50 Clever Home Upgrades That Will Instantly Add Resale Value
THESE EASY HOME UPGRADES WILL DO MORE THAN JUST MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK LIKE A MILLION BUCKS.
Renovating your house is more than just an expensive process—it's a time-consuming one, as well. And not all home upgrades you sink your hard-earned money into are winners. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry's (NARI) 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, some of the biggest remodeling projects—adding a new bathroom and upgrading a kitchen, for example—were estimated to yield the lowest return on investment in a resale, while lighter-lift upgrades like refinishing hardwood floors had the highest percentage cost recovered.
To help you figure out what other simple improvements you can make, we spoke to experts and rounded up 50 clever home upgrades that will instantly add resale value. Keep reading for tips that add curb appeal to your lawn, spruce up your kitchen, and brighten up your overall aesthetic.
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50 Clever Home Upgrades That Will Instantly Add Resale Value
Interior designers and real estate experts share easy home upgrades you can make before selling.
1. Redo your kitchen counters.
Olga Prava / Shutterstock
Those old laminate or tile counters are likely bringing down your home's appeal and its potential selling point. Luckily, installing granite or quartz counters is easy and it can quickly improve the look and value of your place. "Replacing countertops can be completed for under $10,000 and will have a huge impact on value," says Morgan Franklin, a realtor with Atlas Trust Real Estate.
And according to real estate website Opendoor's 2023 Home Decor Report, kitchens with updated counters and cabinets were the second-biggest turn-on for buyers and also the third-biggest turn-off.
The report (which surveyed 929 homeowners between the ages of 25 and 74 who were considering remodeling or redecorating their homes or had done so in the past two years) also found that buyers were partial to quartz, which Opendoor says is known for its durability.
2. Play up your island.
Shutterstock / C Woods Photography
Analyzing listing data, real estate website Zillow anticipates that kitchen islands will be a major selling point in 2023. "This hub can seamlessly flex from breakfast bar to homework headquarters to dinner prep station, which is likely why there was a 19% increase in mentions of this multifunctional feature in listing descriptions on Zillow this year," said a press release.
Keep your kitchen island clear of clutter so buyers can envision its uses, but also play it up with comfortable counter stools, candles, or a stylish fruit bowl.
Don't have an island? "Look for homeowners to increasingly repurpose unique furniture pieces or vintage tables as islands," says Zillow.
3. Resurface your cabinets.
Even if you don't have money in your budget to replace your cabinets, you can still upgrade your kitchen by resurfacing them. "Just because something looks worn or beaten down doesn't mean it needs to be replaced," says Earl White, founder of House Heroes. "Resurfacing adds considerable market value—without breaking the bank."
All you have to do is remove the cabinet doors and cover them with something like wood veneer or laminate. If the material is in pretty good shape, you can also simply sand and repaint them.
If you have slightly more in your budget, you can also replace just the door fronts, which is much cheaper than an entire new cabinetry system.
4. Go for tuxedo cabinets.
While having uniform kitchen cabinetry might seem like a selling point, opting for light upper cabinetry and dark lower cabinets can actually help your home sell for a premium. According to a 2018 report by Zillow, homes with so-called tuxedo cabinetry fetched $1,500 more than anticipated on average.
5. Swap out your cabinet hardware.
Removing and replacing your cabinet hardware is a project so simple even novices can DIY it. "It's an affordable way to make a kitchen look new and modern," says Maryana Grinshpun, design director of interior design company Mammoth Projects. "A DIY version can be executed for under a thousand dollars for standard-sized cabinets and a compact space."
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6. Install a rack for pots and pans.
Artazum / Shutterstock
If you want to increase your home's value, it's of the utmost importance that you reduce clutter wherever possible, especially in frequently-used spaces like your kitchen. For this, Brenda DiBari, a licensed real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens, says here's an easy fix—an overhead pot and pan rack. It can instantly make your space look more cohesive and earn you some extra money when you go to sell. (After all, there's a reason filmmaker Nancy Meyers includes them in almost all her kitchen sets.)
7. Choose energy-efficient appliances.
"An investment in new energy-efficient appliances will not only make [your kitchen] look better but will save you money on your electric bills," says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified and vice president of Residential Home Funding. And for new homeowners that are already shelling out a ton of cash, it's a big selling point to know they'll save on the other end.
8. Refresh your faucet.
Simply adding a new faucet in your kitchen can make all the difference when it comes to the value of your space. "Updating the sink with a modern-looking faucet will add that 'wow' factor to any kitchen," says licensed real estate broker Nancy Wallace-Laabs. "A minor kitchen remodel will enhance the overall look and feel of your kitchen without breaking the bank."
