Is your house looking a little frayed around the edges? Does it feel like it’s shrinking as your family grows, or is cooking even one more meal in your outdated kitchen so depressing you’d rather just go out to dinner? Maybe more important things need to be addressed, like replacing a leaky roof or a warped garage door.
Home renovation projects not only help to transform your home into your castle; they can be smart financial moves as well. If you choose wisely, you may be able to earn a significant return on improvements by increasing the resale value of your home. In this article, we’ll go room by room and discuss what kinds of home improvements can elevate your space and maybe put a little extra cash in your pocket when you sell.
Choosing Home Improvement Projects with a Good ROI
When choosing a home renovation project, you’ll probably consider its return on investment.
Whether a project ranks among the best-value home improvements depends on a number of factors, including:
- Geographic area: For example, installing an in-ground swimming pool might be more in demand in warmer climates than in regions that would be too cold for much of the year to swim.
- Year: Project desirability tends to follow trends that change significantly over time. This means the amount you recoup at resale depends not just on the type of renovation done, but also when you do the project.
While return on investment merits serious thought, it’s not the only factor to consider when planning a home renovation. Getting lasting enjoyment from your living space matters, too. You’re most likely not going to recoup the entire cost of the renovation, so a project that includes both best-value home improvements and those that bring you the most joy is a win-win endeavor.
Upgrade Your Kitchen
For many people, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Just about everyone loves a sparkling, modern kitchen with stylish cabinetry, fixtures, and countertops as well as the latest appliances. Sprucing up your kitchen can transform the most routine meals at home into a celebration, and even cleaning up afterward becomes less of a chore.
If you take on a kitchen remodel project this year, you expect that if you decide to sell in the not-too-distant future, you’ll likely get back a decent chunk of your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, minor kitchen remodels see an average return of 72.2%.
- Cabinet resurfacing: Bring new life to your existing cabinets by resurfacing the exterior.
- Countertop replacement: Old and outdated countertops can detract from a room’s appearance. New countertops, paired with a bold backsplash, can dramatically change the look.
- New flooring: Nothing dates a room quite like old and worn flooring. Fresh tile, composite, or laminate flooring can improve the look and feel of the room.
- New appliances: Purchasing new kitchen appliances can quickly upgrade the space, even if nothing else changes.
- Hardware: It’s not all about the cabinet and countertop color and material. Your kitchen hardware also matters. New handles, knobs, faucets, and sinks can modernize any kitchen.
Looking for a larger project? Consider a complete kitchen layout redesign. Many older homes feature a kitchen area that is cut off from the rest of the home and living area. Many homeowners today prefer an open concept kitchen and living area, which allows families to be together in both rooms of the house.
Redo the Living Room
Living areas like the parlor, family room, media room, and dining room are classified this way for a reason: most of us spend a lot of time living in these spaces. Because we spend so much time in these rooms, it’s fun to make them as inviting as possible.
- New lighting: If your living area feels dark, brighten the area with additional light fixtures.
- New paint: “Greige” got you down? Might be time for a fresh color.
- Built-in storage: If you’re looking for a functional remodel, adding built-in storage like bookshelves can give you more room.
- New windows: Not only can new windows be a statement piece, but they can also let more light into your room, depending on the model.
As we mentioned above with kitchens, many people nowadays are opting for open floor plans. Sometimes this means tearing down walls between living rooms and other rooms in the house that may not get much use, like a formal dining room.
Remodel Your Bathrooms
If you want to start with a smaller remodel project, it’s time to tackle the smallest room in your house. Midrange and universal design bathroom remodels have a decent return on investment, 60.1% and 57.9% respectively. Here are some projects you can undertake in the bathroom.
- Cabinet refacing and countertop replacement: Like your kitchen, bathrooms can benefit a ton from fresh cabinets and countertops.
- Sink replacement: A new sink and faucet can completely change the feel of a bathroom.
- Bathtub replacement: Dingy bathtubs can be replaced with sleeker models. If you really want to add a touch of luxury, consider a freestanding tub.
- Shower re-tiling: Like your floor, countertops, and cabinets, your shower may be due for an upgrade.
