20 Easy Updates That Increase Your Home's Value

Ben Mizes's Photo
By Ben Mizes Updated December 10, 2021


In today’s red hot real estate market, odds are good your home will increase in value no matter what you do.

However, if you make some savvy upgrades, you could easily boost your home’s value by five or even six figures. Combine that value increase with a low commission or flat fee real estate broker, or even a gutsy "for sale by owner" (FSBO) sale, and you could be looking at a huge profit from a relatively small amount of work.

Below is a definitive list of the 23 best updates to boost your home’s value. Some of them are aesthetic, some practical, and some technological, but each one will improve your quality of life. More importantly, they’ll make your home sell faster and get more money in your pocket the next time you put it on the market.

» MORE: Clever Real Estate Review 2022: Pricing, How It Works, and Everything Else You Need to Know

1. Paint Your Home’s Exterior

"Curb appeal" is real — experts say that prospective buyers make their mind up about a house in less than 10 seconds. That means your home’s exterior has to be flawless, and that starts with a fresh coat of paint.

Painting actually has the best return on investment of any home improvement. You can do the painting yourself for a few hundred dollars — and, it can improve your home value, on average, by several thousand dollars.

So what color should you use on your exterior? Aim for something neutral that won’t alienate too many prospective buyers. Colors like beige, light grey, "greige," or white are soothing, and signal that the home is well maintained. Avoid bright or unique colors, as they can turn off some buyers. Worst of all is yellow, which is proven to decrease your home’s sale price.

2. Paint Your Interior

A fresh coat of paint will make any space look brighter, cleaner, and more welcoming.

Bathroom: Studies have shown that the most appealing bathroom color is light blue, but any neutral color, like gray, off-white, beige, or a classic white should be just fine.

Bedroom: aim for soothing, serene colors here. As with most other areas of the house, you can’t go wrong with a nice inoffensive neutral— gray, off-white, beige, "greige." Studies have also shown that buyers like to see a rich dark blue or gray, so much so that dark blue is proven to increase a home’s value.

Kitchen: While a plain white can seem harsh or institutional in other areas of the house, buyers actually preferred it in the kitchen. White makes rooms look brighter and larger, so it makes sense that it would work well in a kitchen — even if it’s not ideal for an area that’s going to be susceptible to a lot of spills and stains.

Walls: If you have outdated wallpaper or texturing, consider redoing the walls in a neutral color. Although white seems like an obvious choice, it can look harsh in the light and gets dirty quickly.

Steer clear of bright or confrontational colors like red, pink, green, yellow, which have been shown to alienate buyers.

3. Plant Some Trees

Buyers love to see a lot of trees on a property — not only for their aesthetic appeal but also for the privacy that tree cover can provide.

The largest home value increase comes from mature trees in the front yard, which can increase your home’s value by several thousand dollars, or as much as 20%. Obviously, this isn’t something you can make happen overnight, but if you know you’re eventually going to sell your home, it makes sense to plant a few trees as soon as possible.

Just make sure the tree is in good health and well maintained. If branches are hanging over your home’s roof or getting close to the windows, have them pruned by a professional.

4. Invest in Landscaping

When it comes to curb appeal, landscaping is nearly as important of a factor as the home itself. Various studies have found that quality landscaping can improve your home’s value by 11% or more, and landscaping has one of the best returns on investment of any home improvement out there, with ROI ranging as high as 400%.

Landscaping includes simple maintenance like having trees and shrubs pruned, as well as installing more advanced features like stone planters, flower beds, shrubs and hedges, and landscape lighting. Talk to a professional landscaper, as well as your real estate agent, to see what kind of landscaping makes sense for your situation!

5. Install a Water Filtration System

In areas with hard water, pollutants, or contaminants, water is a huge quality-of-life issue and can free a prospective buyer from endlessly refilling their filter pitchers. But treated, filtered water has a lot of appeal even in areas with good drinking water: it's more effective at washing clothes, feels better on the skin, and tastes cleaner.

Installing a whole house water filtration system (versus attaching an individual filter to the kitchen sink) can result in a big increase in home value. A filtration system is a little feature that can make a home feel a lot more luxurious.

6. Do a Deep Clean

Doing a deep clean will make your home look newer and brighter. And we’re not talking about a standard mop-and-dust. You’ll want to scour and scrub every surface, even walls and ceilings. Clean all those places you don’t normally get to, like behind appliances, inside drawers, and cupboards. Every gap, crack, and space in your home should get the full treatment. If you’re doing it yourself, you should set aside at least a full weekend to do it right, though many sellers hire a professional cleaning crew.