9. Add some light in the kitchen.
"Adding under-the-counter lights will really brighten up [a kitchen] space," says DiBugnara. Luckily, all it takes is a few stick-up LED lights to achieve the look you want, so this is an affordable and easy way to increase your home's value.
10. Swap out old light fixtures.
Ask any real estate agent or designer, and they'll tell you that those cheap home supply store light fixtures won't earn you a major payday when you go to sell your house. Upgrade your lighting, however, and you'll be upgrading that check from a potential buyer, too.
"If you are still living with the original builder fixtures (think rounded flush mounts and cookie-cutter chandeliers)… then I'm looking at you!" says New York-based interior designer Denise Gianna, owner of Denise Gianna Designs. "Lighting fixtures, like hardware, are the jewelry of your house."
The good news? "Fixtures that compliment your home style and are stylish come in literally every price range," she says.
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11. Install recessed lighting.
Justin_Krug / Shutterstock
Want to make every room in your home look brighter, more beautiful, and more expensive? The answer is simple: recessed lighting.
"Living rooms should have four recessed lights, [and] hallways and kitchens should have a few, too," suggests Brian Dougherty, managing partner at Robert Paul Properties in Boston. "Depending on the electrician and the complexity of the wiring, a single recessed light can cost between $150 to $250 installed. If money is tight, I would recommend focusing on entertaining and living spaces first before bedrooms."
For even more value, Yasmine El Sanyoura, home designer at Opendoor, suggests in the company's report that homeowners should add recessed lighting with dimmers. "If you like the idea of recessed LEDs but are still worried about the lighting being too stark, I would recommend opting for LEDs that can be set at warmer light temperatures (like 2700K-3000K), and pairing those with dimmer switches to control how much light is diffused at any given time."
12. Add smart technology.
If you want to make your home more valuable, then it's time to start thinking smart. "Make smart enhancements like your thermostat, lighting, keypad door locks, fire detectors, and security cameras," says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers. "If all else is the same between several homes that buyers are looking for, your home would win with a smart boost."
This is especially enticing for young, tech-savvy buyers, as well as older buyers who may be looking to incorporate safety features like medical alert systems.
13. Replace face plates and wall switches.
boonchoke / Shutterstock
Those metallic light switch covers may have once gone with your home's décor, but now they just look dated and it's time for them to go, says DiBari. Fortunately, it only costs a few dollars and takes mere seconds to replace cheap plastic covers with more elegant wooden, ceramic, or metal ones with better aesthetic appeal.
14. Repaint your walls in a neutral hue.
It may only take a few hours to complete, but adding a fresh coat of paint to a room can completely transform your space for the better.
In their Paint and Color Trends Report 2023, remodeling service Fixr surveyed 62 interior design industry experts and found that 82 percent of them said warm neutrals are the best interior hues if you're selling. "Warm neutrals are often seen as a fresh canvas, and considered as both welcoming and safe color options," explains the report. "While some people may not love them, they are rarely turned off by them entirely."
"Matte finishes look more sophisticated, and we prefer to stay away from eggshell," says Grinshpun. "Choosing contrasting colors, even if two shades of white—one for walls, the other for trim, doors, and ceiling—will add detail and depth to the space."
15. Reglaze your bathtub.
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According to the Opendoor report, an updated bathroom is buyers' biggest turn-on, and an outdated bathroom is their biggest turn-off.
"Whether it's the primary bath, the guest bath, or a half-bath elsewhere in the home, the state of this space can signal to a potential buyer that a home is updated and well-maintained," El Sanyoura previously told Best Life.
If you have an old bathtub, it doesn't have to be replaced with a pricey claw-foot model to add value to your home. According to Brad Malow, a licensed real estate broker with Compass, reglazing a tub is an equally lucrative home upgrade that's much more affordable. "It's a relatively inexpensive option and will leave buyers looking at a bright white, sparkling place to relax."
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16. Re-grout your shower tiles.
Similarly, re-grouting your bathroom tile can make your bathroom shine again in a pinch. "Nobody wants to pull back a shower curtain and see black grime," says Malow. "Re-grouting tiles is an easy, small project that can make tiled walls feel like new."
17. Go bold with your bathroom color.
While neutrals may serve you well in the rest of the house, some major contrast in the bathroom could make your home more valuable in the long run.
"Try repainting the rest of your bathroom a high contrasting color to really make everything sparkle," says DiBugnara. "Bathrooms remain an area that most buyers really want to see new and shiny."
