Pop quiz: Would you rather buy a home with 1990s laminate countertops or pristine marble? It seems like an easy “A,” yet many home sellers are so immune to pre-existing (read: old) features in their homes that they can’t understand why buyers can’t see past them too. But even if you aren’t ready to list your home just yet, a few smart changes can make a big difference in adding to your home’s value — especially in competitive markets like Los Angeles, CA.


If you want to increase your profit potential, strategic home improvement ideas in these six categories — some of which won’t cost you a thing — will give you the biggest return on your investment.

1. A budget-friendly kitchen remodel

Real estate agents will tell you time and again: Kitchens and baths are what sell a home. A dated kitchen can be a big turnoff, and there are lots of ways, both big and small, you can make yours as refreshing and inviting as possible, without investing in a total overhaul. When it comes to spiffing up your kitchen for resale, you don’t need to majorly splurge to make a better impression on buyers.

Instead, bring the space to the point of what’s known as “builder-grade luxury”: Replace basic black appliances with stainless steel, for example, and ditch the laminate countertops in favor of granite. Yes, these home improvement ideas might sound pricey, and you could spend a pretty penny on appliances and granite, but builder-grade improvements stop far short of those over-the-top luxuries. So make your decisions with thriftiness in mind: choose one of the more affordable granite countertops (such as Napoli, Baltic Brown, or St. Cecilia), with a crisp and in-style beveled edge. Leave higher-end stone and more ornate beveling for your next home. The cost to upgrade appliances and/or countertops will vary within the four-digit range. But to keep this upgrade within your budget, try to find a deeply discounted appliance at an outlet or local “scratch-and-dent” store — where almost-perfect pieces come with perfectly approachable price tags.

Want an even cheaper way to give your kitchen a quick face-lift? Simply refinish or repaint your cabinetry and add updated hardware (such as new hinges and drawer pulls), which can dramatically transform the look of the room for less than $100. Your best bet is to choose colors and styles that are likely to appeal to the widest range of homebuyers and make them feel as if they’ve walked right into their dream kitchen Pinterest board.