5 Low-Budget Projects to Boost Your Home's Value—Plus 2 to Avoid at All Costs

Katie Holdefehr
Real Simple

In terms of increasing your home's value, some home improvement projects are well worth shelling out a little extra, while others simply aren't. To figure out exactly which projects see the greatest returns, we reached out to real estate pro Amanda Pendleton, a lifestyle expert for Zillow. As it turns out, a few inexpensive DIYs, like painting your front door, could play a role in the selling price of your home. Here are the home projects that typically see the best returns, plus a couple investments that are better to skip, especially if you're planning to move in the near future.

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Paint the Front Door

A fresh coat of paint on the front door is likely one of the easiest and least expensive ways to pump up your home's curb appeal—and in turn, its resale value. If your goal is to increase your home's value, you'll want to be strategic about paint color. "Zillow research finds homes with black front doors can sell for up to $6,000 more than similar homes," says Pendleton. The verdict: this under-$100 weekend project is well-worth it.

Re-Grout Tile Surfaces

If you have outdated tile surfaces in the kitchen or bathroom, it may be tempting to retile them before you put your house on the market—but wait. According to Pendleton, re-grouting may be a smarter (and much cheaper) move. "Instead of replacing old and dingy ceramic tile, you can save money by re-grouting," she says. "The process involves chipping old grout from the seams and filling them with new grout. While you’re at it, consider a new grout color, like a light grey or a charcoal, that adds contrast to your tile and creates a more modern look."

Re-Caulk Bathtubs and Sinks

Re-caulking your bathtub and sink not only makes your bathroom look fresh and clean when potential buyers visit, but it also prevents leaks. "A tube of caulk is an easy fix to seal a shower, tub, or sink, and according to a new Zillow survey, one of the most common DIY fixes homeowners make when it’s time to sell their home," reports Pendleton. 

Shampoo (or Replace) Your Carpets

"According to a Zillow survey, 87 percent of real estate agents say you should do this before selling your home." A clean carpet can dramatically improve the look of your home, without having to shell out for a brand-new one that the buyers may decide to replace anyway.

However, if your carpet is stained beyond repair, replacing it may be the only option. In that case, Pendleton suggests opting for a low-pile carpet in a neutral griege (gray-beige) color. "If you don’t trust your ability to DIY a carpet replacement project, try removing the old carpet yourself, saving the cost of a pro’s labor hours."

Landscape the Front Yard

As if we needed one more excuse to buy more outdoor plants, Pendleton says that landscaping your front yard can increase your home's resale value. Start by cutting back overgrown trees of bushes, then reseed and edge the lawn and plant some color flowers (may we suggest these vibrant beauties?). 

Especially now, outdoor space is particularly important to prospective home buyers. "Prior to COVID-19, a Zillow analysis found buyers paid 2.7 percent more for homes that touted their landscaping in a listing description, compared with similar homes." We can expect that trend to continue.

Skip It: Finishing an Unfinished Space (Hello, Dingy Basement)

"I know we’re all looking to add some square footage to our homes now that we’re spending so much time in them, but finishing a basement is a time-consuming and costly task, and will only get you about 50 cents in resale on every dollar you invest in this project," warns Pendleton. However, if you plan to stay in your home for many years to come, the additional space the project awards you may be worth it over time.

Skip It: Installing Smart Home Amenities

"Zillow research didn’t find any significant sale premium for a smart thermostat or smart doorbell, and most agents don’t recommend installing these before a sale. While these features may make your life easier, they are not a selling point for buyers," says Pendleton.

Don't let that stop you from investing in that awesome new smart thermostat—but just don't expect it to boost your home's resale value either.

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