If you’re planning to spend over $50,000 on a kitchen remodel or other home improvement project of that scope, stop right now because you will lose money.
According to the Cost vs. Value 2018 report, you’ll make your money back on none of the most popular remodeling projects across the nation. Plus, according to the 2018 Houzz and Home Study: Renovation Trends, repeat home buyers spend the most—$25,000—on home renos. Buyers will add the features and finishes they want to a new home, no matter how nice it looks when they buy. That’s why you don’t need to spend big bucks (and time) redoing the whole thing.
Instead, these cheap ways to increase home values are easy, cost effective, and will have your home in stunning, show-ready shape in no time.
With the help of an expert real estate agent, we’ve packed this post chock-full of easy value-increasing DIY tips that are also easy on your budget. By the end you should be able to pick up a hammer and a paintbrush and get straight to work.
DIY Ways to Increase Your Home Value
As you start implementing these tricks to get your home ready for sale, think Ikea, not Restoration Hardware. You’re not putting in these upgrades for you, you’re putting them in to make the home look fabulous for potential buyers. Of course everything should be functional, but remember: you don’t need to go overboard and put in high-end finishes that you’ll never get to use.
You also need to make sure you get your money out of any projects you do. Need to refresh kitchen appliances, swap out flooring or countertops? Before your contractor team breaks ground, check in with a real estate agent to make sure that you will get your money back out the investment, and that it will really increase the value of your home.
You can also check on the value of your home at any time with our home value estimator.
1. Get Deep Into that Clean
If you’re jonesing to add value to your home right now, then you should put down the laptop and clean and declutter the entire house. Aside from the expense of new cleaning supplies, these tasks don’t cost anything and are the first steps to getting the house ready to sell.
A cluttered house will not sell for what you want it to. Period. Buyers will not be able to see beyond your collection of refrigerator magnets, surfboards and road bikes in the living room, and clothes sticking out of overstuffed dresser drawers. They won’t even be able to see passed an over-crowded nightstand, even if your items are nice. In fact, on the extreme end, a cluttered house could signal greater problems that haven’t been attended to, just like the mess.
To declutter your house:
- First, put everything you own back into its proper place
- Then, make a “to sell” pile, a “to donate” pile, and a “to rehome to friends/family” pile
- Take the donations out of the equation: drop them off at your local animal shelter, Goodwill, etc. You can even check with your local Goodwill to see if they do pick-up in your community, or schedule a pick-up with the Salvation Army.
- Do your best to sell what you want to sell ASAP.
- Now, survey the situation. Doesn’t your house feel better already?
For staging purposes, top agents recommend getting rid of two-thirds of your belongings. Not to worry, though—you don’t have to say goodbye forever. Consider renting a small storage unit or, if you’ve already bought another house, storing what you don’t need there. This is the perfect moment to consult your real estate agent about what they think you should put into storage.
Now, get into the clean!
Vacuum, mop, dust, and scrub down every single surface in your home. It should be as clean as a model home. Once the grout in the bathroom sparkles, you’re ready to start making small changes that will make a big impact.
2. Update Dated or Damaged Floors
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), if you refinish existing wood floors you’ll get back 100% of the investment you made. If you put in brand new wood flooring, you’ll recoup 91%. For around $3,000, NAR says, you can either switch out old floors or redo faded or damaged wood. New or beautifully restored floors make a big impact on buyers and look fantastic in listing photos.
Top 1% real estate agent Elizabeth Weintraub says, “If your home has hardwood floors, that’s what buyers want, and it would pay to have the carpeting removed and the floors refinished.”
If you can’t afford to put in hardwood or laminate throughout the entire house, or your agent advises against it from an ROI perspective, then you can compromise. We advise hardwood or laminate in living areas like the dining and living rooms at a minimum. You can leave carpet in the bedrooms. Just make sure that you stick with the same laminate or hardwood floors throughout the entire home. Two different types or stains of wood will send buyers running for the hills—it looks tacky and feels cheap and unfinished.
