Small Updates that Increase Home Value: 16 Projects You Can Tackle for Less Than $1,000

The shine of $1,300 imported glass tile backsplash sends your interior design gears running wild. Why not take your house from drab to fab with luxury renovations?

Slow your roll, amateur Joanna Gaines with a credit card. Contrary to popular belief, fancy kitchen overhauls will yield you just 53.5% ROI, a number representative of the generally low returns on upscale remodeling projects.

“I’m not a huge proponent for large expensive upgrades, especially if I don’t think that the seller is going to get a decent return out of it,” says Stephanie Valdez, a top agent with Bustos Real Estate, which sells 73% more properties than average agents in Utah.

The sweet spot for updates that increase home value lies in the low-to-mid cost range, according to reports from leading home building organizations and real estate associations.

With those parameters we bring you 16 home updates for under $1,000 that that will boost your home’s marketability and won’t leave you crying over your remodeling bills.

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The kitchen is the heart of a home… with these budget-friendly updates

Minor kitchen remodels have an 81.1% recoup value compared to their upscale versions. And, according to the 2017 National Association of the Remodeling Industry report, kitchen upgrades are ranked as one of the highest appeals to home buyers, with a Joy Score of 9.6.

So, don’t start tearing off tiles and charging at your countertops with a jackhammer. We’re thinking of minimal kitchen updates that you can finish in just a couple of days.

Update #1: Install a double sink in the kitchen

Cost range: $100-$500

According to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2017 Home Buyer Preferences Survey, the number one feature that middle-income home buyers looked for in the kitchen is a side-by-side double-sink, with 37% of buyers viewing it as essential.

Consumer Reports recommends deeper sinks for a limited splash zone and a side-by-side model with at least one sink that’s big enough to fit larger pots and pans. Aim for something that’s functional and easy to clean, with a modern touch.

We recommend stainless steel models with an undermount for that sleeker finish. Here are two that we found that fit the criteria with top ratings:

Update #2: Say ‘Aloha!’ to your new kitchen island

Cost range: $150-$600

Another update that home buyers look for is a central kitchen island. NAHB’s survey found that 77% of home buyers rate it as essential or desirable. But building an entirely new structure in the middle of your kitchen isn’t something that you likely have the time for.

So, a simple way to make this update is to purchase a premade and portable kitchen island that you can fit into any space. An already-assembled kitchen island adds storage, additional eating space (another desirable kitchen feature), and more food preparation room.

We’ve found different styles all for less than $500 that will fit in any kitchen:

Update #3: Update your kitchen cabinets with a fresh coat of paint

Cost range: $30-50 per gallon of paint

You can change the feeling of a room with only a bucket of white paint, a paintbrush, and two hours.

“I had a home listed, and some of the feedback that we were getting from other agents was that the kitchen was just too small, too dark, and very dated,” says Valdez. “A very quick, simple, inexpensive cure for that is cabinet refinishing.”

She recommends white or light gray paint that will immediately brighten up the room and give the illusion of more space. “We did nothing to change the square footage. It appears more warm, welcoming and open,” recalls Valdez.

Stick to neutrals if white isn’t your cup of tea. Sherwin Williams’ Spatial White and Behr’s Snow Fall offer a clean and crisp look without feeling too sterile.

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Make the bathroom feel fresh and modern

With a mid-range bathroom remodel, you can recoup 70.1% of what you spent on the project.

You’ll want to keep your costs low for the most return with projects that won’t take months and your life savings to complete.

For example, concentrate on the details: rather than installing a new shower stall, recaulk the sides of the tub and replace shower heads. This gives your bathroom a fresh start and adds value without breaking the bank.

Update #4: Get shiny new bathroom fixtures: Think handles, faucets, and shower heads

Cost range: $70-$200

To add some shine to your bathrooms, install new fixtures to make it more appealing to homebuyers. A new shower head or faucet will attract more interested buyers than rusting or damaged ones that show years of overuse. Then, replace the flickering light bulb from the overhead light and the rusting light fixture to give the space new life.

For a standard and clean look for the sink faucet, a brushed nickel finish matches any style of bathroom. To match, give your shower a makeover with the Moen handheld showerhead that is certified for efficient water usage. And, finally, replace your corroded lights above the vanity with a sleek three-light fixture that gives your bathroom a 5-star hotel makeover for under $80.

Update #5: Put in efficient and modern toilets

Cost range: $100-$300; installation: $370

Another update that home buyers will appreciate is a new toilet (we’re serious!)

