The 3 Best Categories for Boosting Your Home’s Value Without Going Broke

by Jessica Sommerfield · 9 comments

Everyone makes home improvements for different reasons, but most of the time they’re either a necessity (maybe a roof repair), something for personal enjoyment, or intended to increase a home’s market value. In fact, about 53% of adults in the U.S. have completed a home improvement project within the last year. Whether you’re getting ready to move or just sprucing things up a bit, it’s wise to be mindful of how the improvements you’re making will affect your home’s value when it comes time to sell or refinance your mortgage.

Based on what real estate experts say, the three top home improvement categories that deliver the biggest bang for your home renovating buck fall into three categories: practical appeal, curb appeal, and modern appeal. Let’s take a look at each:

#1: Practical Appeal

When we think of home renovation, our minds jump to fun projects like updating a kitchen or adding a deck, but “boring” projects like routine maintenance and repairs or energy-efficiency upgrades go a long way in creating baseline appeal and value to your home.

Maintenance & Repairs

Home hunters want to know the place they’re considering is in good condition. No matter how great a renovated bathroom looks, it won’t persuade a buyer to overlook a major repair they’ll have to deal with right away. Performing routine maintenance on furnaces and septic systems, fixing problems like plumbing leaks or rusty gutters, and making practical improvements are all investments that will raise and maintain your home’s value in the long run. Even spending a few hundred dollars in this area can yield a few thousand more in return.

This shows in statistics. Based on national averages, adding insulation regains 107.7% of the cost in the form of home value; replacing roofing or siding recoups 80 to 92% of the cost. Compare this to a bathroom or kitchen remodel, which only returns 64 to 80%, at best.

Energy Efficiency

Home buyers are looking more carefully at utilities – one of those controllable expenses that can be drastically improved with energy-efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems. Besides the personal savings on your utility bills and taxes, The Appraisal Journal says making your home greener will also improve the value of your home by up to 20 times the annual energy savings. Wow!

#2: Curb Appeal

Potential buyers decide within the first few moments of walking up to a house whether they’re interested in seeing more. First, there’s landscaping. Overhanging trees and unruly bushes can obscure your house’s best features, darken the interior, encourage mold, and can even cause expensive damage. A Home Gain survey showed that putting just $400 to $500 into landscaping could improve the value of your home up to four times that amount.

Then there’s the entryway. Is it neat, well-lit, and protected from weather? Is your door in good shape and look secure? Consider updating your entry with a steel door – it’s another item you’ll recoup almost 100% of your cost on. Plus, they look modern and are pretty cool too.

Finally, fix other exterior issues like missing siding or chipped paint. Small updates like these can make a pretty big difference when it comes to shaping the first impressions of anyone who see your home.

#3: Modern Appeal

It’s time to give your home some modern appeal after the basics are taken care of. Real estate professionals say home buyers are looking for open floor plans, natural light, updated flooring, and bathroom and kitchen upgrades. Here are a few of the most value-driven ways to make your home look more modern:

  • Spend a few hundred dollars to knock out a non-structural wall or kitchen island.
  • Improve light by replacing broken panes, freeing painted-over windows, and installing less expensive tubular skylights.
  • Fix squeaks in your floors, patch and repair boards and tile, or rip out wall-to-wall carpet and replace it with engineered hardwood.
  • Update the bathroom on a tight budget by replacing frosted glass, cleaning grout, removing rust stains, re-caulking, updating doorknobs and pulls, replacing faucets, and installing a low-flush toilet.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on improvements to increase your home’s value. Just choose your improvements wisely and you can easily recoup that investment back. The more you value your home by taking care of it, the more others will value it, as well.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Frank Rivers says:

    I purchased 4 of the wall shocked plug in type electronic inverters.
    My power bill dropped 60-90.00 per month………depending upon the amount of time I used electricity.
    I was astounded with this situation.

  • Brad - says:

    I heard that just added Nest or other automated temperature control can raise the selling price of your host more than the cost of the devices. So you get to save money each month, plus get a return at the time of sale. 🙂 I haven’t tried yet – just read the article this week. But I’m definitely leaning toward a Nest.

  • Jeff | VTX Capital says:

    I can definitely see where energy efficiency would pay off. When potential buyers look at that they see the future savings that come with lower electricity bills, etc.

    • David @ says:

      Making your home more energy efficient is really a no-brainer, especially when the government is helping you foot part of the bill via tax credits.

      Take advantage while you still can!

  • Ryan G says:

    I will also add that if you plan to be out of the home when you start marketing it, then patch holes in walls and re-paint a neutral color. If your walls are in good shape, then you can forgo this step. As far as maintenance goes, fix as much of the small/medium scale stuff as is practical. No house is going to be perfect, but if there are obvious defects, then it is a problem.

    • David @ says:

      A little TLC goes a long way. You have to give potential buyers the confidence that you have taken care of the home while you were there.

      Otherwise no one will want to bid for your home and then you will be stuck with the low ball offers.

  • David Domzalski says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Plenty of great tips here. People tend to forgo the maintenance/repairs for the flashy things like kitchens and basements. That said, you can add value with a better return if you’re willing to do remodels yourself. My wife and I took that approach with portions of our first home and saw a great return. We refinished the kitchen cabinets, put in hardwood floors, painted and did molding throughout.

    In our current house, we’re doing our own patio and outdoor space as well as our own basement. The only thing we’re not doing in the basement is electricity. Yes, it requires time to learn and not everybody has a father-in-law who knows how to do these things, but we can all learn. Doing a little DIY goes a long way.



    • David @ says:

      Good for you David.

      I’ve wanted to change my flooring for a long time now and I always hesitate because I don’t want to pack everything and then have the contractors tear everything apart and make the whole house super dusty. DIY might actually work out better because I can do different sections at different times and take my time with the demolition and installation.

      Thanks for the motivation!

      • David Domzalski says:

        Thanks, David. I didn’t have shop class in high school, so I’m developing these skills now. Trust me when I say, if I can drill something … anybody can. The great thing about DIY is that you learn a skill (one I plan to pass on to my son) and you can control the project’s budget. So, you learn a little, buy some materials, and do the work. You pay for it as you go. Sure, it takes longer, but the value you add for the monetary and time investment is incredible. Good luck! 🙂

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