Home Improvement Projects that Pay Off (And Some that Don’t)

Shannon Quinn - November 9, 2022
Basement renovations can add a lot of value to your home. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Remodel Your Attic or Basement

If you have a livable attic or basement space, it may be a good idea for you to convert it to extra square footage for your home. Adding extra bedrooms, living space, or even a game room can be a huge selling point for potential buyers. Some people even create an entire extra apartment in their basements, and use it to generate extra income by renting it out to a tenant. According to Zillow, the value of a basement renovation changes drastically depending on where you live. But on average, your return on investment will be somewhere around 70%. This is much higher than most home improvement projects, and will definitely give your family a more comfortable lifestyle for as long as you are living in the home. (via Zillow)

Before you install solar panels, consider the low ROI. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Solar Panels

This might come as a surprise to most people, because there are so many good things about having solar panels. Installing solar panels can be a great investment to help you save money on your electricity bill. It also helps the environment. And it may be a home improvement that future home buyers are attracted to. However, it’s not going to add any more value to your home. According to HomeLight, “On average, solar panel installation ranges between $11,144 and $14,696 after solar tax credits, while the average return for solar panels is around 10%.” (via HomeLight)

Stone veneer is a home improvement that has an incredibly high ROI. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Stone Veneer

There is something universally appealing about a house with stone veneer. It may be because we associate stone with being sturdy, and long-lasting. And in some instances, stone can make your house look more like a luxurious castle. However, putting a stone veneer on the facade of your house (instead of vinyl siding) is not a cheap undertaking. Expect to spend $87,500 to $125,000 for a 2,500-square-foot home. But stone is a sturdy, aesthetically pleasing material that works wonders for curb appeal. It also provides a rock-solid return: 92% ROI. (via Bankrate)

Wait before you convert your garage. Credit: Love Incorporated

DON’T: Garage Conversion

Converting a garage into an extra room is a popular home improvement renovation. A lot of people take that space and turn it into an office or a “man cave”. Believe it or not, getting rid of the garage actually won’t get you a great return on investment. People want that extra storage space and a place to fit their cars. According to HomeLight, “A functionally adequate garage in a typical market might add $5,000 to $25,000 worth of value”. On the flip side, an extra bedroom may add $30,000 to $50,000. So it kind of depends on what you intend to turn your garage into. (via HomeLight)

Replacing your garage door can help with curb appeal. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Garage Door Replacement

Let’s assume that you decide to keep your garage, instead of converting it to a new room. Make sure the garage is in tip-top shape, especially the condition of the door. Sometimes, you can get away with painting the door. But it may be damaged or outdated. Garage doors are one of the few home renovations that actually come close to recouping their entire cost, offering a 94% ROI. Installing a new garage door can be a relatively inexpensive project, costing anywhere from $750 to $1,600. And it’s an investment that can seriously boost your home’s curb appeal. (via Bankrate)

When you do something yourself, the next buyer may not be impressed. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: DIY Projects

It’s fine to do DIY projects for your own pleasure. Just don’t expect them to increase your home value at all. Some people like to install a DIY project like a faux fireplace made out of wood in their living room, or a reading nook built under a window. Or, they might watch a YouTube video and decide to do their own electrical work without paying for a professional. Remember- you’re not a professional. So while you might be satisfied with the job well done, not everyone will see it that way. If you do your own electrical work, for example, a union electrician will have a hard time making sense of the mess you left behind. It often makes other people’s jobs more difficult later on down the line. (via Home Light)

A fresh coat of paint is always worth doing. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Painting

A quick and easy way to improve your home’s value is to paint the interior and exterior walls. This should be easy enough for you to do on your own, and it’s relatively inexpensive. But we recommend hiring professionals to do the outside of your home. According to Kind Home Solutions, painting will lead to more competitive offers. The significant ROI you can expect from a fresh coat of paint on your home’s interior and exterior is an average $4,000 increase in your home’s value. This means a 107% ROI for new interior painting and a 55% ROI for exterior painting. (via Kind Home Solutions)

Not every buy will appreciate your smart home add-ons. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Fancy Electronic Add-Ons