You might think it’s too simple of an update, but a new toilet that isn’t yellow from years of use and doesn’t need a check-up and plunging every week will impress. Instead of an old bowl that leaks and runs gallons of water in the middle of the night, replace it with an energy-efficient model that’s gentle on the eyes and environment.

The Glacier Bay one piece All-in-One Toilet is powerful and energy-efficient, with many color options. Home Depot will also provide in-home installation for $269.

KOHLER’s Classic 2-piece toilet, one of Home Depot’s top-rated toilets, also keeps water usage at bay.

Update #6: Make your bathroom vanity functional to the max

Cost range: $200-$500

The bathroom vanity is an integral part of anyone’s daily and nightly routine—whatever 10-step skin routine you follow, the vanity is the first and last thing you use every day (other than your iPhone screen).

You’ll want to make sure that homebuyers can see themselves using this vanity all the time.

Again, instead of purchasing an entirely new cabinet, zone in on the details that make the most difference. Make sure the vanity, which can bring in the biggest return, has a modern and clean countertop, sink, and faucet at a comfortable height.

Replace your 40-year-old mirror with a modern circle mirror above the sink, which gives the bathroom a younger and sleeker look.

Then, give your cabinets a fresh repaint with a neutral color, like white or beige, which helps makes your bathroom look and feel bigger (just like the kitchen!)

As a final step in the bathroom, recaulk the tub, showers, and toilet to maintain a safe, bacteria-free, and clean bathroom for less than $5.

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Miscellaneous indoor upgrades: You’d be surprised what buyers want!

Update #7: Add comfort and lighting with ceiling fans

Cost range: About $100 per fan, $60-$90 for each fan installation

The NAHB survey found that the most essential decorative feature for homebuyers across all income brackets is a ceiling fan. It adds comfort and lighting; gives you another way to exercise your design chops; and is just plain practical in hotter climates.

A ceiling fan in a bedroom or living room provides a homey vibe that buyers will want to feel when going through your house. Though NAHB surveys a national audience, talk to your real estate agent to figure out whether buyers in your area look for a ceiling fan.

Find a simple design that won’t overwhelm the room you’re sprucing up. We recommend a matte black fan with wooden blades for a modern feel in the guest room or a fan with warm light and cherry blades in a classic, traditional bedroom.

Hampton Bay’s Rothley fan is one of Home Depot’s highest rated model that fits well in a larger living room.

Update #8: Fortify your house with strong, energy-efficient windows

Cost range: $150-$350 per window

With more severe winters and summers expected in the future, homebuyers will look for windows that can withstand any climate. The NAHB survey also found that 86% of home buyers view Energy Star windows as a desirable feature, and often view windows as an important environmentally friendly factor.

Home sellers can expect a 74.3% return on investment for a vinyl window replacement, so updating your worn windows is a safe bet when it comes to adding value to your home. Vinyl windows are also low-maintenance, durable, and energy-saving, which homeowners view as an important environmentally friendly factor when it comes to windows.

These windows fit the criteria and will find you a replacement that makes sense in your home:

Update #9: Apply a fresh coat of paint to loud walls and the kids’ rooms

Cost range: $50-$100

With a $30 gallon of white paint and $4 can of spackle, you’ll work wonders around the house, adding value with every brush stroke. Any nail holes from your family portraits and kids’ paintings should get spackled and repainted.

Bobvila.com, an expert source for DIY home improvement projects, gives an easy to follow guide on how to spackle. This quick project gives your walls a fresh and brand new feeling.

If you have time to tackle a larger paint project, grab a paint roller and tackle the kids’ rooms.  A lime green room might have made sense for your kid, but won’t for the home buyer.

“Let’s talk about [the] kids bedroom. When you’re considering selling, those colors may be off-putting to a significant amount of people. Sticking with modern neutral colors so it goes with everyone’s decor is definitely the better way to go,” says Valdez.

She also suggests to switch out old light fixtures, like a Mickey Mouse ceiling fan, for something that any home buyer might like.

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Don’t forget the outside! Updates that matter for your home’s exterior appeal

If you’re looking for a return on investment for upgrades, outdoor living space areas are the number one return,” says Valdez.

In her experience, the update that adds the most value to a home is curb appeal. It’s not hard to believe when lawn care and seeding have a return value of more than 300%.

“It doesn’t matter how awesome it is on the inside if they won’t even get out of the car and come and look,” says Valdez. What makes the most sense for the least amount of cash? Landscape, outdoor space, and lighting.

Update #10: Snip, trim, and shape: Get your landscaping looking neat and tidy

Cost: $50-$100

In NAR’s 2018 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features report, agents ranked lawn care as the most desirable feature for homebuyers. It estimated that landscape maintenance recovers 100% of costs at the time of the sale, and add 5 to 15% to your home’s value. So, grab the lawn mower and hedge trimmers and get to work!

