The answer can get a bit tricky because it depends on the type of improvement or renovation you are planning for your home. In actuality, vast and major improvements, which can range from total kitchen and bath renovations, room additions, decks, porches, etc. will not pay off unless you are planning to stay in the house for a while.
If you pour tons of money into your house for a new kitchen with brand new, built-in appliances and you are planning to move in two years, you may not be in the home long enough for it to appreciate in value so that you can recover your investment. Therefore, before you even make plans for major improvements and renovations, decide how long you are going to stay in your current home so that you will not end up losing money.
Having said that, over a longer period of time, kitchen improvements tend to pay off in a big way because the kitchen is the most important room in the house. The kitchen is where the family congregates and where most family interaction takes place. Therefore, a roomy, attractive, well-lit kitchen with appliances that work well can be a great selling point for your home and can add value. And you should not forget that the money you spend right now will not be worth the same 5 years down the line when it is adjusted for inflation, cost of living, etc.
You do not have to think major when you think of an improvement to your home if you are planning to sell. You can start by doing small, simple changes such as improving the front view of your home. Improving how your house looks when someone first arrives or curbside appeal is a good way to create a lasting first impression. If you front lawn is overgrown, the shrubs are dying and the flowers are nowhere to be found, it may just cause a potential buyer to drive away without even looking at your home.
Now you need to think of how your house will look to a person walking inside for the first time. If your house is full of clutter, the carpet is stained and the floors have been collecting dust, then you need deal with it. Look at the inside of your home in an objective manner and jot down the things that you need to get rid of right away.
Paint the house and use neutral tones on the inside to create the feeling of more space. Steam the carpet and sand down the cupboards and stain them if they are wooden. They might even need some paint to make them sparkle and make sure you replace the handles.
Make your bathroom shine and sparkle, put up a new shower curtain, clean the toilet, shower and sink and remove all the stains, soap scum and mildew. You want a bathroom that you can be proud of when you show it. And get rid of any bad odors in any way you can because nothing is a bigger turn off than a house that smells. Add rugs, towels, clean sheets, comforters, pillows, cushions and some other knick-knacks that will give your house a better look and feel. You would be surprised at the wonders a good cosmetic makeover can do for a house