If money is tight right now, I advise you to think carefully and spend wisely. I also agree with some of the previous answers. Fresh paint inside and out, clean windows, inside and out, declutter, and clean the front and back yards. Keep it basic, is the general rule of thumb. Your choices of colors, and decor, might not be what a buyer was looking for. Sometimes, upgrading the faucets and windows and fixtures in a kitchen or bath might be just enough. I would be happy to take a look at your place and make some suggestions. I have a strong sense of what buyers are looking for in this market.
Feel free to contact me anytime. Best of luck in your decision......
Here's the link http://costvalue.remodelingmagazine.com/pacific.html.
You'll notice this is pointed to California (yes you can see what it's like in other parts of the country, too). It provides a very good guideline on what you can expect as a return on your investment/improvement.
You'll also see links to other articles on what would make sense when you are trying to sell your house. Remember that first impressions count' so be sure you have good curb appeal so that folks will be invited to come in and explore even more. That means a nice landscape with floral highlights and color.
What kind of updating are you thinking of? Sometimes, a coat of paint, or refacing the cabinets will look as good as, but not cost as much as replacement. Don't forget putting in new cabinet pulls.
Start watching HGTV for more ideas on what you can do to spruce up your home. If your budget is tight --- invest sweat equity. Concentrate on decluttering, cleaning, and neutralizing your decor so that it appeals to the widest buyer pool.
In terms of priorities, fresh paint inside and out, clean windows, inside and out, upgrade wattage op light bulbs,declutter, stage, these types of things are not that expensive, but take time and knowledge.
That being said. if you want to remodel your kitchen or bath to increase the sale value, be very careful about how you do it. Go to some open houses, and see what others have done, and ask yourself, "Does this remodel make me want to spend more money on this home?"
Be very aware of how much you want to spend, and spend wisely. Simply refacing cabinets and new paint can do alot to brighten a kitchen, rather than all new appliances. Try to look at things the way a buyer would look at them, and not as you do as the owner.
It would not be too early to invite a Realtor in to help advise you about what people are looking for.
Think carfully, and spend wisely.