There are several smart ways to invest in your home right now to help hold or increase its value. Here are expert tips from seasoned real estate professionals on home improvement projects that pay off, whether you are selling now or in the future.

 

1. Spruce up the house. You don’t necessarily need to deep-clean under furniture or worry about a few dirty dishes – this won’t hurt your home’s value. But visible insects and that messy project in the garage might. “Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls — those do affect value and are part of the property’s overall condition rating,” said Dean Zibas, the president and chief appraiser for Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, Calif. In other words, think broom clean, not set design for a home-decorating magazine.

2. Curb appeal also matters, so rake the leaves, hack those weeds and trim those hedges. “This can also help offset your house from unfair comparisons with foreclosures nearby. In today’s climate, I can’t stress enough: condition, condition, condition,” said Doreen Zimmerman, an appraiser in Paradise, Calif. “An hour or two, for the most part, will set your home apart in the actual picture that the lender gets from the appraiser versus the actual picture that the appraiser will provide of the (foreclosure) down the street.”

3. Keep a list of all the improvements and updates you’ve made and be ready to hand it over; a sketch plan or blueprint of the house indicating square footage also helps. “Have a list of updates done within the past 15 years. Itemize each update with the approximate date and approximate cost. Also highlight the notable features of the property,” says Matthew George, the chief appraiser of Eagle Appraisals in Denver. Every detail matters.

4. Be mindful of peeling paint. Loans insured by government agencies, such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Veterans Administration, will require peeling paint to be removed in houses built before 1978.

5. Focus. “Don’t spend money that won’t yield a return on the investment. The best expenditures for most markets are paint, carpet, light and plumbing fixtures,” George says. Prioritize what you do; if you’re the type of homeowner who has upgraded and fixed items as they broke, you should be fine.

There are many improvements you can make on a budget that can greatly affect your appraisal, and the appeal of your home. Spend your time and money wisely, and your work will pay off in the end.