A house, above all, is a place to call home, and a safe sanctuary for you and your family. But it’s also a constant, ongoing project. In addition to regular maintenance and upkeep, most homeowners have a list of improvements they’d like to make — some that are quick and low-cost, and others that require a more sizable chunk of time and money.
When choosing which projects to complete, you’ll need to weigh the cost against what you’ll likely get back. Certain improvements will bring you personal enjoyment, while doing nothing to boost the value of your home for resale.
Aaron Brunette, a top-selling real estate agent in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says the biggest value-boosters are typically improvements to the kitchen, master bedroom, and master bathroom. “These are also the biggest-ticket expenses, but you can be assured that you’ll retain that money at resale,” he says. “Adding a bedroom with an egress window is also an improvement that will recoup the money spent.”
To help you get the most bang for your buck, we spoke with several home renovation experts to get their best tips to increase home value. Then, we hand-picked this list of 12 projects that range from budget-friendly spruce-ups to major renovations.
DIY and cost-saving projects ($500 or less)
If you’ve got a vision, some time on your hands, and a flair for hands-on projects, you might be surprised by how much you can accomplish with a limited budget.
Install a new backsplash
The most valuable room in almost every home is the kitchen, so improvements in that room will offer the best ROI, says Shawn Mouch, owner of Build It Brothers, a custom remodeling company in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For those who are handy enough to tackle the task, Mouch suggests installing a new tile backsplash to improve the overall look of the kitchen.
“There are retail stores in every market that offer tile that fits most design palettes for under $5 per square foot,” he says. “The average kitchen typically has 35- to 50-square-feet of tile backsplash area. Add adhesive, grout, and trim, and the average kitchen backsplash install can be achieved for $500 or less.”
Monochromatic color choices are the industry standard, but you can enhance the value of the finished project with a few tricks.
“Laying the tile in a unique pattern can add a ‘wow factor,’ and using a lighter tile with a darker grout can add a design variable most people aren’t used to seeing,” says Mouch “When coordinated well, it’s a combination that will add even more ROI.”
Replace kitchen cabinet hardware
“Whether you decide to paint the cabinets or leave them alone, changing cabinet hardware to a more contemporary style can make a big aesthetic difference to the overall style of your kitchen,” says Jonathan Faccone, a real estate investor and developer for Halo Homebuyers. “At a cost of $150-$300, this is an easy DIY project and can easily return $1,000 or more in value.”
Consider the theme or style of your kitchen.
For example, oil-rubbed bronze, brass, or matte black might complement a farmhouse-style kitchen, while chrome or nickel hardware in straight lines may help to enhance a more contemporary, modern space.
Keep the finish colors cohesive across all cabinets as a general rule.
However, depending on your kitchen’s style and your personal preference, it can sometimes add visual interest to have mismatching cabinet hardware and other fixtures.
Decide whether you want knobs or pulls on each drawer and door.
One option is to use knobs for all doors and pulls for all drawers, but they can be mixed and matched based on your personal preference.
Paint kitchen cabinets
If your cabinets are outdated or showing signs of wear, refinishing and painting is a cost-effective way to instantly upgrade the appearance of your kitchen. The project requires time and skill, so hiring a professional might be the way to go. But if you’re equipped for the challenge, doing it yourself can save quite a bit of money. Some of the most popular kitchen cabinet paint colors recommended by interior designers include:
- Sherwin Williams Snowbound
- Sherwin Williams Web Gray
- Farrow & Ball Pigeon
- Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White
- Magnolia Gatherings
Mouch offers some tips for those wanting to tackle it as a DIY project:
- Preparation is key. Be sure to label every original door and drawer — with numbers and also “L” (left) and “R” (right) so they can be reinstalled in the correct places after refinishing.
- If your existing cabinets are painted, follow these steps: 1) Clean, 2) Sand to remove paint, 3) Prime, 4) Sand the primer, and 5) Apply fresh paint. Ask your local paint supplier for advice on their recommended application methods to help you achieve the desired finished look.
- If your existing cabinets are stained, use a liquid deglosser to begin the prep process. From there, use the same basic steps for painted cabinets.
- If you have existing pulls, find new pulls that have the same spacing between the fasteners that attach them to the cabinet door. Simply open the cabinet door, remove the cabinet pull, and measure from the center of one fastener hole to the other. That is the “center-to-center” number you need to know to purchase new hardware that matches the existing holes.
- If you have knobs to start, you can purchase new knobs or pulls and replace the hardware easily.
Budget-friendly with a little more commitment ($500 – $1,000)
Maybe you’ve set aside a few more dollars, but you’re still in DIY territory. Here are some ideas for making a noticeable impact in this price range.
Replace a bathroom vanity
The vanity is usually the first thing a buyer sees when walking into a bathroom. Adding a new unit, complete with countertop and sink, is a great way to instantly modernize and freshen up the space.
Faccone points out that vanities are fairly easy to install, requiring only leveling and screws. If you need help installing the sink faucet and reconnecting the drain, a local plumber should be able to handle it at a reasonable cost.
When choosing a bathroom vanity, some of the most important things to consider are the size of the space and the amount of storage required. A small powder room might only need a slim pedestal sink, while a guest bathroom might call for a larger vanity with drawers and doors. A larger master bath might warrant a double vanity with two sinks and even more storage.
Pave a walkway
Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes with Belgard, recommends upgrading a cracked, damaged, or “ho-hum” walkway with pavers to create a more upscale and elegant look. “Paving a walkway usually costs about $900 to $945, at about $9.22 per square foot,” he says.
