5 Home Improvement Ideas That Are Worth It

Rachel BurrisOctober 15, 2019

If your home has begun to lose its luster, you may be thinking about making some improvements to liven it up. While remodeling can increase your enjoyment and the marketability of your home, it can also drain your financial resources and add little value to your property.

You want your home to be a cozy place that you can retreat to at the end of a long day. But you also want to ensure that the choices you make have mass appeal. After all, if you decide to move one day, you’ll want to recoup some of the costs of the work you’ve put into your home. So you don’t want to pour money into projects that the majority of buyers won’t be interested in.

To help you weigh your options and determine which home improvements are really right for you and your bank account, we’ve gathered insight from experts in the field.

Ensuring Your Home Improvements Add Value

There’s a lot to think about when determining which projects to take on. That’s why before you decide to jump in, you should take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to get out of my remodel?
  • How much money can I afford to spend on the work?
  • How long do I plan on living in my home?
  • How does my home compare to the other homes in the area?

Since most of us don’t have an endless supply of funds, it’s important to prioritize the work that you do. While your primary concern may be the satisfaction you get from your remodeling, you still want to make sure that the home improvements you make add value to your property more generally.

When people talk about home improvements that add value, what they’re really discussing is the type of renovations home buyers are willing to pay more for. The value that you add to your home is really only seen when you sell. That’s why adding value means increasing mass appeal.

When asked which home improvements add the most value, Teris Pantazes, co-founder of Settle Rite, a home improvement contractor, says, “The first thing I recommend a homeowner does is look at neighborhood sales to see what the more expensive homes have which their home might be missing. That is your ultimate guide.”

By looking at the homes in your neighborhood, you can determine how your home currently stacks up against the future competition. Viewing the updates and renovations your neighbors have made will help you gauge what features will be important to have in your home if you ever decide to sell. However, you don’t want the improvements you make to stand out against the rest of your home.

“The absolute best remodels are the ones you can’t even see,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency, a home staging company. “They blend in seamlessly with the rest of the house. If a new buyer walks into a home and says, ‘Wow, they took really good care of this completely original home,’ then you did a perfect job. If a buyer walks in and says, ‘Wow, this seller spent a lot of time finding the least expensive materials at the local big box home improvement store,’ then you did a terrible job.”

Quality matters. If you put a lot of time and money into remodeling but use materials that look cheap or shabby, you won’t see a return on your investment. Instead, use high-quality materials and selectively pick the projects that will enhance the appearance and utility of your home.

While you may have some specific to-dos in mind, it helps to know which home improvements tend to have the best returns. Here are the 5 home improvements that make the largest impact.

Refresh Your Walls

When your rooms are looking a bit tired, sometimes all you really need is a fresh coat of paint to brighten up the space.

“It is valuable to repaint walls because it covers dents, dings, markings and nail holes. Painting adds a look of freshness and newness that an older home may not have without it,” says Robyn Flint, licensed REALTOR®and home insurance specialist at Expert Insurance Reviews.

When choosing to paint your home, be careful about the colors you choose. Dark colors tend to make rooms look smaller and are not preferred by everyone. Furthermore, they should always be avoided in rooms that do not get much natural light. Lighter grays and beiges can lighten rooms and make them look bigger. Plus, they have the added bonus of appealing to the majority of tastes.

But take note – not all colors look the same on the wall as they do on the swatch. After you’ve picked out some samples, it helps to test them out in the room that you will be painting.

“Paint large color swatches on your walls in several colors. Live with them for a few days, noting how they will look in the morning sunlight and evening hours,” says Paige NeJame, owner of CertaPro Paintersof the South Shore of Boston. “You will be surprised how quickly you will eliminate colors and find the perfect color using this method.”

How Much Will It Cost?

Painting may not seem to add a lot of value to your home, but it tends to have the best return on investment because it costs far less than other home improvements.

“In the case of painting, if you have the time, do it yourself. The cost of painting a home is 90% labor and only 10% materials,” NeJame says. “With the average 2,500 square foot home costing about $8,000 to paint inside, this means that for about $800 in paint and materials, you can have a freshly painted home if you have the time, patience and motivation to do it yourself.”

Remodel Your Kitchen

Whether it’s because you have a large, open layout or a fridge stocked with mouthwatering goodies, the kitchen tends to be the room that families spend the most time in. And the more time that you spend in a room, the more attention it deserves when it comes to home improvements. If done correctly, remodeling your kitchen can change the entire feel of your home.

“We always recommend open concepts to homeowners considering a kitchen remodel. An open concept creates harmony within adjoining spaces and increases the overall functionality of the space for homeowners to grow in with their families,” says Larry Greene, president of Case Design/Remodeling in Indianapolis.

While open kitchen layouts are extremely popular and tend to give homes a more spacious feel, not every home and budget can accommodate one. There are easier improvements you can make that don’t require a complete reconfiguration of your kitchen’s floor plan.

“If your home has older Formica or outdated granite patterns, typically a few thousand dollars (under $3k) can modernize your countertops for a new feel,” says Pantazes. “I also recommend adding a simple, clean backsplash. Subway tile is VERY inexpensive, and it is very on trend right now.”

An updated counter and backsplash can do wonders for giving your kitchen a polished look. However, depending on the current state of your kitchen, you may decide you need to go a bit farther. Getting updated, matching appliances and changing out the cabinet doors, or even just the knobs, can modernize and adjust the feel of the whole room.