Nowadays, there are a lot of people out there who are into “smart home” gadgets. Sometimes, certain technology like a Ring doorbell can be an attractive attribute to a home. However, it doesn’t help your home value very much. In fact, if you install something like an iPad in the wall, you may not get a return on your investment at all. If you’re getting ready to sell your house, don’t bother paying for any fancy electronic add-ons. Let the new owners decide if they want to add their own tech. (via Bob Vila)

Before any home improvement project, try to declutter your space first. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Decluttering

If you’re looking around your house and feeling like it needs some kind of home improvement project, decluttering is the first obvious thing you should do. And in a lot of cases, this can be completely free. Or, you may just need to buy a few storage containers, which can cost less than $100.  This is especially important if you’re planning on living in your home and trying to sell it. People don’t want to walk into a cluttered space. It’s hard for them to imagine their own stuff in a space unless it’s a relatively blank canvas. If you’re new to decluttering, I recommend watching “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and “The Home Edit” on Netflix. Plus, it might just get you motivated to clean your own home. When you get done reading this article, check out our article called Easy Ways to Declutter a Home. (via Home Addict)

It’s okay to do some landscaping, but don’t go overboard. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Extensive Landscaping

Don’t get me wrong- landscaping is very important. You want to do the basic maintenance like mowing your lawn, planting trees, and maybe flowers around your property. In fact, having a great lawn and trees gives you as much as a 200% to 400% ROI, because it adds to the curb appeal of the property. However, don’t expect to make back any return on investment for an extensive landscaping project. What I mean by that is going over-the-top with walkways, topiaries, fountains, etc. This basically pigeon-holes who your potential future buyer can be. They basically need to be another hobby gardener, or someone rich enough to hire help. (If you want an example that comes to mind of someone who does too much landscaping is Laura from the Garden Answer YouTube channel.) (via Houzz)

It’s always a good idea to deep-clean your house before you try to sell it. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Deep Cleaning 

This may seem like common sense to some people, but you should consider paying for a deep-cleaning of your house. Not only is this a good home improvement project, but it will also make it more appealing to future buyers. Make sure you have carpets shampooed, furniture pulled back to dust behind, and get into all of the nooks and crannies that you normally ignore during your weekly rounds. If you need help, it’s not too expensive to hire a professional cleaner to come in temporarily. According to Costimates, The average cost to clean a house “from top to bottom” is . 14 to . 24 cents per square foot. This works out to $140 to $240 for a 1,000 square foot home, though many services have a minimum fee for deep cleaning of $125 to $200. (via Home Advisor)

Fancy chandeliers may not give you any return on investment. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Expensive Light Fixtures 

Light fixtures can cost a small fortune. Some cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to buy and install in your home. Unfortunately, though, you won’t really see any return on investment for buying something so extravagant. Yes, a good light fixture can be an appealing selling point to a future buyer. However, a $1,000 chandelier won’t add on $1,000 to your home value. If you pay for something precious like this, you may even want to consider taking it down before you sell your house, and replace it with something more affordable. Or, buy a more affordable but stylish light fixture in the first place. There are a lot of amazing options on Wayfair and Amazon. (via Buzzfeed)

A house with great curb appeal is always easier to sell. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Curb Appeal 

One of the most important home improvement projects you can do before selling a home is working on the curb appeal. In case you don’t know, curb appeal is the first impression people get when they walk up to your home. Does your house have any sort of “wow” factor that makes it an attractive place to live? According to Lawn Mark, having great curb appeal can increase your home value from 5 to 10%. You can achieve curb appeal by doing some landscaping on the front lawn, cleaning up sidewalks and driveways, and potentially replacing or painting the siding on the front of the house. A new front door may even pay off in the long run. (via House Logic)

Wine cellars are a luxury that most people can live without. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: A Wine Cellar 

