From watching Moving Up and Property Ladder on The Learning Channel, it seems that homebuyers often rip out usable rooms and put their own stamp on the place but that sellers maybe out of insecurity and vanity will spruce up the place before selling as if the property is a representation of their palate. I have only seen a couple of episodes of Property Ladder where the seller kept it simple and user-friendly and you make more money selling an acceptable property than you do an expensive property. I have never seen the profit exceed $125k regardless of the type of home or location but I have seen fancier homes in fancy locations sell for a high dollar value but the profit was actually lower than for starter home types. I actually use the information from these two shows to fence in my diy efforts. I don't really have any money to spend but I have to do something about this 40 year old house. It took a lot mentally to get over the hurdle and finally paint and rip out the carpet off the original wood floors. But I still have so much clutter and so many repairs to do. The kitchen and bathroom diy projects I know I can do but the thought of the unfair criticism and lack of support and assistance during the actual work already bothers me.
This is a tricky question. All I can offer is a gut response and a couple of anecdotes.
My gut response is that you should install inexpensive but nice-looking appliances, if the appliances are included in the sale. Build the price around this. I don't think you can possibly hope to recover the cost of the appliances in the sale price, so it's best not to spend too much. Also, there are risks involve when you make changes to a house just before you sell it.
When we bought this house in 2004, the previous owners tore out the old carpet and spent several hundred dollars putting down new carpet. But when we moved in, we ripped that carpet out and gave it away free to somebody down the street. There were fresh hardwood floors underneath. When the previous owner heard about this (he lives just up the street now), he was sick. "If I'd known you were going to do that," he told me, "I would have just left the old carpet."
Some friends bought a 1920s Craftsman that had been recently refurbished. The previous owner installed new appliances, nice countertops, and gave everything a new paint job. The first thing our friends did was put up their own paint, tear up the countertops and put in something else, and replace the appliances with ones they actually wanted. They knew they were going to do this, so they offered less for the house than they would have otherwise.
I know this is all anecdotal, but that's all I have to go on...