Renovations that Actually Increase your Home Value

Renovations that Actually Increase your Home Value
  • Opening Intro -

    As a first time home buyer with a limited budget, I shopped for value homes with ideas for updating in mind off the bat.

    Where some might have seen outdated oak cabinets and lackluster carpeting, I saw opportunity for solid wood updates and customized features built by my hand woodworking husband.


Immediately I started planning projects for the kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, backyard, and baseboards, intending on making the “vanilla” home stand out for future buyers when our new home no longer served us.

I knew for a fact that home renovations were a great way to increase equity on a property, but after drafting out all of my major projects and figuring a budget, I started wondering how much of my efforts would actually matter in the future.

HGTV says that “home improvement projects cost about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar. The other 75 to 80 cents spent go directly back into the home through increased value.” Those numbers, though, don’t hold true for every project. Here are the renovations that actually increase the value of your home.


Still considered the heart of the home, the kitchen is the number one place people seek value in when remodeling a home. It’s the first place buyers make a beeline to when walking through a prospective home because it’s an area where families spend a lot of their time. Opportunities to increase value ranges, too, so there are a number of options to choose from that fit any amount of budget.

The most obvious and often times easiest upgrades are those done to appliances and countertops; stainless steel appliances are hot in the current market, but it’s a style that isn’t likely to go out due to its practicality. The same goes for granite countertops, which are what buyers demand if given an option.

For a larger project, consider updating the cabinets to solid wood. If your kitchen is outdated and has melamine cabinetry, buyers are likely going to note that as a project they’ll have to undertake in the future. Play around with your budget and decide whether added features such a soft close hinges or glass cut outs are really necessary.

Taking down a half or whole wall in order to create better continuity from the kitchen space to the living room area can be another great way to boost appeal, since open floor plans are always in.

Pro Tip: If the half wall is unobtrusive enough, consider turning it into a usable bar space.


Bathroom remodels lend themselves well to returns on investments.
Image Courtesy of Hammer and Hand


Generally the second most important for inquiring eyes, bathrooms are an easy target for renovations that lend return. What’s nice about bathrooms is that they can be updated at a lower price than full sized rooms generally; even something as simple as replacing aged wallpaper with a fresh coat of semigloss paint and cleaning old grout and caulking can make a difference, so there really isn’t a point in not touching a bathroom.  

What buyers really want to see is updated vanities that sit higher up than dated ones, tile or stone flooring and features, and glassless or floating glass showers if they fit well in the space. Just make sure that the house has at least one bathtub, since families with children absolutely need one for bath time purposes. If a bath/shower combo is the only logical fit, accent well with shower curtains that are unique and fun for the style of the home.

Pro Tip: If you can’t find a pattern of shower curtains to fit your color scheme or style, find curtain companies that do custom fabrics and fittings and pick something out of their extensive options; just make sure that your inner lining layer is substantial enough to keep the curtains dry.


One of the first things that a buyer is going to notice about a house during a walkthrough is its floors; why? It takes up the majority of the real estate. If there is dingy carpet or tiles, lackluster wood that needs refinishing, or worst of all nothing at all (walking into one of my prospect houses during a search there was unfinished cement floors directly inside the door – almost an instant deal breaker for me since it’s such an easy fix), the buyer is going to be turned off quick.

To a buyer, updating floors comes across as a major project that they’ll have to undertake down the line, but simple updates done by the seller ahead of time can reduce worry – and increase equity – since the home won’t come across as a fixer-upper in the buyer’s mind.

There are a number of ways that floors can be renovated, it just depends on what fits into budget and style. If you are wanting to add wood floors, you can choose from new or refurbished solid wood options, or for a bit more money you can go for engineered hardwood which tends to last a bit longer. Likewise for carpet, there is a range of materials to choose from that effect the price points you’ll find, and a variety of paddings make the choice more customizable, too.


Create the illusion of space by utilizing decor to allow light in.
Image Courtesy of 247 Blinds

Add a Room

Generally speaking, the more rooms, the more valuable the home. This doesn’t mean starting a huge construction project and adding a completed new room though; unless you have the space for it and an appraiser tells you it will give value, a major project like that won’t reap return.

