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8 Easy Home Updates That Increase the Value of Your House

By Mary McCoy

home projectsAs opposed to expensive and time-consuming remodeling projects, home updates are simple homeowner tasks that can quickly increase a home’s marketability and value – especially helpful if you’re thinking about selling your home and you want to boost your bottom line.

Even if you’re not in a position to sell your home, these updates are quick, simple, and cost-effective. So, before you hire a contractor to redo your kitchen or remodel your bathrooms, try these updates to see if a simpler and cheaper solution meets your family’s needs.

How to Easily Increase Your Home’s Value

1. De-clutter Your Landscape

Curb appeal is essential when it comes to increasing your home’s value, but you don’t need to fork over thousands of dollars for expensive trees, shrubs, and flowers. Most homeowners can increase the beauty of their front lawn by de-cluttering overgrown shrubbery and weeds.

If your garden looks more like a jungle, start by removing ugly plants and defining the parameters of your flower beds by adding dark mulch. All you need are gardening gloves and a shovel, and possibly a tool called a come-along if you need to remove bushes from the roots. A come-along is a leveraging pulley that allows you to yank plants with deep roots from the ground without throwing out your back.

Estimated Cost: $15 for a shovel, $10 for gloves, and $35 or more for a come-along. Small shrubs and flowers cost between $2-$15 apiece, and mulch is about $3 per bag, each two-cubic-foot bag covering about 25 square feet (spread thinly). The whole project could cost as little as $150.

2. Remove and Replace Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent tube lighting is energy-efficient, but it sheds a nasty pall on a room. With the evolution of energy-efficient LED lighting, it’s time to put fluorescent lighting to bed. Remove unattractive fluorescent fixtures from spaces you want to feel homey and warm, such as the kitchen or bathroom, and replace them with updated light fixtures and LED bulbs. Older homes often feature light fixtures that only work with fluorescent bulbs, so you may need to replace the entire fixture rather than simply swapping out the bulb.

Before you get started, turn off the branch circuit breaker – you should never rely on the light switch to cut off the electric current to the light fixture. Consider using a voltage meter near the switch plate cover to make sure the electricity is really off. If you’re feeling nervous about your home’s electricity, or if you have an older home with outdated electric systems, call an electrician for help. The hourly rate for an electrician varies by location, but a good electrician typically charges between $40 and $80 per hour.

Estimated Cost: $100 or more for a new fixture, $10 to $40 for possible ceiling repair and paint. If you need to call an electrician, budget an extra $100 to $200 for the job. The total cost could run between $150 to $350, depending on whether you use an electrician.

flourescent light

3. Scrape Away Popcorn Ceiling

It’s probably time to do something about the acoustic popcorn ceiling gathering dust above your head. Popcorn ceiling had its heyday in the 1980s, and it’s something buyers shy away from. Simply put, the project consists of scraping off the old popcorn ceiling and applying a new finish. It tends to be messy, but doesn’t require much technical ability or skill, making it a great DIY endeavor.

Dedicate an entire weekend to the project, even if you’re just doing one room. The rooms you’re tackling are largely unusable during the project, and the process is time-consuming due to the drying time required between steps. If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of scraping your whole house, start with the rooms that get the most traffic, and gradually work your way through the house.

Estimated Cost: Purchase a pump sprayer for $20, a scraper for $12, a drop cloth for $5, several gallons of joint compound for $30, and a two-gallon can of ceiling paint covering 600 square feet for another $30. If you don’t want to paint the ceiling by hand, buy a paint sprayer for $100 or rent one for $20. It’s possible to make a lot of progress on the project for under $300.

4. Paint the Walls

Even clean walls start looking dingy and dirty if you don’t refresh your paint occasionally. Stick with neutral colors and enlist the help of a friend – together you can paint several rooms in just a matter of hours. Before you get started, spread a drop cloth across the floor and use a high-quality painter’s tape to prevent the paint from bleeding onto the trim and fixtures. You may want to remove light and socket covers to make the process easier.

If you’re transitioning a color from dark to light, take the time to prime the walls so you won’t need two to three coats of expensive paint. And, if your ceiling is looking dingy, consider painting it, too – just be sure to stick with white or light, neutral colors.

When it comes to choosing a finish for the paint, remember that a glossier finish is easier to clean. Therefore, stay away from matte finishes in kitchens, bathrooms, or rooms that accumulate dirt. Gloss paints also reflect light, so you may want to use a semi-gloss finish in a dark room to make it appear brighter.

Estimated Cost: Paint is usually $25 or less per gallon. Buy rollers for about $10, a drop cloth for $5, painter’s tape for $5, and trim brushes for about $10 apiece. You can easily paint several rooms for less than $100 as long as you do the hard work yourself, and as long as you prime the walls before painting.

