What home improvement projects make a big difference for little investment?
This is a common question, especially when a homeowner is planning to sell. Doing a little work before listing can add a lot to your side of the settlement statement at closing. It’s also a good question to ask even when you’re not selling because these projects will make your space more enjoyable day-to-day.
Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest question to answer, because with home improvement statistics, individual circumstances play a role. For example, bathroom remodels typically pay back just 65% of their cost. But if your bathroom looks like the Creature From the Black Lagoon might squeeze up through the drain to grace the pink tile shower…well, you might make 200% of your money back for remodeling that one! That said, a bathroom remodel is no small (or cheap) undertaking.
So what are some low-cost home improvement projects that add value when you sell? Here are four that are worth considering even if you’re just looking to freshen things up a bit:
Freshen Up The Paint
Painting is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to update and freshen the look of a home. Buyers have grown tired of the grays and “grieges.” Select your colors carefully if you’re painting to sell, studies show that choosing the right shades can put thousands of dollars in your pocket. Conversely, the wrong colors may cost you money. Stark or yellowish whites are often a mistake, along with pink or red. Safe picks are clean whites (Swiss Coffee by Behr is my go-to!) with bright white trim.
Fresh paint also makes a home look fresh and clean. Over the years, smudges and dirt accumulate on corners and doors creating a subtle “aged” look. Re-painting clears that up in one swipe of the roller.
If you pick one project, choose paint.
Paint Cabinets and Update Hardware
Not long ago oak cabinets with gold knobs were the height of fashion, but they have fallen from favor. Most buyers today want bright kitchens with modern finishes. Kitchens are one of the most important rooms in a house, so making an adjustment here is a smart move. Fortunately it doesn’t have to mean a full renovation.
If the cabinets are structurally sound, a coat of white paint and new hardware is a fast fix. Add a white subway-tile backsplash plus a new faucet, and the kitchen will look like you spent tens of thousands. We do this to most of our rental properties and the results are amazing and will make you money.
Update Lighting and Knobs
The days of brass and glass are long over, and nothing dates a home like those finishes on lights, mirrors, and door-knobs. Lighting technology has also made great advances thanks to LED technology, providing more lumens (brightness) in compact fixtures. Luckily, this is another inexpensive update, even with the cost of a handyman.
Swap out all the brass fixtures and knobs for brushed nickel or bronze. In dimly lit areas, don’t just upgrade the finish – add more light to brighten up the space. To really complete the update, clean or replace worn or dirty switch-plates and outlet covers. They cost under a dollar a piece and can make a noticeable difference.
Replace or Update Flooring
This job is more of an investment than the others, but will still deliver returns if your floors are worn or horribly dated.
If you’re selling, I recommend replacing obviously worn, dated, or stained carpets rather than offering a “carpet allowance,” because they will make the whole house look bad, costing you more money indirectly. Don’t overspend on this if you’re doing it to sell, the buyers may just rip it out. Instead, ask contractors or investors (like me) where to find the best deal on “builder grade” carpet.
If you have wood floors that are excessively scuffed and scratched, consider having them refinished. This can also be a DIY job (we’ve done it). While a lot of trends come and go, the most popular colors for wood floors are natural looking medium to dark stains if you’re looking to maximize your investment. Again, the grays have fallen out of favor with natural tones taking their place.
Some hard floors may require replacement, in which case I highly recommend using luxury vinyl plank flooring. It’s easy to install, affordable, and looks stunningly beautiful. I’ve even seen it used in high-end Yale Crest homes. We had to touch the floor to believe it wasn’t wood.
While this list is tailored toward home sellers, it also applies if you’re looking to freshen up your “forever home.” For example, our floors will soon be overlaid with luxury vinyl plank flooring (in a medium or dark wood finish) because it’s a great product for homes with pets and kids.
Happy home improvement!
P.S. You may want to read my recent post, “Should You DIY or Hire?” before diving into these projects. Also read my post, “Refresh Your Front Entrance in Six Steps” for another quick home improvement project with big returns.