The typical homeowner wants to spruce up her property when she's ready to sell. At least the smart ones do. She knows buyers can have oversized expectations and long wish lists.

But... where to start? The kitchen? The bath? Paint? Carpet? Roofing? Windows?

Don't be that homeowner who chooses the projects she always dreamed of tackling while she lived in the house. Choose the projects that give you the best return on your money when it's selling time.

Here are five home improvements that do just that.

Garage fronts can get ugly

It may not sound all that exciting, but replacing your garage overhead door can actually be quite thrilling in terms of its effect on your final selling price. Because...curb appeal.

According to Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost vs. Value report, switching out your outdated garage door for a new one will probably pay for itself once your home sells. Not only can it improve the look of your exterior, but it can also have a positive effect on your insulation, and therefore, decrease monthly energy costs. Buyers' agents will research energy bills for their clients, so look for ways now that you can reduce your utility bills.

As a bonus, this project doesn't have to be expensive, and can take only as much time as it takes to phone a company that installs garage doors.

If you are on a budget, and there is nothing structurally wrong with your existing doors, painting them is simple, inexpensive, and a quick DIY project. I've painted many garage doors and can show you how.

A garage overhead door and driveway are
often most of what people see for the front view
 of a home. Photo: Decorative Concrete Orlando.

Clean baths look newer

Buyers might love a completely new bathroom, but does it work in your favor to give it to them? Unless you've owned your home long enough for it to have appreciated handsomely, or you bought it for a song, or you've inherited the home debt-free, you'll have a hard time financially justifying a total bath do-over.

There are still some inexpensive upgrades that can make a bath look new. I recently purchased a low-flow toilet at Lowes on sale for about $100. It took a handyman an hour to remove the old one and install the new one.

Bath vanities and pedestal sinks can be are thrifty purchases as well. Many baths are small enough that a sheet vinyl remnant at a floor covering store will be a worthwhile expense for the newness it brings to the room.

Even simple changes like adding a shiny new faucet and shower head, replacing old towel bars with a matching set of new ones, putting up a trendy new overhead light, or hanging a beautiful mirror will make the whole room seem fresher. These are the kinds of changes that can go a long way toward bumping your home above the comparable ones buyers are touring.

The thrifty alternative is to take care of just what's going to give buyers what most buyers crave -- a clean, functional, attractive, and comfortable space with some wow tossed in. Sometimes, all it takes is a thorough cleaning followed by re-grouting tile or re-caulking around the tub for the facelift that impresses people.

Don't forget the power of paint.


Flooring changes everything

Floor surface makes up a big percentage of what a person sees and feels when he enters a room. Is it stylish? Comfortable? Quiet? Suitable for the room?

If you answered no to any of these, maybe a replacement is what you need to spring for. Don't assume flooring changes will be expensive. There are some flooring updates that won't set you back and can really make a difference when you list.

One selling point your listing can brag about is sustainable flooring. Linoleum flooring can last for more than 40 years if properly maintained and can be made to mimic all kinds of styles. There's even an eco-friendly kind, Marmoleum, that will appeal to a lot of families.

To keep costs low, see if you can lay a new floor on top of the old one.

Smart rehabbers develop a working relationship with a flooring outlet. You can do the same. Explain that you are selling your home. Look for a deal. Then select wall color paint based on what bargain carpeting you select. New carpeting needn't be top of the line. An inexpensive carpet feels better with good padding underneath.

Hold off on sledgehammering

The kitchen is often the deal-breaker or -maker in a home sale. So it's only natural that you want to zero in on this room. Spend, but spend wisely.

A brand new refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and microwave will woo buyers, especially if all come from the same manufacturer. But you can save some money shopping for unmatched, scratch-and-dent models, and even by negotiating at places like Lowes and Home Depot.

If your cabinets were poor quality to begin with or have taken a beating over the years, it'll probably be a better investment to replace them entirely. Stock cabinets from home improvement stores will go a long way towards updating your kitchen but be prepared to have some muscle and know-how to yank the old and hang the new. And most handymen, carpenters, and contractors aren't cheap.

This kitchen designed by Lynn Donaldson features
two work surfaces -- a thin butcher block top on

the island and a solid surface countertop elsewhere. 
Instead, you may be able to replace or resurface just the door fronts for a totally new appearance. To save money, leave some cabinets off and replace them with open shelving on wall brackets.

If your kitchen cabinets are still in great condition, you can clean them, sand them down, and paint them to completely change their look. Adding new hardware can do wonders, too.

Is your countertop making your kitchen look old? Work with a local stone company to create a high-end look on a shoestring. Tell them you are fixing a house to sell. Ask for a discount and don't be too choosy about the pattern. Just make the colors work with the existing flooring.

If you have a kitchen island, remember that the top doesn't have to match the counter. Look for bargains.

You can buy a new stainless double sink for about $200, and even less than that for a flashy faucet.

Unless your kitchen is very large, chances are a gallon of paint will give your kitchen walls two fresh coats.

Don't even consider leaving in place wallpaper or -- gasp! -- floral wallpaper borders in your kitchen or anywhere else. Buyers will experience unpleasant 80's flashbacks. Wallpaper removal if free. 

The view from the street

Buyers want to view homes that welcome them from the very start. That's where landscaping plays a major role.

Healthy turf, trimmed beds, pruned shrubs --
it all adds up to a well-tended property
that looks easy to maintain. Photo: Unknown source
Most Realtors agree, a good-looking landscape is buyer bait. The stats say that spending 5% of the value of your home on landscaping can increase its resale value by 15%.

According to Money Magazine, if you work with professional landscapers and make good decisions with their advice, their cost could bring a recovery value of up to 200% when you sell.

But you don't have to go overhaul your yard and gardens to profit from improved landscaping. Just giving your home's exterior a good power wash will make a big difference. I also recommend putting a coat of paint on your front door. You don't have to change the color if it was a good choice originally.

Edge your mulched beds to give them a crisp look. Top-dress them with fresh mulch. Kill or pull any weeds. Tidy up shrubs that look too shaggy or overgrown. Remove unhealthy specimens. None of these tasks require a lot of cash or time yet the results will be dramatic.

Make more money when you sell

It's a common fallacy with homeowners that if a project is expensive it'll pay off in the end. These simple renovations prove that you don't have to spend a lot of money or time to reap benefits when you list. Frugal home improvements make sense. A dollar saved is a dollar profited. If you spend wisely, you'll leave the closing table with more in your pocket.

Are you staging your own home before going to market? You can get more thrifty and practical tips for staging your own home in my homestaging eBooks on how to sell your home faster and for a better price.

Top Photo: Lenox House Design