Whether you’re planning to sell your home or remain there indefinitely, it’s important to know that wear and tear can slowly erode your dwelling’s appeal.

Taken separately, faded kitchen cabinets, worn carpets, and walls that need painting may seem unimportant. However, as the need for improvements grows, your home gradually will lose its charm. If you’re planning to sell, this will reduce the amount that buyers are willing to pay. If you’re planning to stay, it will make your home less enjoyable to live in.

A home that has a lived-in look can be warm and inviting. The trick is not to cross the line from cozy to undesirable. It’s important to identify what needs to be updated and to follow through. If you live in a craftsman-style house you should take steps to preserve built-in cabinets, since they reflect the home’s architectural style. However, if your home contains inexpensive wood paneling that looks outdated and out of place, it’s time to make a change.

The same goes for an old shag carpet that doesn’t blend in with the rest of your décor. A set of furniture that has seen better days may hold great memories for you, but people who visit you will find it outdated.

Finding a Strategy for Updating Your Home

Although homeowner’s insurance can provide protection against disasters, such as hurricanes and fires, it’s up to you to do the routine upkeep that preserves a home’s livability. Updating your home doesn’t have to be costly, however. A few key improvement projects can make a big difference.

Here are five ideas for keeping your home up to date:

1. Clearing away the clutter

Sometimes all a home needs is a good cleaning, says Aaron Norris, vice president of The Norris Group, which purchases, remodels and sells homes.

It’s important to clear away any clutter that detracts from your home’s appeal. Too many wall hangings, countertop appliances, and collectibles can obscure the beauty that attracted you to your home in the first place.

“Clutter is something that takes away from the charm of a home,” explains Kentucky-based decorator Liz Toombs. “Clear it away. Visual clutter leads to stress and tends to make people not enjoy their space.”

If you’re trying to sell your home, prospective buyers won’t be able to visualize how their own furnishings will look if they feel overwhelmed by your clutter. Norris recalls one homeowner who filled his house with mounted hunting trophies. They made the house look more like a museum than a home and did nothing to attract buyers.  Even if you’re not trying to sell your home, there are benefits to removing the extra clutter in your home.

So what do you do with all your stuff? You can move it from living areas to an attic, a basement, or a garage, but eventually you will run out of space. To clear things away permanently, consider:

  • Donating unneeded items to thrift stores
  • Holding a garage sale
  • Selling items online
  • Renting a storage facility unit

2. Brightening your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. It’s where people cook, eat, and socialize.

“Many kitchens are the hub of the house,” says Toombs. “They’re where everyone tends to gather.”

You don’t have to make a huge investment to update a kitchen, says Gary Kent, a longtime real estate agent. You can resurface cabinets rather than replace them. This involves covering exposed wood surfaces with a new veneer.

Another inexpensive way to refresh your kitchen is to install new liners in cabinets and drawers. It also helps to give kitchens a deep cleaning. Be sure to include the floor, the counters, refrigerators, ovens, and stovetops. Don’t forget about the inside of appliances.

Replacing kitchen countertops can be costly. Before you decide to take that step, determine if your existing countertops can be cleaned or repaired. If you decide to replace them with heavy materials, such as stone, make sure your cabinets will support the weight. Remember, some countertop materials require extra maintenance. For example granite countertops may need to be resealed periodically.

3. Replacing worn carpets

It’s common for people to keep carpeting in place too long, says Toombs. A badly worn carpet can make an otherwise charming home seem neglected.

“If a carpet looks bad, it’s time to replace it,” she said. “That can change the whole aesthetic of the space.”

According to fixr.com, the average cost for carpeting with pads is $30 to $40 per square yard. Norris says installing new carpeting is one of the least expensive ways to update a home. He recommends staying away from light colors that show dirt.

If you’re thinking of selling your home, it’s better to go with a “neutral” color, such as brown or grey, Norris says. If you choose a brightly colored carpet, it may clash with a potential buyer’s furniture.

Many people who are planning to sell their homes buy inexpensive carpeting to save money. However, if you plan to remain in the home for several years, an inexpensive carpet will need to be replaced again. It’s better to go with a high-end product that’s resistant to wear, Norris says.

If you notice excessive carpet wear in a high-traffic area, perhaps you need a different type of flooring in that space, Norris adds. There are several durable floor choices. Consumer Reports notes that says vinyl flooring is resistant to stains, dents, scratches, and discoloration. And before you ask, “Isn’t that outdated?” know that vinyl has come a long way. Ceramic tile also is known for its durability.

4. Adding a fresh coat of paint

If you’re looking for the best home updating value, nothing tops repainting the interior, says Kent. Include your ceilings and you’ll have a home that both looks and smells fresh and new (as old paint can hold onto odors).

“I always recommend starting with paint,” says Toombs. “It can completely transform a space and it doesn’t require a contractor. It’s pretty cost effective.”

According to the Cost Helper, the cost of paint supplies for a 1,500-square-foot home ranges between $200 and $300 for average-quality products and $400 to $600 for high-quality paint. Primers help seal walls and prevent mold. However, you can skip this step if you buy a product that is both primer and paint in one.

If you do the painting yourself, take your time and make sure you have enough drop cloths to protect your furniture and flooring. If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes. Remember, anything you wear during your painting project is likely to be ruined, so choose old clothing.

If you hire a professional the project will cost more, but Norris says it’s worth it. The job will go more quickly with less spills and a better visual outcome.

If you don’t plan to sell your home, there’s no reason to stick with neutral colors, says Norris. You even can accent walls by adding a second color as your trim. Just be sure you choose colors you can live with.

5. Giving wood furniture a new look

With antique furniture, signs of wear can add to the charm. For non-antiques, signs of wear simply mean that your furniture needs to be replaced or repaired.

If your wood furniture has taken on a battered look, you can improve its appearance by refinishing it. This doesn’t require hiring a professional. Unfortunately, it does involve some labor-intensive sanding, followed by the application of paint or stain. For those who aren’t up to the task, Toombs suggests a short-cut.

Sometimes an older piece of furniture needs nothing more than a touch up with matching paint or stain, she says.

“It seems more daunting that it is,” she explains. “It really can be fun.”

Sometimes Toombs refinishes only the drawers to give dressers a new look. If you want to dress things up a bit more, remove the old knobs and replace them with new ones.

“Let’s say it’s an older dresser you’re using as a display piece in a hallway,” says Toombs. “You can pull the drawers out and choose a color that compliments the frame of the dresser. It requires some sanding and priming, but it isn’t nearly as labor intensive as doing the whole piece.”

Achieving a Charming Result

Keeping a home up to date is an ongoing process. Over time, all dwellings show signs of wear. Fortunately, a series of small improvements can give homes an updated appearance. If you maintain your dwelling properly, it never will lose its charm.

READ MORE: 10 Cheap Upgrades for a Fast Home Sale

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