5. Replace the Front Door

Your front door is both a security feature and a component of curb appeal. Remodeling Magazine reports that replacing your front entry door with a steel door offers one of the best returns on investment for homeowners. On average, homeowners recoup 85.6% of the cost of a steel door when they sell their home – a nice feat considering many investments, such as a backyard patio or swimming pool, seldom boost home value.

You and a friend can install a new door within a couple hours, or you can pay a few hundred dollars for someone else to do the heavy lifting. Keep in mind, this project isn’t a one-person job due to the weight of the door.

Estimated Cost: Front entry doors cost, on average, $974 to replace with a steel model. If you hire someone to do the install, expect to shell out an additional $200 to $300 for the job. The total cost runs between $975 and $1,275.

6. Refinish Cabinetry

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and it’s also the room where small updates can really pay off at closing. Just be careful not to spend too much on expensive projects – opting to purchase new cabinets, counter tops, or appliances may not increase your home’s value when it comes time to sell. Instead, stick with simple updates that match the aesthetic of the neighborhood.

For instance, if your cabinetry is stained or outdated, consider refinishing rather than replacing. Painting or refinishing cabinets only takes a weekend, and you may be surprised how much a coat of paint or a new stain can change the look of your kitchen. Stick with light or natural tones to appeal to more buyers.

Estimated Cost: Spend $30 on paint, $10 to $20 on brushes, $10 for a paint stripper, $5 for a drop cloth, $5 for tape, and about $30 for a sander. If you choose to use a cabinet refinishing system, the cost is about $80 plus the cost of brushes, a drop cloth, and tape. Either way, you can manage the project for under $100.

updated kitchen

7. Buy Matching Appliances

Since the kitchen is such a pivotal piece of your home sale, make sure large appliances – such as the oven, range, dishwasher, and refrigerator – aren’t terribly mismatched. If you have mostly stainless appliances, but a black dishwasher, consider purchasing a stainless dishwasher to match. You may spend several hundred dollars on the update, but just think of the expense as curb appeal for the most important room of the house. A matching kitchen is more likely to make prospective buyers feel the home is move-in ready.

Estimated Cost: Variable, since price depends on quality and model. When it comes to mid-range appliances, it’s typical to pay $400 for a dishwasher, $800 for an oven/range, and $1,000 for a fridge. If you’re hoping to pinch pennies on the cost of an appliance, search for a refurbished model or check Craigslist for a deal.

8. Update Hardware

Finally, make sure your home hardware is updated and matching. Replace hardware that looks like it belongs in another century, keeping in mind that a uniform approach to hardware makes prospective buyers feel that the home is more finished. For instance, if you have brass and nickel in one room and wrought iron in another, decide which style you prefer and replace the mismatched items.

Of course, homes are full of metal hardware, so when replacing hardware, just hone in on the most noticeable pieces, such as doorknobs, cabinet pulls, curtain rods, bathroom fixtures, and eye-catching brackets that support handrails or shelving systems. Even small fixes like this can add up, so start with one room and make changes gradually.

Estimated Cost: You can find internal door knobs for as low as $10 apiece, and individual pieces of hardware for less than a dollar. Count the number of items you need to replace to get a firmer estimate. One way to save money on the cost of replacing your hardware is to purchase a can of stainless steel, brass, or wrought iron spray paint for $5, then paint the smaller pieces of hardware instead of replacing them. If you opt for a mix of new hardware and refurbished pieces, you could conceivably install matching doorknobs and brackets for less than $100.

Final Word

Your home is your castle, but it’s also an investment to care for and manage. If you don’t have much money to spend on remodeling, you can easily perform updates that attract quality buyers willing to pay the maximum price when it comes time to sell. Even if you’re not in the market to sell, giving your property a facelift for a few hundred dollars can improve your attitude and make your house feel more like a home.

Have you found that simple updates increase your home’s value at sale time? What other easy home updates can you suggest?

Mary McCoy
Mary McCoy, LMSW is a licensed social worker who works closely with individuals, families, and organizations in crisis. She knows first-hand how financial choices can prevent and mitigate crises, and she's therefore passionate about equipping people with the information they need to make solid financial decisions for themselves and their loved ones. When Mary isn't on her soap box, you can find her hiking, jogging, yoga-ing, or frolicking with her family.

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  • Topbulb Guy

    If not removing the entire fluorescent fixture, homeowners may want to look into fluorescent-to-LED conversion kits. That way, they can keep the fixture and just replace the yellowish fluorescent light for a brighter, whiter LED tube.

  • http://www.makemoneyyourway.com/ Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    Thanks for these great tips, last month we just repainted our rooms to have a fresh bright colors. I think newly paint house will really have a big impact on selling your house.

  • Paige

    A great post with helpful tips Mary! I really like that you have included an estimated cost because half the time the suggestions sound great until you realise that they may be a little out of your budget. I do think all the points you made are valid, although I think the matching appliances one can be seen as an added bonus. Not everyone has the money to take that step. In the end it is about keeping your home safe and updated so people can live in it.

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