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Tackle these home improvement and maintenance projects this season for a serious return on investment.

Fall is prime time for sprucing up your yard and installing new landscaping projects. But your biggest mistake may be focusing solely on planting that new plum tree and neglecting the projects (and repairs) that will truly lead to a serious return on your investment in the long run.
“A home that is maintained, just like a car, will last longer and perform better,” says Keith Thompson, a real estate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty in Charlotte, NC.
“Maintaining your property may be the best investment you make,” adds Justin Udy, a real estate agent with Century 21 Everest Realty Group in Midvale, UT. “By making a consistent effort to maintain your home, you will find you save money, avoid costly tear-outs and repairs, and your home will look and feel like it’s in excellent shape.”
Here’s a rundown of six fall home projects with serious payoff potential.

1. Curb appeal matters

The old adage about art can also apply to curb appeal: We know it when we see it. And we also know when it’s really, really good. This is all to say that investing money in your yard, be it with new plantings, adding some mulch, or simply maintaining your lawn, can go a long way.
“Stand at the curb in front of your house and take a good look at the whole house and yard,” suggests Patty Brockman, a licensed real estate broker at Windermere Stellar Real Estate in Portland, OR. “In fall and winter, plants and shrubs start to die off and need to be pruned back. Consider adding some deep, rich topsoil to the beds to freshen it up and to provide added nutrients.”
The same tactic can be applied to the facade of your home. “A fresh coat of paint on trim and shutters before the temps get too low will help to keep those areas protected from the effects of severe winter weather and help prevent moisture damage,” adds Brockman.

2. Check that HVAC

Besides ensuring that your climate-control system runs smoothly when it’s cold out (and also during the sweltering summer heat), having your HVAC serviced on a proper schedule can really reap a big return on investment when the time comes to sell.
“Having the major systems in the home serviced and inspected on a regular basis can save the homeowner money down the road if a minor problem is found and corrected before it becomes something bigger,” says Keith Thompson. Plus, being able to show a potential buyer that you’ve had the HVAC properly serviced while you lived in the home goes a long way when it comes time for negotiation.
Want to increase your home’s value even more? Get an energy audit before you sell and make some updates based on the results.

3. A roof over your head goes a long way

To be specific: It’s important to have a roof that performs well. “When everything has been dry for so long, surfaces such as roofs and seams start to crack and break down, just like windshield wipers on your car,” explains Heather Witt Leikin, a real estate agent with Partners Trust Real Estate Brokerage & Acquisitions in Los Angeles. “You might not notice the problems until you are in a major storm and you start to get water intrusion. These are all things you really should start checking on now. Doing so saves you money from having problems with leaks in the house that lead to damage to interiors and foundations and eventually mold, which lower the value of your house.”

4. Watch your windows

“As we head into the cold season, it might be time to think about that window upgrade,” says Leikin. “Have you been putting off replacing your drafty single-pane windows? Replacing them now will help keep the heat in for the winter, ensuring that you are not only more comfortable, but you are not paying to heat the outdoors.”
Bonus: “Buyers love new windows! Keeping yourself toasty and saving you money will also appeal to people interested in buying your house,” she adds.

5. Look out for water

Water can be a home’s worst nightmare, whether it’s flooding, roof leaks, or dampness and mold. While it’s not the sexiest of home improvements, it will prove to be a great return on your investment when you consistently check on things that might be susceptible to water damage, says Justin Udy.
“Water is always an issue. It can cause mold, attract termites, and turn into all sorts of nightmares for homeowners,” he explains. Also, “Check your lot’s grading. By maintaining a proper grading slope, you’re ensuring that the grading is taking water away from foundation walls.”

6. Drain your drain

Or, rather, your irrigation. Hiring a landscaper to winterize your irrigation system helps prevent it from freezing and bursting during cold weather, a home repair that can cost hundreds of dollars. “If it’s not done right in the fall, it can be a serious problem come later winter,” says Udy.

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