If you’re up for the challenge and want to save some money, consider installing the pavers yourself. Some of the most popular types of pavers include brick, concrete, flagstone, marble, and travertine.
Saving for a rainy day ($1,000 – $3,000)
With a mid-range amount of money, you can start to consider some more substantial home improvements that can boost your home’s value without committing to major renovations.
Replace a countertop
Granite and quartz countertops are still the most popular among today’s homebuyers. Replacing a laminate countertop with a trendy granite or quartz countertop is a great way to modernize the kitchen, says Faccone. “A nice granite countertop can run around $40-$50 per square foot, but the return will typically be double that if tastefully chosen,” he says.
If you don’t have the budget to remodel the entire kitchen, an upgraded countertop has a high-impact effect for a fraction of the cost. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to buy and install granite countertops is $3,250, compared to $25,000 for a full remodel.
Add a new front door
As Brunette points out, a potential buyer has already subconsciously made up their mind within the first 10 seconds of whether they like a house or not — and the front door has a lot to do with that decision.
If your door has seen better days and it would be a significant cost to repair and repaint it, you might replace it to give your curb appeal a sizable boost.
According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost versus Value Report, the average project cost to install a new steel entry door is $1,881, and the average cost recouped is nearly 70%.
When choosing a new entry door, the biggest considerations are style and aesthetics, material (steel, wood, or fiberglass), and energy efficiency. If you choose to install the door yourself to minimize costs, you’ll need someone to help.
Ready to renovate ($3,000 – $5,000)
At this budget, you can tackle even bigger projects — like installing new flooring or replacing garage doors — that will really turn buyers’ heads and help increase the sale price of your home. But you are committing to a larger upfront investment.
Upgrade to luxury vinyl flooring
Swapping out any dated laminate or old, tired carpeting with luxury vinyl flooring instantly gives your home a more upscale, modern look, even if it’s the only improvement you make. It’s also highly durable, waterproof, and low-maintenance.
Caleb Liu, a real estate investor and rehabber with House Simply Sold, says vinyl flooring can be found at Home Depot for $2 to $3.50 per square foot, so an average 1500-square-foot home could be completed for $3,000 to $5,000.
Liu offers these tips for those looking to install vinyl flooring themselves: “You’ll need to strip off all the old baseboard and install new baseboard after installing the vinyl flooring to avoid winding up with an unsightly gap. You’ll also need to learn how to properly offset the planks for an aesthetically pleasing pattern.”
Replace garage doors
If your home has a garage, the garage doors are likely the primary entry point, and an important component of the first impression on buyers. If the doors are outdated, worn, or non-functioning, that can decrease your home’s value.
According to Remodeling’s Cost versus Value Report, the average cost of a garage door replacement is $3,695, and you can expect to recoup around 95% of that expense, making it one of the smartest value-boosting projects.
While aesthetics are important when choosing a garage door, other important considerations include construction material, energy savings, insulation, and required care and maintenance.
Major remodeling mode ($5,000 and up)
At $5,000 and above, you can make major improvements to really set your home apart from other properties in the area. Be sure to consult with your real estate agent before getting started to make sure your choices appeal to a majority of buyers and that you’re likely to recoup a good portion of the expense when you sell.
Do a complete landscaping upgrade
Beyond the basic clean-up, overhauling your landscaping can go a long way toward improving your home’s outdoor appearance.
Raboine says it can deliver 83% return on investment at resale. And according to HomeLight research, more than 75% of U.S. real estate agents say that homes with attractive landscaping are worth up to 10% more than non-landscaped properties.
“Installing a front walkway of pavers, along with stone planters, shrubs, and mulching, will cost an estimated $6,000, and the National Association of Realtors estimates that you’ll recover $5,000,” notes Raboine.
Install a new paver patio
A paver patio will dramatically improve the appearance of an outdoor area, especially if you’re starting from a dirt patch or grass that doesn’t grow well, according to Raboine. “An 18’x16’ paver patio will cost an estimated $7,200, and you’ll receive an estimated $5,000 ROI,” he says.
For most homeowners, it’s probably worth the investment to hire a professional to plan and install a paver patio, but those with the necessary time and know-how might want to tackle the project themselves. Check out this detailed guide to designing and building a paver patio.
Replace the roof
A new roof is an instant value-booster and a major selling point for prospective buyers. According to James Brandon with Hometown Roofing in Austin, Texas, the roof makes up about 40% of the visual exterior of your home. It’s also the first line of defense against harsh weather conditions, while also managing proper ventilation.
“Problematic roofs are a huge decrease in your property value,” he says. “With a new roof, your home will see an instant increase in curb appeal and property value.”
For a new asphalt roof, the average cost is $24,700 with a 65.9% return on investment. For a metal roof, you can expect to pay around $40,318 and recoup 61.2% of that expense, according to Remodeling’s 2020 Cost versus Value Report.
Time to project plan
Whether you’re working on a shoestring budget or you’re able to do a more extensive overhaul, there are plenty of big and small ways to boost the value of your home. The key is to choose the changes that will have the biggest impact on future buyers and provide the biggest return on your investment.
When meeting with a client and identifying areas for improvements, Brunette says it’s all dependent on their financial situation, as well as their timeframe for moving. When looking to increase the value of your home with an upgrade or improvement, the first step is to identify how much you can (or want) to spend, and then choose a project that falls within that range.
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