Set aside a weekend to plant low maintenance primrose bushes or line your driveway with pavers. Then, before a showing, fill in the yellow spots with green lawn paint that’s safe and easy to use, while giving the front of your house an immediate makeover. These subtle changes brighten up the front lawn and grab the attention of home buyers who will want to step foot into your home.

Update #11: Brighten up your curb appeal with strategic lighting

Cost range: $100-$300

Exterior lighting is a consistent feature that home buyers look for—86% view them as either desirable or essential, according to the NAHB survey.

For less than $250, Valdez helped one family turn their cold patio to a warm and welcoming space with lights.

“They have a lot of outdoor lights and even several strings of fairy lights that are solar lights, giving an evening ambiance for afternoon and evening showings,” which helped to sell in that area. Exterior lighting helps build a cozy atmosphere and keeps the home safe from burglaries.

Instead of rebuilding a patio with thousands of dollars, spruce up the exterior of your home with lights that will take less than an hour to install.

Add a motion-activated headlight above your garage or front steps and hang LED waterproof solar fairy lights along your backyard fence for a low budget update that adds value.

Update #12: Touch up the paint on your home’s exterior

Cost range: $100-$200 for paint, $20 for brushes and supplies

Cosmetic projects like a fresh coat of paint on your house attract home buyers and appease home appraisers. A solid paint job protects your home from the elements and increases home value.

The average return on resale is about 90% for an exterior paint job. What’s more, fresh paint generally gives the home buyer an impression that the rest of your house will be just as clean.

So, if your home isn’t completely falling apart and you’re on a budget, give the exterior a paint touch-up to cover up the blemishes and focus on the trim, siding, and peeling spots.

First, color match. Then, prime, and get to painting.

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Smart House (not the Disney Channel Original Movie): Technology updates for the 21st Century home

Out of the 18 technology home features that the NAHB surveyed for, buyers in mid to high range income brackets wanted both a wireless security system and programmable thermostat the most. But, smart upgrades won’t necessarily help you sell for more. What they can do is help your home stand out and sell faster.

“We live in a very technological age and we have a lot going on. We’re really busy people. So technology makes our lives easier,” says Valdez. “And everybody wants that,” which isn’t surprising that 70% of millennials prefer and look for homes with smart devices.

In many of the higher price point homes she shows, Valdez sees existing security systems and thermostats included in the price of the listing. And, at least 80% of the time, she has buyers wanting the seller to install this kind of tech.

Update #13: Keep the house safe with a wireless security system

Cost range: $50-$200

When a burglary occurs every 18 seconds in the US, of which 74% are residential properties, it might seem like a no-brainer to install a security system. But, if you’re on a budget for a home sale, investing in security cameras and a monthly service provider subscription doesn’t make much sense in the long-term.

Cheaper, but secure wireless options, like the iSmart Alarm, provides a quick and savvy addition to the home.

According to the Verge, a media network dedicated to reporting on the latest tech, other options include SimpliSafe and Ring Alarm, which both cost less than $300 are easy to install and have 24-hour battery back-up in case of an outage.

This gives home buyers a sense of safety—if your home is one of the few listings they’re looking at with this kind of tech security, you can expect a faster sale.

Update #14: Install a smart thermostat to make temperature control easy

Cost range: $150-$250 for the system, $100-$200 for installation

Consumer Reports finds that the quickest upgrade that can help you sell your home is installing a smart thermostat. They conserve energy, time, and even adapt to your lifestyle, adjusting to how you’ve configured the temperature in your home.

Systems like Nest take note of when you leave for work and turn up the heat when you arrive home. You might compare this to an episode of Black Mirror, but for less than $200 out of your pocket, homebuyers will want to see your home the most out of all the others that don’t have a smart thermostat.

They’re easy to install (Consumer Reports provides a step-by-step guide) and low maintenance, a key feature that home buyers look for with smart homes.

Smart thermostats under $200 include:

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We gave you the stats, so you won’t drill a hole in your wallet

The purpose of a home update is to add, take away, or improve what you already have in the perfect amount—not to go overboard. Speak with a top real estate agent in your area to figure out what homebuyers in your locale and price range want in a house.

“As a seller, you have to depersonalize the space for you and make it to where your buyer can imagine themselves living there and then tailor that space to them and their experiences,” advises Valdez.

For under $1,000, choose the right upgrades to tackle from this list and take the extra time to update the features in your home that will increase your home’s value.

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