Real Estate Math: What Can Increase and Decrease a Home’s Value

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Little things can make a big difference in how much you ultimately sell a property for, according to a group of New York brokers who say just a few small, smart improvements to a home can increase the sales price by 5 to 10 percent.

They’ve calculated it down to a science. In a recent New York Times article, “To Sell an Apartment, No Detail Is Too Small,” brokers in New York City share how seemingly small defects in a home can drastically affect the home’s final sales price and how just a few small staging upgrades–like throw pillows–can actually increase the value.

Here are some examples of what these New York brokers have found that can impact a sales price. (Keep in mind these are based on New York rents so the prices reflected below are higher than many other markets.)


  • Chipped plaster or broken bathroom tiles: Knock $500 to $5,000 off an offer
  • Dirty rugs: Subtract $5,000
  • Clutter: Subtract 5 to 15 percent from sales price


  • Fresh towels and throw pillows (estimated cost: $700): Add $25,000 to sales price
  • New lights (cost: $2,000 replacing lighting fixtures and $250 for a professional lighting designers expertise): Add $32,500
  • Professional paint job (estimated cost: $10,000): Add $50,000 to the sales price
  • Replacing cabinets (estimated cost: $20,000 on new kitchen cabinets and paint): Add $107,000

To learn about more upgrades that can make a big difference in your market, read our recent blog entry: 6 Do-It-Yourself Updates That Can Increase Home’s Value By More Than $10,000

So what small upgrades have you found has helped to increase the final sales price of a home?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Thanks for giving use more numbers that reinforce how much staging is worth the investment.

  2. kevin

    I think the way a seller takes care of the property can increase or decrease a home’s value. My Las Vegas property management agent showed me some properties where the grass was uncut, the walls were cracked and other small things that can decrease the value. So if someone wants to avoid this decrease, he should hire a professional to handle with this stuff, because it’s very ugly to see those things.

  3. Very good points as to how to increase value in any market. The math is a liitle far fetched in my opinion – $700 fresh towels and throw pillows resulting in $25k added value – really?? Anyways good advice to add value.

  4. Deborah

    The information in this article may be useful, but the article itself is almost useless. It’s ridiculous to say that by investing X one will reap Y, unless Y is a percentage of former value. If one installs $20K worth of cabinets the price will not go up $100K on a house that would otherwise have sold for $250K. Obviously it depends on the market. Making claims relative to percentage of change might be more relevant to readers throughout the country.

  5. Gary Hoeferkamp

    Please remove or update this article with realistic figures. Do you really think that $700 in pillows and towels are going to raise the value $25,000??? And $2000 in light fixtures is going to raise the value $32,000??? This is extremely misleading.

  6. Shirley Knox

    What Planet do you live on??? Are you for real? All Realtor’s do not hang their license in Beverly Hills! This is not realistic.

  7. RealEstateSunshine

    WOW! $25k return on $700 investement? Perhaps the pillows and towels are made of gold? give me a break. This is totally insane.

  8. Hmmm…. I have to totally agree with some commenters on this subject….. OR, I have to go out right now and get my hands on as many fresh towels as I can, because, you see, I am showing a home with 6 baths.
    Let’s see, if I put fresh towels in ALL 6 bathrooms, I guess I can increase the value by as much as $600,000 !! Woo-Hoo ! I’ll take the rest of the year off !!!!!!

  9. Nancee

    I wouldn’t want to dry myself off with those towels. Afraid I’d run a thread and it’d cost me 5 grand!!

  10. Quite interesting… but I could hardly absorb the idea of the increase… My eyes popped with the digits…

  11. Real Estate math what increases and decreases a home’s value . that is really good info to valuation any property. thanks to share it.

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