Homeowners are sometimes hesitant to upgrade when it's time to sell. After all, you won't be living there much longer, and most home remodeling efforts only increase home values by 50%-80% of the average project's costs, according to Remodeling magazine's 2019 Cost vs. Value report. For example, the average cost of a mid-range bathroom remodel is $20,420. You'd recoup about $13,717 (67.2%) of that amount during a resale.

While you may not want to spend the extra cash, the cost of inaction can be far greater than the small loss you'll incur on any home-improvement projects.

Making small upgrades over time serves a seller immensely.These don't have to be break-the-bank alterations, either.

Getting stuck in time with your home isn't a smart move and is rarely rewarded financially at sale time. In fact, it may cause your house to linger on the market longer.

To make the most of your remodeling budget, focus on features that most homebuyers really want to see.

Laundry room
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 91%
Cost to install: $1,000 to $5,000 for a small-scale project

More than anything else, homeowners want a room other than the guest bedroom to stack all the clean laundry in until it finally gets put away. A separate laundry room tops the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features by buyers.

Energy efficiencies (appliances and windows)
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 89%
Cost to install: Varies by appliance

Would-be buyers looking to limit utility bills will likely be drawn to properties with energy efficiencies, such as Energy Star-qualified windows and appliances. Buyers are most impressed with smart, energy-efficient choices that in no way limit their comfort, but in every way save them money in the long run.Sellers should be sure to play up these features in their home listings.

Patio
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 87%
Cost to install: $963 per 120 square feet for a concrete patio

It's important for homeowners not to neglect the backyard area when prepping for resale. In today's housing market, outdoor living spaces have become the most coveted outdoor home feature.

When most buyers see a house with a really nice backyard, they start to envision themselves sitting outdoors with friends having drinks.

Ceiling fan

Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $466 per fixture with light kit and remote control

In addition to improving a home's aesthetic, energy-efficient ceiling fans can also help lower cooling costs when used in conjunction with an air conditioner during the warmer months.

Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that helps cool the people sitting in the room. Homeowners should be able to raise the thermostat level by four degrees without a reduction in comfort while the fan is in use, according to Energy.gov.

Garage storage space
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $2,025 - $2,363 for 380 square feet

Buyers with growing families need lots of storage space. Sellers should keep in mind that streamlined living equates to more dollars in your pocket at sale time. Carving out some space in your garage to help keep clutter out of the main living area could help your bottom line. Make sure the bonus space is easily accessible and wonderfully organized.

Unlike an attic or a backyard shed, the garage is accessible – generally, just a few steps away from the rest of the house – making it easier to transport items such as tools, patio chairs or boxes to and from other parts of the house.

Exterior lighting
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $65 per fixture

Illuminating a well-manicured lawn with exterior lighting can help grab potential buyers' attention before they even set foot in the front door. In fact, exterior lighting is the second most-wanted outdoor feature (patio was first), according to the NAHB. Options include spotlights, walkway lights and pendant lights.

Aesthetics aside, exterior lighting also serves as an added safety feature for your home. Motion-sensor lights, for example, turn on automatically whenever there is movement outside your house.

Walk-in pantry
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: Varies based on design

Home buyers with families know that the kitchen can quickly become overcrowded when there's not enough space to store the essentials (think: canned goods, condiments and food storage containers). That's why many are including a walk-in pantry on their must-have list for potential homes. In fact, it was the most-wanted kitchen feature among buyers polled in the NAHB's report.

Walk-in pantries are typically 5 x 5 feet and have U-shaped open shelves or cabinets with a countertop. Make sure the pantry is situated somewhere that is cool and dry.

Hardwood floors
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: $999 per 120 square feet of red oak flooring

Hardwood flooring offers a cleaner look, is easier to maintain and is more durable than carpet, which needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Sellers on a budget may want to buy engineered wood flooring 

Walk-in closet (master bedroom)
Cost to install: Varies based on design

While walk-in closets aren't among the top demands of all homebuyers, they're quickly gaining in popularity among first- and second-time homebuyers. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom ranked among their top five features.

If you live in an older dwelling with a reach-in closet, you may want to consider revamping it.

Homes without a walk-in-closet in the master bedroom are more of a challenge to sell and will attract less buyers.

Eat-in kitchen
Cost to install: $1,000 - $10,000

Eat-in kitchens are also a must-have among first- and second-time home buyers. They're especially attractive to families with children. It's a space where they can congregate in the morning for breakfast before the kids head off to school and parents to work, or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.

Removing a non-load-bearing wall to create space for a small table and chairs in your kitchen is relatively inexpensive (as little as $1,000).

If you're on a tight budget and can't afford to knock out a wall to create more space for a table and chairs, consider adding a center island with room for bar stools.

Dining room
Cost to install: $1,000 - $6,000 to add ceiling fixtures or structural columns to open floor plan

In recent years, formal dining rooms have taken a backseat to open floor concepts in today's home models. While open floor concepts help maximize space when entertaining, there are still home buyers who desire a separate dining area distinct from the kitchen. In fact, a separate dining room is among the top 10 essentials for first- and second-time home buyer.

A meal in the dining room creates a sense of importance … It makes people feel special, whether it's for holiday gatherings or a quiet sit-down dinner with your family.