A lot of people out there would never even imagine installing a wine cellar in their home. While it may be a selling point in the luxury home market, it’s not really a home improvement the majority of people should be doing. According to Heritage Vine,  “Residential wine cellars start around $15,000 and can go up to $180,000. The national average cost for a wine cellar is $33,750.” In most cases, you aren’t going to get a great return on investment. A better option might be to install a wine fridge in the kitchen, instead. This looks very bougie, and it might appeal to a luxury buyer. But it only costs around $500 to $1,000 instead of tens of thousands. (via Heritage Vine)

Maintenance is just typical part of home improvement. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Regular Maintenance Items 

It’s important to keep up with your regular maintenance projects every year. If you let it go, your house is more likely to deteriorate over time. Always do the basic projects like cleaning out gutters and basic repairs. According to Lawn Starter, “The 1% to 4% Rule of Thumb. The most common method of estimating home maintenance costs is to assume you’ll spend between 1% and 4% of your home’s value each year. For example, if your house is worth $200,000, you should plan to spend $2,000 to $8,000 on maintenance every year.” (via Lawn Starter)

You might not see a huge return on investment for a chef’s kitchen. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: A Chef’s Kitchen 

A lot of people dream of installing a modern renovated kitchen. Yes, a beautiful kitchen is a huge selling point. And according to Zillow, a kitchen renovation will give you an 81% ROI. However, not all kitchen renovations were made equal. Some people go over-the-top to install a chef’s kitchen. We’re talking imported professional-grade ovens shipped in from Europe that cost $10,000. Or over-the-top expensive stone placed on top of the countertops. The list goes on and on. Remember that you don’t need to buy professional quality items for your kitchen. Most people prepare basic meals day to day, and they don’t need anything fancy to get their cooking done. It’s fine to buy basic appliances that you can find in places like Home Depot or Lowes. (via Mansion Global)

Bathrooms will always be a worthwhile home improvement project. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: A Bathroom Refresh 

Even if you can’t afford to completely gut and upgrade a bathroom, it’s still important for you to try doing a “bathroom refresh”. According to Zillow, “For minor cosmetic changes, you’ll see a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1 you spend. This includes things like painting and refinishing cabinets, swapping out the mirror or upgrading hardware.” Potential buyers love to see an up-to-date bathroom. When they walk into a bathroom that needs a lot of work, it can potentially turn a lot of people off who aren’t ready to work on a renovation project. (via Better Homes and Gardens)

Don’t do something that will turn many future buyers away. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Style-Specific Upgrades 

When you buy a house, you might be tempted to upgrade it according to your personal style. Of course, that’s fair to a certain extent. After all, it’s your property, and you can do what you want. But don’t expect to get a return-on-investment for style-specific upgrades. For example, in the photo above, you can see how someone took slices of wooden logs and put them on the side of a wall. It gives the room a more rustic feel. But if you ever plan to sell the house one day, a lot of people might see this feature as “weird” or completely outside of their personal style. If you’re hoping to sell your house one day, try to stick with classic styles that anyone can enjoy. (via Wellington Florida Real Estate)

It’s always a good idea to give your kitchen a refresh. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: A Kitchen Refresh

Earlier on this list, we cautioned you against doing a chef’s kitchen renovation. Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between spending tens of thousands of dollars on professional quality appliances and using that money for new cabinets, instead. A kitchen refresh is always encouraged, especially if the space hasn’t been updated in a few decades. According to USA Cabinet Store, “So far, the industry’s standard ROI for mid-range kitchen makeover falls between 50% to 60% of your overall budget for remodeling. For instance, if you spent $69,000 redoing your kitchen, then you can expect to recoup around $34,500 to $41,400.” (via USA Cabinet Store)

Most people don’t want an entire house of carpeting anymore. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Throughout the Entire Home

Way back in the 1980’s and 90’s, wall-to-wall carpeting was seen as a luxury. After all, it was comfortable on your feet, and it kept you warm in the winter time. Some homeowners even went as far as to put carpet in their bathrooms! (yuck). But those days are long gone. Now, most homeowners want to see hardwood or vinyl flooring. Sure, it’s fine to have a living room or bedroom covered in carpeting. But you want to have different floorings in different rooms to serve the purpose of each space. It may be more expensive to do it this way, but it will pay off in the end by attracting future buyers. (via Apartment Therapy)

