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Home improvements: sell or stay

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Are you thinking of downsizing from your current home or getting another place that better fits your needs? Deciding whether or not to make improvements to your house and stay, or upgrade and sell can be tough. First is the emotional factor. Maybe your kids grew up in that house, you've celebrated years of occasions there and it's filled with great memories. If that's the case, it could be right for you to make some improvements and stay put.

Or perhaps you're not emotionally tied to your home and you're fine with keeping those memories with you, no matter where you live. You need to consider if selling will be a good return on your investment — especially if you need to upgrade or remodel to put it on the market. Also think about if you can really afford to buy another place. Consider the equity you have in your home, the cost of housing, as well as the cost of selling a home and moving.

Whether you sell or stay, big home improvement projects are expensive — with the average kitchen remodel costing $25,535 and the average bathroom remodel costing $10,776. But not all home improvements have to be pricy.

With a few hours, a little elbow grease and less than $1,000, here are seven changes you can make to improve the functionality, enjoyment and value of your home:

1. If it's broke, fix it.

Of course, if you have crumbling foundation or a leaky roof, those are potentially costly expenses that should be your first priority. But if those types of major fixes aren't an issue, taking care of the smaller ones should make the top of your list. Tighten that leaky faucet, oil the squeaky back door or have your local hardware store fix the hole in your window screen. Taking care of those small fixes now — helps avoid them becoming bigger, more costly issues later.

2. Add a fresh coat of paint.

For less than $50 and a Saturday afternoon, a fresh coat of paint can have a big impact. If you're thinking of selling, choose a neutral, buyer‑friendly color.

3. Love your lawn

If your lawn has bare or weedy patches, seed small patches or add sod to larger areas. Just be sure to water your grass thoroughly until it's well‑established.

4. Add some landscaping

Add some low-cost plantings to your yard, focusing particularly on the front yard. Do a little homework first to make sure you choose plants that are appropriate for your area and low maintenance. Then surround your plants with fresh mulch to lock in moisture and ward off weeds.

5. Up your curb appeal

Look at the front of your home with a critical eye to see what features might be past their prime. Touch up any peeling paint on the front porch, and swap out the old porch light, house numbers or rusty mailbox. Finish off the refresh with a new door mat, a couple pots of bright-colored flowers or a seasonal wreath.

6. Tweak the kitchen or bathroom

If you don't want to invest in a full kitchen or bathroom remodel, you can still make a big impact with some smaller changes. Start by replacing the most outdated or least‑functioning thing in the room — maybe a new pedestal sink in the bathroom or a stainless steel sink in the kitchen. Then swap out outdated cabinet knobs, replace or scrub dirty switch plates and get yourself a new shower curtain or kitchen rug. For not a lot of cash, your space will feel brand‑new.

7. Mirror mirror

Try hanging an oversized mirror on the wall for a quick and easy change. If the mirror is positioned strategically, it can make a small room feel twice as large or a dark room feel twice as bright.

A big change, such as moving, could mean a potential change in your retirement strategy. Speak with your financial professional to make sure your retirement plans stay on track.

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