Laminate is a low-cost option that looks just as stunning as real hardwood. Consumer Reports lists the cost for laminate floors as $3-$7 per square foot, making it the most affordable “wood” option over real hardwood and engineered hardwood.
Lumber Liquidators is a great place to find laminate. They have laminate options for as low as 58 cents per square foot. Go with an oak in a medium brown stain like “Cordial Red Oak.” Consult with your real estate agent before you make any final decisions because they will know best what types of stains and flooring buyers are crazy for in your area right now.
If you have existing floors that could use a refinish, consider hiring someone to do it. You can find a top-rated professional on a website like Houzz under “Hardwood Flooring Dealers” or Home Advisor under “Flooring and Hardwood.” Though you may not make a return on that exact project, updated floors go a long way to freshen the overall look of your home and make it ready for a buyer.
You can read more about what kind of flooring increases home value in our flooring guide.
3. Get a New Paint Job
According to a study by Consumer Reports, painting the interior of the home can yield a 1-3% increase in value and painting the exterior can bring a 2-5% increase in value.
It’s not just about the numbers here, though. Painting a house is the best way to make it feel fresh and new. It hides imperfections, covers up any old marks, and makes your home’s best features pop. It also solves any issues with peeling exterior paint that will show up in a home inspection.
More often than not a pressure wash will be more than enough to clean up the exterior of your home and get it ready for sale. The only reason you would need to get a new exterior paint job before selling would be if:
- Your real estate agent recommends it based on the current color of your house or the condition of the paint.
- The paint is peeling and will not pass in a home inspection.
- There is major touch-up work to be done or different touch-up jobs over the years have created odd discrepancies in paint color.
- Your real estate agent thinks it will drastically increase the value of your home.
Painting the exterior of your home is not cheap, and it’s a job you should call in a professional for. According to Home Advisor, the cost to paint the average home exterior is between $1,687 and $3,907. Plus, even after the huge expense and time commitment of painting the exterior, the buyers might come in and change the paint job to better suit their taste anyway.
You can paint the interior of the house yourself, so long as you prep the room properly and choose the right paint. An interior DIY paint job will cost you around $200-$300 per room. According to a calculation by SmartAsset, you can also divide your square footage by the amount of square feet a gallon of paint covers to get a more accurate cost for your home.
The calculation will tell you how many gallons of primer and paint you need. You can then multiply that number by the cost of the paint you choose, and add in any additional expenses like drop cloths, paint brushes, painter’s tape, etc.
Your home’s square footage / 350 (Amount of square feet a gallon of paint covers)
Your home’s square footage / 200 (Amount of square feet a gallon of primer covers)
The cost per gallon of interior paint
First, choose the right paint finish for your house.
The different types of finishes are high-gloss ($30-$120 per gallon on average), semi-gloss ($33-$56 on average), satin ($29-$42 on average), eggshell ($24-$40 on average), and flat/matte ($25-$50 on average). The type of paint finish you should choose depends on the amount of traffic the room gets, as each finish varies in durability and ease of cleanup.
For example, a matte paint hides major wall imperfections but is tough to clean, so it’s suggested for adult bedrooms. High-gloss paint is durable and easy to clean, but is very shiny and doesn’t cover imperfections. It’s a great finish for trim, for cabinets, or for doors, but not for walls.
Semi-gloss paint is durable and works well in rooms like kitchens or bathrooms that are prone to high levels of moisture, and eggshell paint works great for the dining room.
Overall, satin and eggshell paint are both affordable options that will stand up well in any room. These paint finishes are durable, look fantastic, and you can get them for a good price.
Then, tape up the room before you paint it.
If you don’t tape up rooms correctly, you’ll wish you had hired a professional painter. A proper tape job ensures tight, clean lines and is one of the biggest reasons that professionals do such a great job. Do a bang up prep job and the room will look like you spent big bucks to have it done.
- Scotch blue painter’s tape ($6.58 a pop) or FrogTape ($5.97 each) work best for the job.
- Dust and wipe down the wall where you plan to tape, and let it dry.
- Use 12-inch pieces of tape to ensure crisp, even lines, and to make sure no excess paint will get through.
