Let’s be honest: 2020 was a struggle. We spent more time in our homes than ever — working, video chatting, exercising, posting pandemic memes. And in that time we noticed a thing or two we’d like to change about our 24/7 living space. In fact, 70% of Americans completed home improvement projects in 2020, according to a survey by Bank of America.
If you’re itching to improve your home, look no further. We gathered recent remodeling data and spoke to a top-selling agent to curate a list of the best home improvement projects to tackle in the new year. With these 12 New Year’s resolutions, you’ll create a happier and more valuable home in 2021 — one month at a time.
January: Design a home gym to help you reach your fitness goals
If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to get fit in 2021, improve the odds of following through by creating a home gym. Start by decluttering that catch-all room (the one jam-packed with things that don’t quite fit anywhere else). Then kit out the space with these essential features:
- Get a mirror with safety backing to keep an eye on your form and your progress.
- Invest in some shock-absorbent rubber flooring.
- Install a fan to stay cool during high-intensity workouts.
- Set up a smart TV for digital subscriptions and free YouTube workouts.
- Invest in gym equipment specific to your fitness needs.
According to HomeAdvisor, a home gym costs around $2,000 on average and up to $15,000 on the high end. But don’t let the sticker shock fool you: A home gym practically pays for itself. Working out from home can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, considering the average fitness membership costs $800 annually. Beyond these savings, our research reveals that home gyms recoup 51% of project costs in added value at resale.
February: Upgrade your windows to improve your home’s insulation
A warm home is a happy home: Make a new year’s resolution to replace drafty windows. While upgrading your windows in frigid February might seem counterintuitive, it’s easier to book this project and secure a good deal in the industry’s off-season. Energy-efficient windows are better insulated and can save you up to 12% annually on your energy bills.
Plus, new windows increase your home’s value and marketability when it’s time to sell. Our recent Top Agent Insights Report reveals that homeowners who upgrade their windows to energy-efficient models can expect to recoup 80% of project costs at resale. This value-add paired with off-season installation savings can make replacing your home’s windows one of the smartest investments you’ll make all year.
For optimal insulation, determine your home’s climate zone on EnergyStar.gov and purchase windows with a matching Energy Star label. If you want to go the extra mile, speak with your contractor about new window placements that would allow more light into your home.
March: Boost your productivity with spring cleaning and decluttering
Over the years, you’ve accumulated a surplus of personal belongings: HomeGoods accessories, spare linens, duplicate kitchenware, supplies for your new quarantine hobbies. While collecting things can make a house a home, too much stuff can decrease your productivity and negatively impact your overall well-being. Seize on the spring cleaning spirit and declutter your living space following these top tips:
- Declutter one room at a time, starting with the easiest room first.
- Designate a “maybes” box and set a reminder to go through the box in a few months to make the final cuts.
- Check the expiration date on products and perishable goods and throw out expired items.
- Review your wardrobe seasonally and donate or toss any unwanted garments.
- Get rid of belongings that you don’t use, but feel that you should keep.
Believe it or not, a decluttered, organized home can help you progress towards your other New Year’s resolutions like saving money and living a healthier lifestyle. For instance, a deep clean creates a healthier environment by removing dust and other irritants from the air that cause allergies. Decluttering also helps you save money as you rediscover forgotten items and avoid buying duplicates.
Pro tip: Decluttering an especially prudent project if you’re thinking of putting your house on the market any time soon – decluttering can increase a home’s asking price by up to 7%.
April: Build a three-season room to increase your living space
Enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your home by building a three or four season room in April. Top real estate agent Mark Deering who works with 83% more single-family homes than the average Grand Rapids agent, shares that sunrooms are a trending home upgrade as homeowners look for affordable ways to increase their square footage.
“Everybody is spending so much time at their home that they’re realizing that they want more areas,” shares Deering, adding that he’s in the middle of a sunroom addition himself.
“We’re personally going to add another three-season outdoor space just so that we’ve got another spot to go sit and relax.”
The average cost to add a sunroom runs between $22,500 to $74,000, depending on the size. Thankfully, this project yields a healthy return on this investment, typically recouping 49% of project costs.
May: Organize your home records to stay on top of maintenance
You’ve made it to May, and your home’s shaping up faster than your waistline. It’s time to check in on your New Year’s resolution to stay organized, starting with your home maintenance records. Collect printed and digital home records, including instruction manuals, appliance warranties, home improvement records (like the receipts for that sunroom addition you just put in), and repair invoices. Then organize and save the documents in a physical or digital file.
By organizing these documents, you can review and reflect on the investments you’ve made to improve your home. Plus, you can better plan future repairs by noting maintenance that’s upcoming or overdue.
