When it comes to purchasing a home, many borrowers focus on price, not perfection. So it’s no surprise that home improvement projects—like fixing an outdated bathroom, or adding a fresh coat of paint—are on the rise. In fact, with more people buying older houses these days, the home improvement and repair industry has grown into a booming $326 billion business.
Doing home repairs not only increases your home’s value, it also makes your home feel like your own. Still, it’s hard to know which home projects are worth your hard-earned money.
For many homeowners, centering on projects that improve curb appeal are a top priority, says Don Vandervort, a home improvement expert and author at Home Tips.
- "If a house is already well-insulated and energy efficient, projects that eliminate some of the highly visible signs of aging and wear make a lot of sense. Paint, siding, doors, windows—these are the elements you see when you look at a house. They’re also the elements that provide shelter both for your family and for the house itself. They ensure comfort and increase the home’s longevity." – Don Vandervort
The projects you choose will largely depend on your home’s existing condition, timeline and personal budget. Vandervort warns that extensive work should be left up to experienced contractors and adds that those projects often come at a high price.
For example, an exterior paint job may cost a homeowner anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000. But that’s small potatoes when compared to big budget repairs such as a new roof or a full kitchen remodel—both of which can quickly reach $10,000 or more. While some homeowners can afford that large of an investment, many owners tend to make small improvements to their home over time.
If you’re a new homeowner, it’s probably best to stick to simple, affordable, do-it-yourself projects that still add value to your home. (If you find yourself in need of urgent repairs, you might also look into cash-out refinancing options to shore up home improvement funds.)
First impressions speak volumes. Homebuyers make decisions on your home’s value and interest within minutes of opening the car door, so it better be welcoming and fresh enough to attract and retain the attention of buyers.
So, what DIY repairs offer the most value? We talked to two home design experts to see what home projects they considered to be easy, budget-friendly wins.
Start at Your Welcome Mat
A simple exterior project to increase your curb appeal includes updating your front door—and it only takes about 3 hours of your time, says Beth Allen, a home improvement expert, speaker, author, and blogger at Hip Chicks.
- “First impressions speak volumes. Homebuyers make decisions on your home’s value and interest within minutes of opening the car door, so it better be welcoming and fresh enough to attract and retain the attention of buyers.” – Beth Allen
Allen says homeowners can choose to purchase and replace the front door, or simply repaint it if it is in good condition. Even a novice DIY-er is up for this job, she says.
- “This project is an easy one. Grab a quart of paint in a fun, warm color that compliments your siding, stone or brick. A good paint brush, a little sandpaper and some elbow grease are all you need. Wash the door with de-greaser, lightly sand the surface and wipe the door free before painting. Prep well and the final coat will make a statement that says ‘Buy me.’” – Beth Allen
Best of all? Allen says homeowners can find quality exterior matte or semi-gloss paint for as low as $15 per gallon.
Spruce Up Your Cabinets
One of the surest signs of an outdated abode is usually revealed in the kitchen and bath. Yet, renovating these rooms is often one of the most expensive and extensive home improvement projects on the home improvement market.
If you can’t afford to rip out flooring or replace old appliances, painting your cabinets can effectively help to switch up your style, says Aaron Keller, a designer at Steinhafels, a Midwestern furniture retailer.
- “Kitchens and baths add a lot of value to the home, and they sell homes, so they are great areas to focus on. You will need a mini roller, paint pan, drop cloth, small paint brush, tack cloth, sand paper and screw driver. Always remove the doors before painting. Lightly sand all surfaces and use tack cloth to remove dust. Prime the surface before painting, and don’t rush!” – Aaron Keller
Another tip? Replace your cabinetry hardware. Brushed nickel, brass and oiled bronze are all popular metal finishes, and the sets can be installed easily with a screwdriver. Keller says such hardware typically costs around $125 at local hardware stores and online home improvement retailers.
- “Getting rid of dated elements always improves the value of your home—and its marketability!” – Aaron Keller
Switch Up Your Lighting
To your guests, a dark home can feel unwelcoming or cold. Beth Allen (of Hip Chicks) suggests installing new lighting fixtures throughout a home to bring it back to life. Many home improvement stores carry a wide selection of lighting fixtures for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and other living areas. In the kitchen, for example, the high hat lighting made popular in the 90s can easily be replaced with today’s fashionable pendant, she says.
- “Several companies have designed conversion kits that allow you to change lights into pendants without needing to do electrical work in the home. These pendant bases screw into the light bulb socket and the pendant cords is adjustable. You can then add the globe of your choice. It updates a space easily and affordably, while adding value and style. These kits run about $40 each, and will make your kitchen sparkle like the sun on a Caribbean morning!” – Beth Allen
Consider Your Project’s ROI
Before jumping into a home improvement project, our experts say you should first consider its return on value. Various online tools, such as a cost vs. value report, may help point you in the right direction. Secondly, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t take on projects that could risk your personal safety, or the existing value of your home. The last thing you want to end up with is a DIY disaster on your hands.
Make a Plan!
It’s best to plan out your DIY project in advance. Do some online research, talk to the experts at your local home improvement store, or speak to a contractor, before you get started. Once you have a plan in place, you’ll be ready to turn your outdated home into a DIY diamond.