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What's the one thing you can do to increase the value of your home the most?

Increase Home Value
A well-landscaped yard is a cost-effective way to increase the value of your home.
A well-landscaped yard is a cost-effective way to increase the value of your home.
Rob Kendrick/Aurora/Getty Images

Home improvement projects needn't break your bank account. While a remodeled kitchen, a deck or a second-floor addition can really increase your home's value, these improvements can require most homeowners to take out a loan to complete them. There are other ways to increase your home's value with much less money.

Chief among them is landscaping. A well-landscaped home adds what real estate agents call curb appeal. A good first impression on a prospective buyer can charm him or her into looking past other, larger flaws. Adding new plants and taking care of existing ones can go a long way to creating that curb appeal.

It can also directly benefit a seller at the closing table. A Virginia Tech study, which surveyed homes in seven states, showed that high-quality landscaping (professional-quality and detail-oriented) can increase the value of your home by as much as 12.7 percent. This means that a home without landscaping valued at $150,000 could be increased in worth by over $19,000 just with a few thousand dollars of deliberate landscaping [source: Virginia Cooperative Extension].

Landscaping is one of those projects that you can do yourself, but the study warns to think twice before putting shovel to earth. The researchers found that poorly installed or minimal landscaping could actually decrease the value of a home. High design proved to be the most important aspect to landscaping among the study's respondents. Houses with foundation plantings (abutting the house), as well as separate islands, specimen plants (centerpiece, often exotic, plants) and trees scored the highest in the survey. This may be more than the average homeowner can do alone, and it may be a wise choice to invest in the services of a professional landscaping company to carry out the project.

Whether you invest in a new landscape for your home or not, be sure to pay attention to your home's exterior before you put it on the market. All of those little flaws that you've grown accustomed to over the years can chase away prospective home buyers. Some in the real estate business even suggest that small cosmetic improvements should take priority over important, yet unnoticeable improvements [source: Bankrate]. Choosing to install a new roof should be your first choice over renovating your home's electrical wiring, for example.

But improvements don't have to be so grand -- or expensive -- as a new roof. Taking extra care of your lawn, getting rid of clutter and making sure that your gutters are in good shape are simple ways to increase the value of your home. Keeping existing shrubs trimmed can also transform a house from dreary to cheery, with little effort and minimal cost. Painting your front door, adding a nice knocker, laying out a new welcome mat and potting some bright flowers can also add to your home's curb appeal.

Curb appeal is all about perception, and by creating a good perception of your home can increase its value. Remodeling and landscaping your home before you put it on the market can have a big impact on the final sale price. But so can small repairs: A real estate tenet states that for every dollar you would have spent on an improvement project, but didn't, will cost you two dollars at the closing table [source: Forbes].

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