June: Boost curb appeal to make better first impressions
Often New Year’s resolutions revolve around improving our personal presentation, so why not channel that resolution into your home by upgrading your curb appeal. A beautiful exterior welcomes guests to your home and attracts buyers when it’s time to sell. These low-cost upgrades will freshen up your curb appeal in just one month:
- Mow your lawn: If it’s been a while since you last landscaped, hire a professional to wrangle your yard into a state that’s easier for you to maintain throughout the year. Our research estimates that these simple services can yield up to a 350% return on investment.
- Invest in new outdoor furniture: In 2020, we cherished our private outdoor spaces where we could chill mask-and-stress-free. Forbes reported that CB2 saw a 90% year-over-year increase in searches for outdoor furniture and indicated a significant increase in outdoor furniture purchases. Jump on the bandwagon and add an outdoor furniture set to your front porch.
- Replace your garage door: Not only will a new garage door give your home a facelift, but this upgrade also adds value to your home and recoups 95% of project costs.
July: Schedule a plumbing check-up
Just like you promised yourself that you’d book a check-up with the dentist and doctor in 2021, book your home a check-up with the plumber. A yearly check-up on your home’s plumbing system from a master plumber can save you money and heartache by preventing problems before they spiral out of hand.
Once your home’s plumbing is in good health, keep it that way by regularly checking for common sources of leaks:
- Check your water heater: The National Association of Realtors® recommends checking your water heater once a month for signs of aging or leaks.
- Test your main shut off valve: It’s crucial to know how to operate the main shut off valve for your plumbing system in case of an emergency. What’s even more crucial is knowing that it works. Remember to test your shut off valve once a month in the summer and twice a month in the winter when pipes are prone to bursting.
August: Increase efficiency and marketability with smart home technology
With Millennials emerging as a keystone of today’s buyer pool, upgrading your home with “smart” technology adds more value than ever. A recent survey reveals that over 70% of Millennials were willing to pay $1,500 more for a home with smart home features, and just over 40% would pay $3,000 more. There are several “smart” renovations on this calendar, including:
- Smart thermostats can cost anywhere from $150-250 and around $100 to install. A typical home can save as much as $145 annually in heating and cooling bills thanks to this addition.
- Smart home security systems range from a base price of $199 to $599 with monitoring fees between $30 to $45 a month. While these costs won’t necessarily translate into a dollar for dollar return on investment, the peace of mind they offer is priceless.
- Smart doorbells allow you to scope out visitors before answering the door and keep an eye on your packages while you’re away. Top-rated smart doorbell systems average about $150, some with additional monthly monitoring fees as low as $3 per month.
September: Plan your home’s future remodel
If you want to add value to your home, Deering recommends remodeling your kitchen or primary bathroom. For instance, a mid-range kitchen remodel costs an average of $23,500 and recovers 77% of project costs at resale. With a sizable price tag, you’ll want to plan this remodel well in advance to ensure you get all of the details right.
Cozy up with a tablet and some candles in September and draft up a home renovation plan:
- Find inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz.
- Get quotes from general contractors.
- Create a savings plan to finance the project.
Deering also recommends consulting a local real estate agent on what finishes and materials sell best in your market:
“Ask your local real estate agent who has a lot of experience which projects are going to help in your neighborhood . . . You’d be surprised that fifty percent of the projects homeowners think they want to go after might not make any difference in the value [of their home] or make any difference in the sale.”
October: Cut down your energy bills with LED light bulbs
The arrival of fall means shorter days and longer nights. It also means more time spent indoors with the lights on — and higher energy bills. Save a buck by changing to energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
According to the Department of Energy, LED lights use a whopping 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. For the average homeowner, this translates into approximately $1,000 savings over a 10 year period. Whether you cut your incandescent cold-turkey or start the LED transition process slowly, compare your light bulb options with Wirecutter’s guide to smart LED light bulbs.
November: Get ready for the holidays with a fresh coat of paint
As holidays approach, you might want to tighten your home improvement budget to spend on presents, but that doesn’t mean giving up on your home improvement resolutions! Deering has a simple, cost-friendly solution: “I would say the least expensive thing that people can do to give their home a fresh touch would be paint.”
An average size room (10 x 12 feet) costs between $100 to $300 to paint DIY-style while hiring a professional will cost between $200 to $800. If you’re planning on selling in the near future, choose a neutral color like Agreeable Gray or Accessible Beige by Sherwin-Williams. If you’re in your forever home, then why not experiment with some color therapy on an accent wall or in a powder room. Not only is a fresh coat of paint an affordable renovation, but it’s also a great talking point for guests at your holiday parties!
December: Meditate on your home maintenance resolutions
As 2021 comes to an end, take some time to congratulate yourself on the hard work you put into your abode. This type of positive encouragement actually increases your ability to keep up your good habits. And trust us, good home habits are worth the effort. Studies show that regular maintenance can increase your home’s value by 1% annually. Now that’s an accomplishment worth clinking glasses for!
Header Image Source: (David Papazian / Shutterstock)