Maybe you’re planning on selling your home soon, or perhaps you’re just looking to beautify your living space. In any case, you want to make some changes around your house to spruce things up without breaking the bank.
To help you out, we consulted a top real estate agent on which budget upgrades add the most value to your home. Here are the best home improvements for under $500:
Choose which projects you want to tackle based on the needs of your home
Because there are so many choices for budget home improvement projects, choosing the best projects to add marketability and value to your home can be a little difficult. John Thomas Sinclair, a leading real estate agent in Kootenai County, ID, with 23 years of experience, tells us that the best choice comes down to the unique characteristics of your individual property.
“The most impactful project depends on the condition of your house. If it’s super dark, we’ll go with getting the lighting right. It’s totally dependent on the situation we’re walking into. As a real estate agent, I’d look for how we could spend the available budget to make the biggest impact and weigh the cost against the impact on value.”
Turn your bathroom into a spa with a few simple changes
Estimated cost: $60-$500 | Project duration: 1-5 days
Sinclair tells us that the first upgrades to consider are those that make your bathroom look “spa-like.” According to US News, the average return on investment for bathroom renovations is more than 62%. To get started on a bathroom remodel, consider these options:
Add a new shower head
Often, the first thing people get excited about when looking at a bathroom is the shower head. After all, who doesn’t want their daily wash to feel luxurious? Not only will you enjoy your new shower head every time you bathe, but you’ll also love how it catches prospective buyers’ attention when it’s time to sell.
Some great options include:
- Lambert Rainfall Shower Head – Oil Rubbed Bronze for $79 at Signature Hardware
- The Boyel Overhead and Handheld Wall-Mounted Showerhead Combo for $359 at Home Depot
- PULSE ShowerSpas 1089-CH Lanai Shower System for $162 on Amazon
- AQUABAR High-Pressure 48-mode 3-way Shower Spa Combo for $80 on Amazon
Install a bathroom vent
If your bathroom lacks windows or isn’t well-ventilated, installing a vent is the best way to ensure the room has a steady supply of fresh air. While you’ll likely need to get help from an HVAC expert to complete the installation, the whole project usually costs only about $387.
Bathroom countertops usually don’t account for a whole lot of space. Still, since they’re often the visual focal point of the room, a nice countertop can transform the entire space. Because vanities are smaller than kitchen cabinets, you can install even more expensive materials like granite or quartz on a budget, with material costs ranging from $50 to $300 per linear foot.
Replace the hardware
Finally, a surefire way to make your bathroom shine is to add some shiny new hardware. Items like bath towel bars, sinks, toilet paper roll holders, and light switches are relatively inexpensive and can transform your bathroom from a utility space into an elegant experience.
Add a kitchen backsplash for a functional, eye-catching finish
Estimated cost: $150-$400 | Project duration: 2 days
Kitchen backsplashes aren’t just for looks; they protect your walls from all of the food and liquid splashes while you’re cooking. Furthermore, according to data from Remodeling.com, minor kitchen renovations in 2021 have an average return on investment of 72.2%.
While HomeAdvisor puts the average cost of a kitchen backsplash installation at $1,000, Sinclair shares that homeowners often get the job done for less than $500. To keep the project within budget, only add a backsplash where you need it (usually above your stove and sink).
The cost of labor for a backsplash installation varies depending on your location but typically lands between $10 to $15 per square foot, with more complicated patterns resulting in increased prices. The biggest cost factor for the project is the material you choose.
Popular choices include:
- Ceramic: $10-$50 per square foot
- Porcelain: $3-$30 per square foot
- Marble: $5-$30 per square foot
- Granite: $10-$100 per square foot
With a small backsplash, you’ll cut down on both material and labor costs, and potentially get the job done for as little as $260 for a 20-square-foot area. Sinclair suggests using the rest of your $500 budget to purchase some new hardware for your kitchen like switches, cabinet handles, or lighting fixtures.
Emphasize your home’s beauty with upgraded lighting
Estimated cost: $20-$500 | Project duration: 1-2 days
Your home could have an absolutely stunning interior, but without proper lighting, no one would ever know. Upgrading or adding light fixtures brightens rooms and often gives spaces an entirely different look and feel. As a bonus, newer light fixtures can save you money on your electricity bill.
Hang lighting fixtures
A chandelier in your home’s entryway or dining room may seem extravagant, but there are many styles that will brilliantly illuminate your home without breaking the bank:
- Parrot Uncle Shadybrook Sputnik Sphere Chandelier for $109 at Home Depot
- Westinghouse Iron Hill Single Tier Shaded Chandelier for $117 at Build.com
- Hanging Ceiling Lights Chandeliers With ShadeGlass Shade for $132 at Home Depot
Upgrade bathroom lights
Sometimes, upgraded lighting is all it takes to transform a dingy bathroom. Popular options include:
- Hampton Bay Raceway Vanity Light for $17 at Home Depot
- Quoizel Sentry Black Semi-flush Mount Light for $95 at Lowe’s
- Kichler Winslow 4 Light Bathroom Vanity Light for $135 at LightingDirect
Enhance outdoor lighting
Outdoor lights are wonderful for entertaining and highlighting features of your home and garden. Some quality options include:
- Hampton Bay 10 Lumens Solar Black LED Landscape Pathway Light Set (6-Pack) for $20 at Home Depot
- Kichler 3-Watt Olde Bronze Low Voltage Hardwired LED Path Light for $43 from Lowe’s
- Fallbrook Collection Bronze Outdoor Post Light for $179 from Lamps Plus
Boost curb appeal with a new front door and house numbers
Estimated cost: $150-$500 | Project duration: 1 day
Your front door sets the tone for entering your home — especially for buyers touring your home. Sinclair shares that the front of your home makes a first impression on buyers before they even enter. A front door that’s seen better days and old, beat-up house numbers makes potential buyers think they’re about to step into a fixer-upper.
The National Association of Realtors reports that curb appeal upgrades typically net a return on investment of anywhere from 74% to 107%, meaning you’ll likely recoup your project costs on the following:
Update the front door
This home improvement may be as simple as a fresh coat of paint. For finicky door locks, graphite powder only costs a few dollars and can make an old lock work like new. For front doors in worse condition, replacement may be preferable. Although front doors can be pricey, there are plenty of attractive options for under $500:
- ReliaBilt Universal Reversible Primed Steel Slab Entry Door with Insulating Core for $179 at Lowes
- Masonite Right-Hand Inswing Primed Steel Prehung Front Exterior Door No Brickmold for $219 at Home Depot
- Wood Door – Flush Plain Sliced Red Oak for $425 at Cook and Boardman
Add new house numbers
House numbers are an inexpensive, eye-catching way to make a statement. Some options include:
- Everbilt 5 in. Elevated Black Numbers, $6 each at Home Depot
- Whitehall Personalized Cast Metal Address Plaque for $40 on Amazon
- Address America Reflective Modern Floating House Numbers, $20 each on Amazon
Consult a top real estate agent for tailored advice
If you’re looking for the best low-cost, high-impact home improvements, you should consult a top real estate agent in your area. Experienced agents have intimate knowledge of their local housing markets — they’ll have their finger on which renovations get the most attention (and inspire the most bids) from buyers, as well as which projects you can probably skip.
To quickly connect with experienced, skilled real estate agents in your area, you can use HomeLight’s Agent Finder. Once you’ve got an expert opinion, a plan, and a budget, you’ll be all set to get started on some high-impact home improvements under $500.
Header Image Source: (Bernie Almanzar / Unsplash)