- Storage addition: If your bathroom counters are always cluttered with your health and beauty supplies, investing in some bathroom storage could be a great move. Not only will it help declutter your bathroom, but it can serve as a bold decor piece.
For a more upscale remodel, you can follow the latest luxury trends in bathroom design. These trends strive to create a personal sanctuary and spa-like atmosphere with touches like vessel sinks, towel warmers, rain showerheads, steam saunas, and body jets.
Update Your Bedrooms
Giving your bedrooms a minor facelift is fairly inexpensive and can help make your home more appealing to future prospective buyers. If you’re thinking of selling soon, stick with neutral colors and textures that won’t clash with other decorating styles.
- Fresh paint and wallpaper: Over time, walls get scuffed and faded. A new coat of paint can quickly fix this. If you want to add more color or a fun pattern, we have good news— wallpaper is back!
- New carpet or other flooring: If your carpet is looking visibly worn, it’s probably time for a replacement. Carpet is still a classic choice for bedrooms, but many people are opting to make the switch to hardwood or manufactured wood. Pro Tip: If you have carpet now, take a peek underneath—it’s possible you already have wood floors! As carpet comes in and out of fashion, a lot of people choose to cover wood floors rather than remove them.
- Modern light fixtures: New light features with smart bulbs can instantly improve the appearance of a bedroom.
If you have four or more bedrooms in your house, consider repurposing one into another room. More people are working from home than ever before, making a home office not only practical but often necessary.
Improve Your Garage and Attic
When finalizing your home improvement plan, don’t forget to include garage and attic renovations. Adding proper insulation to your attic doesn’t cost a ton and has the potential to save you big on energy costs. Replacing your garage door with either a midrange or upscale model returns over 90% of costs and can vastly improve the curb appeal of your home.
If you’re looking for a large project, consider adding usable square footage to your home by converting your attic to another room or office. Keep in mind that when you alter the structure of your home, you might need the help of a professional contractor or engineer and the project may require special building permits.
Create a Backyard Oasis
Creating a pleasant atmosphere outdoors on your property means you and your family can enjoy nature right at home while barbecuing, dining under the stars, or even just reading a book in the afternoon sunshine. The right outdoor furniture and features could make your backyard a natural extension of your indoor living space.
- Swimming pool or hot tub: Bring the summer fun into your backyard with an in-ground pool. Looking for something with more year-round use? Consider a hot tub.
- Outdoor kitchen or cabana: Entertain your family and guests outside with an outdoor food preparation space and cabana.
- Outside living area: Today’s outdoor living area furniture and features have almost as many— if not more— options as indoor living rooms.
- Pergolas and gazebos: Increase the shaded area (and the area you want to be in during the summer) with a pergola or gazebo.
- Garden and greenhouse: Wanting to grow your own food right in your backyard? A garden or greenhouse can be a gift that keeps giving!
Thinking about redoing your entire backyard? Check out our article on backyard renovation costs.
Go Green in Every Room
Regardless of the room you're in, there’s always an opportunity to go green. Things like reliable, energy-efficient climate control help homeowners feel comfortable in their living areas and buyers to feel confident about a house. Another energy-saving project— installing solar panels— can both increase the value of your home and save you money month by month.
The United States Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory found that homebuyers consistently have been willing to pay more for homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, to the tune of about $15,000 for a home with a typical system.
Paying for Home Improvements
Don’t have the cash on hand to undertake the home improvements you want? You have a few financing options available, including:
- Home equity: This type of loan or line of credit allows you to put the money you’ve already paid on your home to work for you in making improvements. You put your house up as collateral to secure the loan, which lowers your credit union’s risk and results in your getting a low rate of interest.
- Home improvement loan: Designed for those using a contractor, this loan is unsecured and does not use your home's equity.
- Cash-out refinance: By taking out a larger mortgage with more favorable rates, you can pocket the difference between your new mortgage and the existing mortgage.
These can put the money in your pocket that you need to get the projects done now with the luxury of paying it off over time.
Making Your House a Home
The combination of solid planning and affordable financing is your ticket to the very best of both worlds: a home you and your family will love today and the satisfaction of knowing you’ll get a return on your investment in the future.