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How to use your tax return to help you sell your house

Mia Simon

Selling your home this spring? Here are the upgrades you should make with your tax refund if you want to sell for more.

Yes, it’s tax refund season! Last year, the IRS reported an average refund of $3,120. That’s a pretty penny to spend on a new TV or an exotic vacation. However, if you plan on putting your home on the market this spring, you might want to consider a trip to the hardware store instead.

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Investing that tax refund back into your home before you sell can have a big payoff. Simple improvements, such as increasing curb appeal, can go a long way toward making a positive first impression when people tour your home and can actually lead to more offers and a higher sale price.

Deciding how to spend your tax refund is the hard part. Where do you start?

Last year, Redfin, a real-estate brokerage, teamed with Thumbtack, a site that helps homeowners find the right professionals for various projects, to figure out which home-improvement projects can be done with a $3,000 tax refund and how they should be prioritized to reel in the most bang for your buck.

As a Redfin agent, I know firsthand that not all homes are in the same condition. Some are beautiful on the outside but lack sparkle on the inside, while others need some serious help with curb appeal. We took four scenarios, and Thumbtack analyzed thousands of quotes from professionals to get estimates on the services that can improve the home in each scenario. The prices are based on the most common type of home, according to the 2015 Census: three bedrooms, three bathrooms and 2,384 square feet.

Here’s how to get the most out of your $3,000 tax refund, depending on your goal.

Goal: Boost curb appeal ($2,920 budget)

The outside is the first thing potential buyers see when they visit your home. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the inside is, if the front of your home is neglected and in need of help, potential buyers will notice. Here are the upgrades you should make, the cost for each and how to prioritize them to boost curb appeal quickly.

  • Gutter repair: $220
  • Tree and shrub trimming: $170
  • Deck staining and sealing: $520
  • Shutters and trim painting: $1,700
  • Mowing, weeding and leaf cleanup: $100
  • House and driveway power wash: $210

Goal: Add some sparkle to the interior ($3,000)

If the exterior of your home is in good shape but the inside has lost its sparkle, you’ll probably want to invest in services like cleaning and painting. Here are the projects that have the most payoff.

  • House cleaning: $135
  • New curtains: $210
  • Carpet repair: $180
  • Carpet cleaning: $130
  • Interior window washing: $115
  • Interior painting (walls only): $2,030
  • Polishing and sealing bathroom grout: $200

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Goal: Get rid of clutter ($2,950)

When potential clients walk into your home, it should be clean and free of personal items. You want them to be able to envision their lives in your home, and they won’t be able to do that if they can’t see past your clutter. If your home desperately needs a good spring-cleaning and organizing session, these are the services on which you should spend your money.

  • House cleaning: $120
  • Home staging consultation: $400
  • Closet organizing (kitchen, bedroom): $290
  • Junk removal (garage full of boxes and small items): $500
  • Removal of a large sofa or appliance: $180
  • Packing items in boxes (four hours of labor): $320
  • Transporting items to a storage unit: $260
  • Basement drying and dehumidifying: $430
  • Pest removal/extermination: $150
  • Mold inspection: $300

Goal: Modernize the whole home ($3,010)

If you’re living in an older home, it may be time to make some updates. Here are some changes you can make to move toward a more modern home.

  1. Interior painting (walls only): $2,030
  2. Painting trim/kitchen cabinets: $300
  3. Popcorn ceiling removal (two rooms): $680

According to a report by Redfin, homes sell more quickly in spring and early summer (particularly March and June) than any other time of the year. Now is the ideal time to get estimates and start scheduling appointments with professionals, so your place is ready for its grand debut.

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