Have some time on your hands this Memorial Day? Consider tackling a few home improvements. Your goal may simply be to freshen your home's appearance, but you also want your hard work to increase your home's value. Kiplinger offers these eight easy home improvements that will pay you back. Each costs less than $500 and should require less than a day's work. Take a look.
8 DIY Projects That Add Value to Your Home
Boost Your Home's Value on Your Day Off
Estimated Cost: $400 (sink); $150 (faucet)
For home buyers, “the kitchen is king,” says Paul Cardis, chief executive of Avid Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of more than 20,000 first-time home buyers to determine design preferences. “For those looking to spruce up their house, the kitchen is the place.” You can replace a kitchen sink and faucet yourself in a matter of hours. Be sure to seek out low-flow faucet aerators that can reduce water usage by 30%. (Energy-efficient features, specifically, are a “must have” or are “really wanted” by 88% of home buyers these days.) You can expect to recoup 70% to 80% of the cost of kitchen-remodeling work when you sell your home.
The easiest way to add pizazz to your kitchen is with a new backsplash. You can go from country to modern in a snap with a variety of options for finishes and colors. To save money, time and frustration, consider the peel-and-stick tile options now available. “They’re aesthetically pleasing and will do the job if that’s all you can afford,” says Fredda Weisbard, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Boca Raton, Fla. "It's an inexpensive Band-Aid for updating your kitchen." The messier grout-and-tile approach will add $50-$100 more in related supply costs but will appeal more to prospective buyers.
Even relatively minor updates to your bathroom can produce a return on investment of 172%, according to HomeGain.com’s 2009 Prepare-to-Sell survey of 1,000 real estate agents nationwide. Because toilets fit neatly over existing plumbing, they’re fairly easy to install. Look for modern water-saving models that will both save on your water bills and appeal to energy-conscious buyers when it’s time to sell. If you’re feeling creative, save hundreds of dollars by using an old dresser as the foundation for a new vanity. Simply cut out room on the top to hold a basin sink and to connect pipes.
It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to immediately transform any room in your house. Lighter shades generally make a room feel larger; neutral shades will appeal most to potential buyers. “Buyers won’t be able to look past [bold] colors and see the rest of your home,” says Weisbard. You’ll earn a 250% return on your investment in freshly painted interior walls, according to HomeGain.com’s survey. Expec to pay a little more for higher quality and designer brands. Be sure to test colors -- Home Depot sells 8-ounce sample cans of paint for $3 -- before buying the full batch of paint needed for the room. Limit costly mistakes and spills by splurging on drop cloths and painter’s tape.
Crown molding in your home compared with none in a similar home in your neighborhood could make a difference when it’s time to sell. “You may not get the money back, but it’s a feature that most buyers appreciate when looking for a home,” says Weisbard. “It’s a wow-factor feature. It stays in buyers’ minds.”
Fair warning: Installing crown molding might be the trickiest task on our list. There’s a lot of geometry involved -- along with a nail gun and a miter saw. Follow the “measure thrice, cut once” rule to limit waste.
Improvements to a home's functional space can be just as valuable as ones that make a home look better. Potential buyers like to assess space and storage area for their belongings when evaluating new houses. Focus your efforts on the garage, basement and closets, where you can declutter easily with clear storage bins or new shelving.
As the first thing prospective buyers will see upon entering your home, a new front door will more than recoup your investment. You can expect a 129% ROI on a steel door, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2009–10 “Cost vs. Value Report.” (Fiberglass models, which can cost three times as much, recoup only 65% of their cost.) Bonus: Buy a qualifying energy-efficient door and reap a tax credit of 30% of your cost (up to a maximum of $1,500 in 2009 and 2010 combined). But you may want to hire a professional for an air tight installation.
Before your visitors (and prospective buyers) even get to the door, they’ll see the front yard. It’s a critical first impression. “If the outside of your home isn’t appealing, then what does that say about the inside?” Weisbard says. Even the most basic landscaping project can add $1,500 to $2,000 in value to your home, according to HomeGain.com’s Prepare to Sell survey. Go for plants that add color and complement your house, suggests Bruce Butterfield, market-research director of the National Gardening Association. Perennials require less maintenance and return each year. Butterfield likes “Endless Summer” hydrangeas, which will give you several months of blooms annually. They cost about $50 each, compared with $150 or more for a new tree, which will take much longer to mature.