So what color should you use for your bathroom walls? Well, if maximizing your home's sale price is the goal, then blue is your best. According to Zillow's 2018 report, blue bathrooms earn sellers nearly $3,000 more than anticipated.
18. Remove your carpeting.
"Modern home buyers are turned off by carpeting," says White. "Laying down a shiny new wood floor easily pays for itself several times over."
And if you're worried that authentic flooring is going to cost you an arm and a leg, there are always "good alternatives to traditional wood floors," says White. "Home renovators can buy engineered or laminate wood for a fraction of the cost of an expensive floor."
19. Lay LVP flooring.
dotshock / Shutterstock
Speaking of laying inexpensive flooring: In their report, Opendoor specifically calls out luxury vinyl plank (LVP). "[It] can bring in the warmth and coveted look of hardwood floors with the added safety of its durability promise, particularly in wet areas like the bathroom or kitchen," the report explains. "When considering LVP, lean into those resembling wood grain and opt for more brown versus gray tones, as this will provide warmth into your space and ensure a timeless look for years to come."
20. Refinish your floors.
Throughout the rest of your home, you'll want to spend some money on upgrading floors if they're not in good condition. "There are various financial levels of renovations you can do with flooring," says Malow. "If they're hardwood, you have the options of simply sanding and buffing, staining, overlaying, or replacing completely."
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21. Install ductless mini-splits.
Nobody loves coming home to an overheated house on those hot summer days. Luckily, even if you don't have existing ductwork, you can easily make your home cooler by installing ductless mini-splits to keep your space a pleasant temperature all year long, says Elizabeth Bain, a real estate agent with Commonwealth Standard Realty Advisors.
"Since mini-splits have no ducts, they avoid the energy losses associated with ductwork of central forced air systems," explains the U.S. Department of Energy. "Duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for air conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic."
This is an important consideration since, according to research done by Zillow, "energy-saving features are increasingly desirable in a high-inflation world where many other expenses are rapidly rising."
22. Replace your old windows.
Want to make your home quieter, lower your energy bills, and add value when it comes time to sell? Then swap out those old, drafty windows for a new set of double-pane windows.
"Homes with listing descriptions that mention double-pane windows can sell a week faster than similar homes and for 1% more than expected," according to Zillow's research.
23. Add climate change-friendly features.
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Depending on where you live, you'll want to think about how climate change could affect your home in the future.
"Large shares of buyers seriously consider flooding (55%), tornadoes (41%), hurricanes (35%) and earthquakes (29%) when choosing a home," explains Zillow. "Listings that mention hurricane or storm shutters can sell for 1.4% more than similar homes. Homes on stilts or piers, built to defend against flooding, can sell for 1.1% more. Homes that have undergone seismic retrofitting to make them more resistant to earthquakes can sell 19 days faster than similar homes, the largest days-on-market boost of all the features studied."
24. Finish up any minor repairs around the house.
You may think those little repairs around the house are a waste of time, but if don't attend to them promptly, you could end up losing a lot of money, says April Palomino, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Winter Park, Florida.
Per the expert, leaky faucets, sheetrock damage, cracked plaster, broken windows, missing screens, and dented door jambs are good places to start.
25. Upgrade your entryway.
Your entryway can be a major selling point when it comes to potential buyers. "Does the lock work? Is it an inviting entry? [Is there] chipping paint on the front door? Broken glass?" asks Trey McCallie, principal broker at Urban Toolbox Real Estate. "Make the entryway a showplace and set a positive impression from the start."
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26. Refresh your artwork.
Sometimes, increasing your home's value is as simple as swapping out that dated family portrait for something a little fresher. "Home furnishings and artwork make a huge impact on the feeling and value that your house gives," DiBari says. "Rearrange or replace wall hangings with fresh new artwork."
27. Pare down fabric pieces.
While heavy drapery, upholstered furniture, and a never-ending sea of throw pillows used to be the height of interior fashion, all of that clutter isn't going to earn you any extra money nowadays.
"Remove excess pillows, throws, cushions, and drapes. Clean lines—no matter what your house style—are never out of style," says Gianna. "Fabrics trap moisture, dust, and allergens. Layers of drapery obscure light and can make windows look smaller, ceilings lower, and everything dingy. Too many pillows and throws do not make a sofa inviting."
"Buyers today are very influenced by the home shows that they see on HGTV and that seems to dictate what many people say they are looking for: neutral colors, clean surfaces, [and] minimal window treatments," adds Sheila MacDonald, a realtor with J Barrett & Company.