Maintaining your HVAC system is incredibly important. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Replace or Repair Your HVAC System

When you’re thinking about a home improvement project, your basic needs should be top priority. Most people consider an HVAC system a must-have, since it helps keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Installing a brand new system is expensive. So if you have one installed, it’s important to get maintenance done at least once a year, in order to prevent needing a new system prematurely. According to Young’s Home Comfort, “Installing a new HVAC system could increase your home’s value by as much as $2,500-$3,000 or approximately 5-10% of the total value of your home.” (via Young’s Home Comfort)

You won’t get much back on your investment if you install a pool. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Add a Pool

For a lot of people, installing a pool in their backyard is a bucket-list dream for their home. It’s amazing to be able to go in your own backyard in the summertime and cool off by swimming in a pool. And it will surely make you popular with your neighbors, friends, and family. According to Forbes, the average in-ground pool costs $35,000, but the price changes depending on the size and what kinds of add-ons you include, like a hot tub. Many future home buyers will see having a private pool as a huge selling point, especially after the pandemic. People really appreciate their outdoor spaces more than ever, and are willing to pay more for a home that offers them a great backyard. According to Forbes, you will only get a 50% return on investment if you install a pool. If you calculate the amount of time you and your kids spend in the pool each year, plus the added cost of annual upkeep, it becomes a very expensive luxury to have. You might be better off paying for a gym membership or local swim club instead. (via Forbes)

Having a deck or patio is always a good home improvement project. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Add or Repair Your Deck or Patio

Now more than ever, people truly value having a deck or patio attached to their house. During the pandemic, a lot of people switched to having outdoor gatherings with friends rather than inviting them inside. Even though things have gotten a lot better now, it’s still something on every homebuyer’s mind. If you already have a deck or patio, it may only cost a couple hundred dollars to do repairs, paint, or upgrade. But the cost of building a porch can be anywhere from $2,000 up to $22,000 depending on the size and materials used.  According to Forbes, you can get back a 66% return on investment. That’s not bad, considering that it will seriously add a lot to your curb appeal and make it easier to sell the home one day. (via Homes)

The trendier something is, the faster is will go out of style. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Install Expensive Trendy Fixtures 

Earlier on this list, we already mentioned that you should steer clear of installing expensive light fixtures. But this advice goes for any and all fixtures in your home that could be considered “trendy”. For example, a couple years ago, Joanna Gaines made “Farmhouse” decor incredibly popular. It was a huge trend for several years, and it extended even into faucets and fixtures in people’s homes. Now, though, even Joanna Gaines herself is tired of the country farmhouse vibe, and has moved on to different styles in her new season of “Fixer Upper”. Think about all of the outdated bathrooms and kitchens that are totally identifiable as being from the 1980’s. Your own house is going to look like that to future buyers if you strictly follow trends. (via HGTV)

People love to have outdoor living spaces to entertain guests. Credit: Shutterstock

DO: Spruce Up Your Outdoor Living Space

Ever since the start of the pandemic, people value outdoor living space more than ever before. Instead of letting friends and family inside of their house, it has become more common for people to sit outside in the open air. We’re not saying that you need to invest tens of thousands of dollars to give yourself a luxury backyard. But it’s a great investment to figure out some kind of outdoor seating situation, even if you just start with a set of patio furniture. Of course, investing in bigger projects like a porch or a patio will give you a decent ROI. (via Forbes)  

Adding a sunroom might not pay off in the end. Credit: Shutterstock

DON’T: Add a Sunroom

A lot of people love the idea of having a sunroom, because it’s a combination of both indoor and outdoor space. They’re very popular in states like Florida where it’s warm all year long. You can enjoy the sun without getting attacked by bugs. And it’s a great place to keep your indoor plants. The bad news is that it’s not exactly a good investment for you to build one. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $30,000 to build a sunroom addition. However, Forbes claims that it doesn’t count towards the total square footage of the home, therefore it doesn’t add any extra value. This may change state-by-state. The ROI also seems to change depending on where you live. It’s as low as 50% all the way up to 80%. (via US News)