Call this the wish list. Or the value-added list. Or the upgrade list. It's a list of things to do around the house — some expensive, some not; some cosmetic, some operational — that will make your home perform better and make it a nicer place to live. When it's time to sell, these are the pluses that will differentiate your house from the competition.
Judy Stark, Times Homes and Garden editor
1Replace your windows with high-performance, double-paned, low-E windows. Low-E means "low energy." These windows have a metallic coating on the inside that reflects heat outside in warm weather and holds it inside in cold weather. It also reflects damaging ultraviolet rays. Or install impact glass that protects against wind-borne debris from storms, provides noise-proofing and security and filters out UV rays.
2Have your closets outfitted by one of the companies that installs racks, shelves, drawers and other organizing equipment.
3Have your grout professionally cleaned and sealed. A grungy kitchen floor or shower stall will look like new. This is one of those "why did we wait so long" fixes that will improve your life every time you look at it. One local company charges $1.75 per square foot.
4Replace worn or damaged counters with solid surface, granite or quartz. This is an instant upgrade that gives a big-ticket look. Price quote: around $50 a square foot for quartz; more for granite, about the same for solid surface.
5Update your lighting and fans. The builder-standard fixtures that were in the house when you moved in may be showing their age and are probably unglamorous to begin with.
6Add insulation. Have a free energy audit performed by your utility company to assess the energy efficiency of what you have, and add more as appropriate.
7Replace tired knobs and drawer pulls. Bright brass is so early '90s, and it's probably scratched and nicked by now. New knobs start as low as $1 each, and you can replace a houseful gradually.
8Upgrade the kitchen faucet. This fast fix improves the look of the entire room. In today's open-plan homes the kitchen is on full view, and a good-looking faucet upgrades everything around it. And it's a daily pleasure: You use the kitchen faucet many times per day. It should be versatile, sturdy and great-looking. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars.
9Replace the lampshades. Take your lamps to a retailer who specializes in shades and lamps and try on a variety of sizes, styles and colors. Often a lamp has had the wrong shade since Day 1, and what a huge difference the right shade makes.
10Have a landscaper give your yard and garden a professional going-over. Often trees and shrubbery are so overgrown, the house is barely visible. It's like getting a haircut when your hair has gone shaggy. You'll be amazed at the difference.