28. Stage a "bonus room."
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Your laundry room—if you're lucky enough to have one—could be the key to adding serious value to your home. "If you have a space in the laundry room or other small area, stage it as a wrapping center with wrapping paper, bows, tape, scissors, etc. or a gardening center with some clay pots, a trowel, pruning shears, [and] potting soil," suggests MacDonald. "This turns a wasted space into an extra 'luxurious' space with very little money."
29. Stage a mudroom.
You don't need an actual mudroom to have a mudroom. Configuring a back entryway is an easy way to add some serious value to your home in a hurry. "Add a bench with hooks for coats and perhaps baskets underneath for shoes, hats, mittens, etc., in an area that can become a makeshift mudroom," recommends MacDonald.
30. Enhance your closet storage space.
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A little closet storage goes a long way when it comes to increasing your home's worth. And fortunately, you don't need to spend thousands to add major value. "Add shelving or two rows of hangers to small closets to make it feel custom and add storage space," suggests Bain.
A popular option among interior designers is the Container Store's customizable Elfa system, which allows you to virtually design your closet. The line also goes on sale a couple of times per year.
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31. Add attic insulation.
Shutterstock / Arturs Budkevics
A drafty home—or one that doesn't retain the cool air being pumped by its air conditioning units—is a turn-off for home buyers. Luckily, all it takes is a little insulation in your attic to seriously improve your home's value both now and in the future.
"On average, you will see a 108 to 116 percent return on investment [when you add attic insulation]," says Palomino. "That is because insulation protects the home from the transfer of heat, thereby reducing energy bills. Insulation also prevents moisture from entering delicate parts of your home, preserving your investment."
32. Finish your basement.
Transforming that unfinished space in your basement could be the key to selling your home for a premium price. "An unfinished basement can be a gold mine," says Franklin. "In my market, below-grade square footage is worth $60 to $80 per foot and can be completed for less than $40 per foot." It also helps potential buyers envision how they can utilize this extra space.
33. Build a deck.
If you're eager to turn your outdoor space into one that will significantly boost your home's value, building a deck is a great place to start. According to Remodeling's 2022 Cost Versus Value Report, a wood deck addition yielded a 64.8 percent return on investment when it came time to sell (or about $12,500 on a $19,000 project), while a composite deck yielded a 62.1 percent ROI (or about $15,000 on a $25,000 project).
34. Build a patio.
Shutterstock / Artazum
Using listing data and analysis, Zillow predicted that backyards are the "must-have home feature for 2023." Compared to last year, they note, listings mention backyards 22 percent more than the previous year. Specifically, patios had 13 percent more mentions in real estate listings—and if the cost of building out a deck is too much for you, this is a wonderful, more affordable option.
"When the pandemic forced all entertaining outdoors, homeowners reclaimed their backyards from the kids or the dogs. Now they're rethinking how that space could serve as an extension of their home in new, creative ways," said Amanda Pendleton, Zillow's home trends expert, in the report.
35. Create an outdoor seating area.
Whether you have a deck or a patio—or even if you're just choosing a section of your lawn—creating a cozy outdoor seating area is enticing to buyers.
"Set up a deck or porch as an outdoor living area with comfy cushions on furniture, an outdoor rug, a grill…or a TV if the area is covered," says MacDonald. "This expands the square footage of your home in a buyer's mind."
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36. Install a fire pit.
Who says that your outdoor space should only be usable in the summertime? Adding a fire pit will not only make it possible to spend chilly fall nights outdoors, but it'll also boost the overall value of your home.
According to Opendoor's report, following an outdoor dining table and chairs at 22 percent, a fire pit, at 20 percent, is the second-most "in" outdoor feature. (If you're curious, fountains and statues are "out.")
37. Install solar-powered outdoor lighting.
To complete your outdoor entertaining space, you'll need to install lighting so it can be enjoyed even once the sun sets. Opendoor says eco-minded homebuyers "will want solar-powered lights as the most eco-friendly landscaping feature (46%)." And the good news is that they're inexpensive.
38. Upgrade your landscaping.
"Landscaping is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your home value," says Patrick van den Bossche, president of Realty Executives International. "Healthy trees, plants, and flowers along with a well-manicured lawn can improve the home's appearance. Also, remove dead vegetation, hide hoses, and keep everything looking pristine to make the best first impression."
For optimal resale value, you may want to consider native and drought-resistant landscaping, per Opendoor's report.