What you can do is take an extra space you already have – say a den, a closet, or a basement – and complete it. By adding a closet to any of these areas, you can technically count it as a new room. Take an unfinished attic space for instance, add some drywall and storage to complete it, and you’ve got a custom new master bedroom space. Be careful with basements though; often times the projects are much larger, and might not gain you the same return on your investment.

If you don’t have extra rooms that will allow you to add actual square footage, add the illusion of space by opening areas up with the proper features and décor. HGTV suggests, “Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open.” Ridding your house of clutter and oversize items will make it appear more open, creating the sense that it’s bigger than it actually might be.

Pro Tip: If you’ve got the budget for thermal blinds that help with temperature maintenance, you can save money on energy spending over time and use it as a selling point for potential buyers.

The Bones

If any structural parts of your home aren’t in good shape your value will plummet. Potential buyers are going to be scared off by the idea of having to replace plumbing or fix faulty wiring, and an appraiser is going to take off major amounts if there’s anything that looks out of order. On top of that, if your inspector marks these areas on his checklist or if you fail altogether, you might wind up fixing the issues before the buyer is willing to close at all – if you’re even able to list it before the problem gets fixed.

The houses that are gaining attention in this market are the ones in top shape. It’s important that’s everything is working and let’s face it; it should be already! You don’t want to live somewhere with faulty structuring and neither does your buyer.

Pro tip: If you find yourself in a situation in which you have to replace something structurally, try going for an eco friendly option; it’s something that buyers are becoming conscious of, and long-term it stands to save money and reduce waste. New Home Source notes the green building features that actually add value to your home nicely.

Curb Appeal

When it comes to real estate, a book is always judged by its cover. Before even seeing any of the high-value changes you’ve made to the inside of your home, buyers are going to see the outside. If the outside of your home isn’t clean or updated, it might deter potential buyers from even wanting to see the inside. If buyers can’t actually see the house from the outside, or they get the idea that it’s not taken care of, they aren’t going to bother going indoors.

This can be something as simple as simply cleaning things up a bit and making sure your yard hasn’t become overgrown and unkempt, or you could do something drastic – like xeriscape the yard with drought-ready, native plants – for a fresh new appeal.

Equally important is the home’s actual exterior; fresh paint, a new door, clean windows, and an updated garage can go a long way. If the outside looks updated and the door makes a statement it communicates value – even if you didn’t wind up investing too much money in.

If you have the space and the budget for a porch or deck, it’s an area where you’re almost guaranteed to get your money back. For the front of a house it’s important to have some sort of structure protecting the door, especially in areas that get heavy sun and weather. And manicured backyards are a big value booster for buyers, even if they aren’t necessarily going to use it.

According to John Veneris, regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors in Downers Grove, Illinois, “People get back dollar for dollar for the decks they put in.” Regardless of the climate in your area it’s a value booster.

Time Sensitive

Right now, open floor plans are hot. So if you’re interested in selling your home soon, consider taking out non-structural walls or clunky kitchen islands (so long as you don’t need the storage space and there is no electric and plumbing involved) that break up the natural sense of flow. Buyers want things wide open, and this can be a project that only sets you back a few hundred dollars if it doesn’t require major reconstruction after tear-down.

Runner up

Lighting is a renovation project that lives in the middle ground; some real estate experts will say that buyers love seeing updated chandeliers and built-in ceiling lights, but others agents state that doing anything more than adding a dimmer to your existing lights is wasted effort, since buyers are likely going to customize these features anyway.

Additional tip

If you’re planning on staying a while, consider updating your entire garage. Most renovations add 80-90 cents on the dollar, while garage remodels only add 50 cents on the dollar on average, an immaculate garage will likely sell your home much faster than the one down the street.


If you’re renovating your home solely for resale purposes, it’s a good idea to stick within certain guidelines and areas of the home. But, if you’re looking to make a few changes for yourself and are wary for selling ability in the far future, I would say have some fun and do things your way anyway; styles are always changing, and if you’re going to get satisfaction out of it now, it’s never going to be a wasted effort.



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