Report #3 – The Top 10 Improvements you can make for return on investment

Hi everyone, and thanks so much for reading my third report in the series.  Today I will try to keep it somewhat short and sweet, which is very unlike me, as you know.  So often when I go to view a home as a potential new listing, the Seller goes through with me an exhaustive list of the expensive improvements they’ve done to the home, just in the last 5 years alone.  Upgrading the attic insulation, replacing the windows with high efficiency low-e glass, converting to a high efficiency heating systems etc.  In the end, the return on investment for those types of things is really near to zero, which I can tell you first hand is NOT what those people wanted to hear.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t do those things.  In fact, I did many of those at my own home, from the 15K I spent on the heating system on down.  The key is that when you do them, you do them for YOU, and with no anticipation that one day they might help with resale value.

Instead, there are some very, very easy things you can do, most of them incredibly inexpensive, which will generate huge multiples of return.  When I come to see a potential new listing for the first time, I usually will look at the home with an eye for the following question: “What can I have my seller do to the property for $X that will get us five times $X when we put it on the market?”  Here are just a few of those things, mixed in with some of the larger long-term project you might consider as well.

As always, if I can answer any questions, or be of any assistance to you, your colleagues, or your friends, please feel free to reach out.  I bring to the table a track record of close to 30 years as one of the top Realtors in the nation, and 10 years as the #1 REMAX Agent in the 5-state New England region.   Real estate remains one of the few fields in the world, where a consumer can hire someone with that kind of experience, for the same price as one with no experience whatsoever.  I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been faced with that choice in my life, I’ve always chosen to go the route of the experienced professional in any field.

Without further adieu, here’s my list for you.

1. Cleaning and de-cluttering, and then doing it all one more time!    I’m a huge believer in the adage that less is more, and you can’t believe what a difference it makes to just get things out of there.  Rent a pod, rent a dumpster and then I’ll teach you some secret ways to make it all happen without lifting a finger.  The $800 you spend on that operation will probably earn you back $15-20K.

2. Lighten and brighten – I love conserving energy, but not when you’re selling your home. Now is the time to find bulbs that make your home seem like the surface of the sun.   Swap out the old brass lighting fixtures that came with the house, and grab some new ones at HD for under $50 each.  The whole house will just sparkle as a result.  Also get rid of any old dark window treatments, and just grab some sheers from Walmart.

3. Yard – Now’s a great time of year for fresh mulch, trimming back trees and shrubs, planting flowers, and all the things that make a house super special.  This includes repairing walkways and patios, painting the deck, and anything else that makes the home more appealing as you walk up to the front door.  $1000 spent here could be worth another 5-10K.

4. Plumbing and electrical – So many of our homes still have the same faucets, sinks, and toilet seats that have been there for decades.  The funny thing is that they’re often so cheap to replace. Last month I brought in my crews to a home that needed updating, and they sprayed the pink tub white, painted the pink tile, put in a new sink and counter, and a new lino floor.  It cost under $500 per bathroom and looked like a top dollar renovation.

5. Stop Smoking Please – If you don’t do it because one day it’ll kill you, then do it because when you smoke in your home the value drops, sometimes by 20-30K.  If you insist on smoking, go on a long, long walk (not on the back deck.)

6. Update kitchen and bath – Update kitchen and baths by dropping in new granite counters. Very cheap to do and adds a fortune in value.  Your only downside is that you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner!  Some stainless steel appliances from the Sears outlet, a new backsplash, and even with the original cabinets it’ll look brand new.

7. Paint interior – I really should have put this as #1 on the list, because nothing costs less, or yields more than paint.  I have a painting crew that handles all of my new listings, and they’re just brilliant, as well as affordable.  They know their job is max return, minimum investment and they’ve never let me down.

8. Carpeting – Same thing with carpet.  When I bring in some of my favorite carpet folks and set them loose to make everything brand new neutral beige, it’s like nothing you can imagine. For a couple thousand dollars, again you may get 10k back in return.

9. Electrical – This isn’t so much an improvement, as it is saving you from bigger expenses down the road.  If your home is over 10 years old, or has had work done, bring in an electrician to go through the circuit breaker box and fix any issues, double tapped breakers etc.  That way you won’t have to deal with it later after the home inspection.

10. Last one is Me! – I hate to put myself last, but then it helps underscore my point.  While these are a few quick ideas, I have dozens more..from hitting up exterior trim with bondo, to dry-ice pellets in the attic.  No two homes are every the same, and so my top tip is to let me walk through sooner, rather than later, clipboard in hand, and work with you to put together a custom list of ideas to start with.  That way, we’ll all be on the same page, you won’t waste money on things that don’t have payback, and I’ll have an easier sale down the road.  Besides that, of course, I have my recommended vendors that will actually show up, which is more of an issue these days then you might think.

Thanks again for reading everyone.  Remember, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.  You can reach me by email at or on my cell phone (508) 735-4663

In the meantime, here’s a video with some more things you might enjoy.



About Steve Levine

For nearly three decades, Steve Levine of REMAX Professional Associates, has been one of the top Real Estate agents in the Central Massachusetts. A ten-time honoree as #1 REMAX Agent in New England, he brings to the table the experience that comes from working successfully with over 2000 Buyers and Sellers, through all types of real estate markets. Adept at everything from land development, to custom home building, to residential single family and condo sales, his “can do” approach has made him one of the most sought after agents in the region.

A consummate marketing aficionado, and recognized as one of the most innovative Realtors in the industry, he has spoken nationally on many occasions, training other real estate agents on customer service, marketing, and web presence, and is currently developing a suite of instructional videos designed to enable agents to take their business to the next level.

When not out selling Massachusetts’s real estate, Steve is a passionate photographer, musician and writer, and is constantly looking for new ways to express himself.

For a private consultation on your Massachusetts real estate needs, he can be reached by email at, by phone at 508 735-4663.

You can also check out his photography website at