39. Trim your plants.
Even if you don't have a huge amount to spend, you can upgrade your outdoor space in no time with a little DIY landscaping. "Make sure that the bushes and yard are neatly trimmed before your showings," suggests Nick Disney, house flipper and owner of Sell My San Antonio House. "These little things can have buyers wanting to see what's inside instead of wanting to move on."
40. Add an irrigation system.
While homeowners love the look of a lush lawn or garden, their desire to put in the legwork to maintain their greenery is a different story. So, if you're eager to boost your home's value, try having an irrigation system added to your outdoor space. Opendoor says drip irrigation will be very popular among buyers in 2023.
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41. Install an outdoor security system.
APChanel / Shutterstock
In their 2022 U.S. Houzz & Home Study: Renovation Trends, home design website Houzz surveyed 67,554 users, including 33,711 renovating U.S. homeowners, about their home renovations in 2021 and plans for 2022. They found that renovating homeowners spent 25 percent more on home security systems in 2021 than in 2020.
"Outdoor security systems are now three times more popular than they were in 2015 and the second most frequently installed outdoor upgrade (17% ), behind lighting (22%)," the study explains.
42. Replace your dated garage door.
News flash: That dingy garage door you've backed into a hundred times is ruining your home's curb appeal. Luckily, replacing it isn't a hugely pricey investment, and doing so can make your house much more attractive in the long run.
"Garage doors boost curb appeal, provide safety and security, and even help on energy bills if insulated," says Palomino.
In fact, in their 2022 Cost Versus Value Report, Remodeling found that a garage door replacement had the highest return on investment, at 93.3 percent. And the job itself only averages around $4,000.
43. Maximize your garage storage.
JodiJacobson / iStock
A messy garage isn't going to win over any potential buyers. If you want to make your space more attractive, functional, and appealing to someone willing to pay top dollar, it's time to add some storage and clear up that cluttered space.
"Invest in inexpensive storage shelving or hanging for your garage," suggests MacDonald. "Make it the organized space that people wish they had in their current home."
44. Paint your garage floor.
Want another easy way to make your garage shine? All it takes is a little paint. "If the garage floor is nice, perhaps paint it with the acrylic paint made for garage floors," suggests MacDonald. This will help buyers envision the space as more than just a place to park their cars.
45. Give the facade a fresh coat of white paint.
iStock / jhorrocks
According to Fixr's report, basic white is the way to go for exterior paint. "When asked which exterior colors they most recommend, 74% of top experts agree that white is the color to choose. A fresh coat of white paint can make a home look clean and fresh. It also lets you use a lot of different colors for shutters, trim, and the front door, so you can personalize it to highlight and show off your home's best features."
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46. Repaint your front door.
Simple though it may seem, painting your front door an eye-catching color can seriously increase your home's value.
"It takes someone one minute to decide if they want to enter your home. If you are selling, that minute can cost you thousands in lost opportunities and days on the market!" says Gianna. "Give your home a fighting chance. Paint your front door and shutters (your garage doors too if it applies). This is cheap and a must—akin to washing your face before leaving the house! Use deep, bold blues, greens, and wine tones to add style."
47. Add steel entry doors.
"Steel entry doors boost curb appeal—they are sleek and clean and come in a variety of finishes and paneling," says Palomino. "They increase the security of your home and stand up to wear and tear…and [are] not subject to warping or rotting." They also have a 91 percent ROI, she notes.
48. Add stone veneer.
If a paint job isn't enough, consider sprucing up your home's facade with a stone veneer. "Manufactured stone veneer siding can bring you up to 92 percent return on investment," according to Palomino.
According to the NAR, "Artificial stone veneer siding is long-lasting and durable… If properly installed, faux stone veneer siding is maintenance-free and more fire-resistant than wood or vinyl siding." And since it's lighter than real stone, you don't have to worry if your home can withstand the added weight.
49. Power wash your house.
Spring cleaning shouldn't just be reserved for the interior of your house—cleaning up the outside can help you reap major rewards when it's time to sell.
"Power washing the sidewalks and driveway can quickly remove years of dirt," as well as making it more valuable in the eyes of buyers, according to Disney.
50. Keep up with the Joneses.
sirtravelalot / Shutterstock
If you aren't sure which renovations you should and shouldn't invest in, just look to your neighbor's house for inspiration.
"If renovations in your neighborhood are simple, keep it simple. Otherwise, you will find yourself spending too much on updating your property, but will not realize the return of your investment on closing day," says Wallace-Laabs. "Go to open houses in your neighborhood prior to putting your house on the market. Pay attention to the kitchen, baths, flooring, and fixtures—then go home and start with those ideas."