home than others. This is an important step, because a professional realtor will know what is of value in your community.

Almost any realtor will say that the #1 upgrade with the greatest return is the kitchen.

* Do a mini-remodel. Change the paint. It sounds simple, but it works. You can also paint a faux-wood finish onto your cabinets.

*Add a splash of color with a new backsplash. New tile is attractive. Home improvement stores teach classes on this.

*Stainless Steel appliances are popular now – The cold feel and look of steel are a hot ticket item for buyers. *Transition your appliances as they wear out and go with a similar metallic look in your light switches.

*Hang a pot rack with fresh new pots, pans and a hanging wine bottle holder.

*Add a rolling island.

In our next Thursday Tips post, we’ll explore the benefits of remodel vs selling. Stay tuned.