7. Brighten Up

Natural light is one of the most valuable and appealing qualities in a home, so you want

Start by removing any heavy window treatments like blinds, shutters, and drapes. Clean all windows, and trim any hedges, trees, or bushes that block your light. Once you’ve maximized your home’s light, show it off to its best advantage by taking your listing photos at the "golden hour," and hosting open houses at hours of peak sunlight.

8. Replace Bathroom Fixtures

A full bathroom renovation can certainly increase your home’s value, but the costs can be tough to recoup. However, updating things like faucets, showerheads, and vanities can make nearly as good of an impression. Just make sure the new fixtures work with the bathroom’s existing design.

If your old toilet is wobbly or your floor is showing its age, installing a new toilet or a tile floor is a cost-efficient improvement—especially if the bathroom floor area is not that large.

9. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Lighting

If you have outdated light fixtures, you may want to upgrade to something more modern, such as recessed lighting. At the same time, energy-efficient lighting (like LED lighting) is both environmentally friendly and cost efficient, as these bulbs last longer and use far less electricity than conventional bulbs.

10. Refresh Your Floors

Old, worn carpet can have a huge negative impact on a home’s value. Consider upgrading to new carpet, which will brighten your home and make it seem more welcoming, or to hardwood floors, which are more durable and less allergenic. It can be expensive—up to $18 per square foot, including labor—installing hardwood floors can increase your home’s value by up to 2.5%.

11. Add Crown Molding

Crown molding can make your rooms look more sophisticated, stylish, and polished. It’s also one of the easiest and most cost-efficient upgrades around. However, if you’re installing your crown molding yourself, take pains to do it correctly. Crooked crown molding will only hurt your home’s value.

Make sure you match your crown molding to the style of your home and other homes in your neighborhood. An ornate or ostentatious crown molding in a modest house can be counterproductive, for instance. Also make sure to take the ceiling’s height into account. A rule of thumb is to use one-inch crown moldings for 10-foot ceilings (or under).

12. Put In Ceiling Fans

People don’t just love ceiling fans, they virtually demand them. In a National Association of Home Builders survey, respondents rated ceiling fans as their most "must have" feature—out of over 200 choices! Luckily, they’re pretty inexpensive and not too challenging to install.

13. Refinish Your Kitchen Cabinets

Your kitchen cabinets are the first thing most people will see when they walk into the kitchen. That means having modern finishes is important if you’re looking to maximize your kitchen’s appeal.

If you repaint, aim for neutral colors like beige, light gray, white, or off-white. If you have outdated cabinets but don’t want to commit to a full renovation, you can still modernize them by installing new handles.

14. Pressure Wash Your Siding and Driveway

Maybe your home is looking a little grimy after a hard winter or two. A good alternative to a full exterior paint job is a pressure wash. For a few hundred dollars, it can make your home look like new. Don’t forget to do the sidewalks and driveway, which can often become stained and dull.

15. Make a (Small) Smart Home Upgrade

Smart homes are becoming more popular every year, so upgrading to smart appliances will give you a big bump in value. However, smart technology is improving rapidly, and multiple brands offer smart home infrastructure. Going all in with one provider could cause problems down the line if, say, a future buyer wants a different brand.

Start slow with something modest, like a smart thermostat. Not only can you control your heat and cooling, but it will reduce your utility bills—always a concern with buyers.

16. Maximize Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor spaces are hugely appealing to buyers, especially in a post-pandemic world. If you have room, a small deck, gazebo, or pergola can give your home a significant bump in value. Patios, by contrast, can be particularly expensive to add. Just keep your space proportional: An oversized outdoor space can make your home look small.

17. Upgrade Your Appliances

Installing high-end, modern appliances can give your home value a huge bump. Experts suggest stainless steel appliances age well and have great resale value. Top recommendations include refrigerators, especially ones with french double doors and built-in ice and water dispensers, and high-efficiency washers and dryers. Also consider buying appliances that are Wi-Fi enabled, as more and more homes are integrating smart home technology.

18. Build Out Your Storage

Storage spaces are one of the first things buyers look at in a home, so having efficient, deep storage is a huge selling point. Start with your kitchen pantry and bedroom closets. Popular additions include shelving, integrated drawers, bins, and shoe racks. Just don’t go overboard — keep your closets' style in line with the rest of the house, or they may look conspicuous or awkward.

19. Replace the Little Things

Small details can make a big impression. Consider replacing doorknobs, light switch plates, drawer and cabinet pulls, outlet covers, and curtain rods. Each individual feature might feel insignificant, but collectively they can make your home feel refreshed. Just remember to match their style with the rest of the home!

20. Add a Black Front Door

We’ve left the most effective update for last: the front door. Studies have shown that a new front door—specifically, a black front door—can boost your home’s sale price by nearly 3% (over $6,000) and provide over $20,000 in perceived value. Considering that a top-of-the-line front door is only a few hundred dollars, this upgrade is a no-brainer.

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