How Much Will It Cost You?

With so many potential changes, the numbers can add up. Raf Howery, CEO and founder of Kukun, the largest database on home improvement data and issued renovation permits in the country, has used his company’s national cost estimator to provide some insight into what you can expect.

Although prices always depend on finishes and size, he says, “The average cost for a medium-size kitchen is a little over $33,000. However, the range can go from $17,000 to $52,000. This does not leverage costs of very fancy kitchens, which can fetch $150,000 in some places. Expect to recover about 60% of your cost if you turn around and sell.”

Renovate Your Bathroom

We spend more of our lifetimes in the bathroom than we care to admit. So if you’re thinking about improving any room in your home, a bathroom remodel may be a good place to start. Bathrooms do not have to be works of art, but they should give off the impression of being clean, spacious and up to date. So, what will help you make your bathroom more inviting?

Pantazes says, “Tile, tile, tile – put it in the shower from the tub to ceiling. It costs a little more but completely elevates the bathroom over a prefab insert. It is easy to update the hardware and with many drop-in vanities, you can change the feel of a bathroom in a day or two.”

If your floors and walls are nicely tiled, you may want to consider replacing the countertop in your bathroom. The countertop is one of the most conspicuous elements of the room, so a new one will have an instant impact on the look and feel of your bathroom.

“For homeowners considering a bathroom remodel, we recommend installing this year’s countertop of choice – quartz. Not only does it have a clean look that will fit into any bathroom design, but it’s much easier to clean and maintain,” says Greene.

How Much Will It Cost You?

“It depends on size and finishes, but the national average cost for a medium-size bathroom is $26,300 but can range from $12,000 on the low end to $41,000 on the high end. Again, a high-end luxury bathroom can top the $100,000 mark,” says Howery.

While remodeling your bathroom will be pricey, it can offer you one of the best returns on your investment. “The ROI on a bathroom is tricky because it varies dramatically on how many bathrooms there are already in the house and the cost of finish level,” he adds. “The less it costs you, the better the ROI, so as long as it looks new. We have seen bathrooms fetch up to 90% if it was essential to the home’s configuration, such as adding a bathroom to a three-bedroom, one-bath home.”

Install Central Air

Homes that are stuffy and hot are never a pleasure to be in, especially when the weather heats up. By installing central air in your home, you’ll be able to get that air circulating without having to worry about window units creating an eyesore in your otherwise lovely home.

Central air conditioners are more efficient, keep rooms at even temperatures and don’t have to take up precious space in your window. What should you consider when adding it?

“If you plan to install central air at your home, it’s essential to have strategically positioned smart thermostats. Different rooms may require different settings. For example, south-facing windows can be much more exposed to sunlight than north-facing ones. All of these variable can affect the performance and the costs of your central air unity,” says Matthias Alleckna, an energy industry analyst with EnergyRates.ca, a price comparison website that helps consumers find low-cost rates for electricity and gas.

How Much Will It Cost You?

According to Pantazes, installing central air in your home could cost $3,000 – $8,000. He recommends, “Get multiple bids and make sure the air system is balanced. Just because your home heats well, does not mean it will cool well, and a qualified professional should be able to help you with this.”

Central air is likely to increase the value of your home because it is often one of the first things that buyers ask about.


Landscaping is very important to the value of your property because it greatly influences your home’s curb appeal. Curb appeal is the extent to which your home looks attractive from the street. The exterior of your home is the first thing that guests and potential buyers will see, and first impressions are always important.

To determine what needs a bit of TLC, walk outside and examine your home. Make sure your mailbox is in good shape, your front door looks freshly painted and your pathways and gutters are clean. Then, it’s time to focus on the greenery.

“Overgrown landscaping can really weigh a property down. Trees and shrubs should accent and enhance your house, not hide it. A little bit of trimming and pruning with a few basic tools can improve your home immensely,” says Rhianna Miller, the home/yard design and improvement expert with Rubber Mulch.

So before you add anything to your property, make sure the trees and shrubs you already have look good. Once you make the most of what you’re already working with, you can start to add plants and flowers that will make your front yard all the more enticing.

“Add some colorful plants and bushes to landscaping. Adding trees and bushes can bring dimension to your lawn,” says Miller. “Flowering plants and lush shrubs are a quick and effective way to make your home look inviting. Pick up plants at your local garden center and request those that are native to your state for better results. Add some landscaping bricks and mulch or rock to finish off the look.”

How Much Will It Cost You?

While you may not see the same return on your investment as other home improvements, the curb appeal of your home is paramount when attracting potential buyers. As Pantazes explains, “I find it hard to put a ROI on landscape updates, but that does not reduce its importance. Curb appeal helps sell a home and will reduce the time on market, without any question. Set aside $1k to landscape a single-family home at minimum. You need to have season-appropriate planting, mulch and power washing.”

Home improvements are expensive, even more so when you want to add value to your home. If you’re still unsure about whether the improvements you want to make will provide the best return on your investment, you may want to consider asking a real estate professional to check out your home. They are a great resource as they know what’s selling in your neighborhood and can recommend the best course of action.

But if you’re ready to make a change and just don’t have the cash flow necessary at the moment, you should consider a cash-out refinance. By using the equity in your house, you can finance all the work you need to turn your property into the home you’ve always dreamed of living in. If a cash-out refinance sounds like the move for you, apply online or call (800) 785-4788 to speak to one of our Home Loan Experts.

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    Rachel Burris

    Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.