10 tricks for a low-cost, high-impact home upgrade

Want to fix up the old place but don't have a bucket of money to spend? Here are some low-cost ideas to get you started:

High-impact home upgrade
If you focus your resources in the right areas, these little changes can make a huge difference in the way your home looks -- to yourself and potential buyers.
10 tricks to a low-cost upgrade
1.Begin with the front of the house.
2.Dress up the porch.
4.Display photos.
5.Shine a little light on the subject.
6.Make rooms instantly more spacious.
7.Give the yard a good clip.
8.Create areas of interest in your yard.
9.Trick the eye.
10.Use everyday objects in new ways.

1. Begin with the front of the house. It's the first thing you, and your guests, will see.

"Always repaint the front, the trim and the door," says Robert Irwin, author of "Improve the Value of Your Home Up to $100,000."

His trick: Pay special attention to the front door and the door handle. For potential buyers, "that's the first time they touch the house," he says. Twenty-five dollars worth of paint makes a door look new. And another $50 to $75 for a shiny handle on a freshly painted or stained door "makes an enormous difference," Irwin says.

2. Dress up the porch. Place two large planters on either side of the front door, with a profusion of healthy plants spilling out.

"Think of your pots like clothes -- you want something that's going to go with the house," says Rebecca Kolls, master gardener and host of the nationally syndicated television series "Rebecca's Garden."

When you choose the plants, look for foliage colors and blooms that complement each other, just as if you were assembling an outfit. "You wouldn't mix polka dots and plaid," says Kolls. Her rule of thumb: The plants should be twice as tall as the pot. Since you're literally assembling a garden in a pot, look for different textures. Mix perennials and annuals, blooming and nonblooming varieties. Include tall plants, to give the arrangement height and shape; ground covers, to spill out of the pot and down the sides to soften the edges, and an abundance of medium-sized plants to fill in between the two and give a lush look. Squeeze in as many plants as you can manage, says Kolls. "Just pack them in there."

If you want to add another touch later, you can tie it in to the front door with a coordinating wreath, says Kolls.

3. Paint. "The biggest change you can make in a room is painting the walls, changing the color," says Linda Holmes, certified remodeler and president of Creative Carpentry Remodelers Inc., in Aurora, Ill. New paint "makes it look clean again."

"And paint the ceiling anything but ceiling white," she says.

Some pro paint tips:

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