New Zillow study reveals whether a kitchen or bathroom remodel yields the best ROI. (iStock)

Prepping your home for sale requires a delicate balancing act: Spend too much, and you won’t get your money back in the purchase price but spend too little, and you may not sell at all. While some seller preparations don’t cost anything but cleaning supplies and elbow grease, others can be extremely expensive.

Generally, a smaller, less-expensive upgrade will generate a bigger financial reward than a complex, time-consuming and costly improvement. Researchers at Zillow recently analyzed the return on investment for home improvements before a sale and found that nearly a quarter of sellers who make improvements sell above the list price, compared with 16 percent of sellers who don’t make improvements.

Two projects to avoid before you sell, according to Zillow, are a kitchen renovation and finishing a basement. Both these projects garnered about 50 cents on the dollar for homeowners, in part because of their high cost. In addition, a kitchen renovation could cost you buyers who would prefer a different style.

Among the projects Zillow says bring a better return are:

New paint and landscaping: New paint inside and out, along with basic landscaping and yard care cost about $3,000, according to Zillow’s researchers and are the most common and necessary improvements.

Bathroom upgrade: A midrange bathroom remodel, such as replacing the toilet, tub and light fixtures, plus adding a double-sink, tiling the floor and hanging wallpaper, can result in a $1.71 increase in home value for every dollar spent, according to Zillow.

New windows: Midrange windows can return $1.15 per dollar spent, according to Zillow.

Keep in mind that Zillow’s research uses national averages, not local market information. In addition, you want to avoid overspending on a high-end upgrade or top-of-the-line products that could end up costing more than you’ll get back in profits.