When clients are considering selling their homes, the first thing they frequently ask their agent is: What home improvements will increase my home value the most?

Even if a homeowner isn’t ready to sell, there are improvements that can be made to the home that they can enjoy today and reap a higher asking price when sale time comes.

One option is exterior improvements, including landscaping. Basic maintenance, such as the roof and exterior paint, can be more important to your home’s value than a state-of-the-art kitchen.

“If the roof is leaking, buyers won’t get beyond that,” said Ron Phipps with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “I don’t care how awesome the kitchen is.”

Landscaping is one of the top three investments that bring the biggest return. An investment of around $400 or $500 dollars in landscaping, can bring a return of four times that.

Address the basics. Insulate the attic, repair plumbing leaks, replace rusty rain gutters, inspect the furnace and the septic system, replace or repair leaky windows, install storm doors, weed the flower beds.

According to Remodeling Magazine, homeowners are less likely to recoup their investment in a major kitchen or bathroom remodel than they are to get back what they spend on basic home maintenance, such as new siding.

According to the survey, homeowners who invested in siding replacement recouped 92.8 percent of its cost. The only home improvement likely to return more at resale was a minor (roughly $15,000) kitchen remodel, which returned 92.9 percent.

Working on replacing counter-tops in kitchen.

Replacing roofs and windows were also high on the list, returning 80 percent or more at resale.

Every homeowner’s first priority should be “keeping the existing structure sound,” according to Don Sever, a general contractor for 18 years and president of Sever Construction in Oakton, Va.

“I’ve been in a lot of houses where people are spending thirty or forty thousand dollars to remodel the kitchen, but then you walk into the basement and there’s a musty smell because water is leaking through the foundation,” he said. “To me, it’s more important to resolve those items first, and get the luxuries later.”

On the inside, buyers are asking for space. Any changes that increase the open feel of a home can add value and generate response from choosey buyers. This can include removing non-essential walls and widening doorways.

“Right now buyers want a wide open floor plan, the living room right off the kitchen. They are into big spaces,” says Kristin Wellins, Senior Manager of Program Development for ERA Real Estate.

Other improvements can include a facelift to appliances.

Having a stove and refrigerator that match can go a long way. Rather than an overhaul, spruce up the bathroom.

Your clients will benefit from your sage advice when it comes to getting the most out of their home improvement money.