- Tape the walls as precisely as you can. For example, when taping trim, tape along the top as close as you can get to the wall, and make sure the tape is flush with the wall.
- Smooth the tape down as you go to create a tight seal.
- Cut the tape to fit in each corner perfectly, do not just bend the tape to fit.
- Tape on the bottom of any trim or at the base of carpet/hard floors should anchor protective paper in place.
Wondering what color to pick? Science says to paint the interior of the home a nice light shade of beige. Check out Sherwin Williams’ 7530 (Barcelona Beige) or 6136 (Kilim Beige) for a safe neutral overhaul.
If you plan to hire professional painters, check out our complete guide to finding legitimate house painters you can trust (and who will do a great job).
4. Switch Out Old Light Fixtures and Hardware
If your kitchen or bathroom is in dire need of a refresh, switch outdated hardware like cabinet knobs and drawer pulls to give your home the boost it needs.
“For me one of [the best affordable ways to increase home value] is fixtures, door hardware, and cabinet hardware. You can take a basic cabinet, put some hardware on it—knobs and pulls—and really dress it up. Door hardware…oil brushed and satin nickel are very popular now. That stuff can be changed out very cheaply…People are surprised when you can do a full house…for $4, $5, $600, and yet it has that ‘wow.’”
Watch the above video for a simple “how to” replace your existing hardware. Like Klaus suggested, a simple round satin nickel knob ($19.97 for a 10 pack) works well for everything. If you need pulls or handles, try a farm-style cup pull or sleek and modern handle.
Kitchen cabinets in bad shape can also get a quick makeover. Use a polish like Restor-A-Finish to bring natural wood cabinets back to life. If you need to repaint, here’s a quick step-by-step snapshot of what you need to do to repaint your kitchen cabinets:
- Take the cabinet doors off the hinges, label where each door goes, and bag up any hardware.
- Then, scrub down each door.
- Use a primer to prime the doors and let it fully dry.
- Then, with an angled brush and mini foam roller, paint the cabinets with a semi or high gloss paint. Voila!
In terms of light fixtures, Klaus says, “Light fixtures are usually affordable, and if it’s already wired you can change them out yourself.”
Pick a plain, modern light fixture like this brushed nickel semi-flush mount light. You should be able to make the change on your own, but if you’re worried you can always hire a professional from Angie’s List. Keep the cost low on each fixture: our pick is under $100.
5. Leverage the Landscaping
Your first shot at a first impression is, as always, your house’s curb appeal. In fact, do an amazing job landscaping your front yard and you could get 5.5%-12.7% more for your house.
Hiring a professional landscaper can be expensive: the national average to landscape a 1,200 square foot yard, according to Fixr, is $13,200. Luckily you can fix up your front yard yourself for significantly less.
Succulents and short shrubs are both low cost and low maintenance, and they’re in style right now for a landscaping redo. If you scatter them throughout the front yard and fill the rest of the space in with one of the fillers mentioned above, you’ll have a front yard ready for sale in no time.
Affordable succulents that look great in front yards include: Aloe Vera ($26.98), Shining Pink Rock Purslane ($21.48; amazing hot pink flowers!), Serpents Blue Chalk Fingers ($9.98), Red Yucca ($13.38), Pack of 100 Succulents to disperse throughout the yard ($169). Affordable shrubs perfect for the yard include: Boxwood Shrub ($29.99), Butterfly Bush ($29.99), and the Elephant Bush ($3.95; actually a type of succulent!)
You can also paint the front door for an extra pop of charm. Try a light turquoise, sunny yellow, or even a bright pumpkin orange. The best part is that you’ll only have to pay for the materials. You’ll need sandpaper ($10.46 for a handheld tool and 6 sheets of sandpaper), paint primer ($22.38), paint brushes ($8.98) and trays ($.98). You also need an old rag and tools to remove front door hardware.
Chat With Your Agent for More Advice
Though the return on investment will vary for these home improvement projects, all of them will drastically improve the look of your house and will prepare it for sale. Chat with a top real estate agent for more details on what small upgrades will add the most value to your home.