Want to Sell Your House? 5 Projects That Boost Its Value (and How to Afford Them)

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I blame HGTV.

Popular home improvement shows like “Flip or Flop,” “Property Brothers” and “Fixer Upper” gave my wife and me too many bright ideas.

After we bought our first house, we remodeled the bathroom. Then the kitchen. Then the back porch. We got it all just the way we wanted it. Then, naturally, we had to sell that house and move somewhere else.

That prompts the question: Which home improvements add to your home’s value, and which don’t?

The answer might surprise you.

How to Pay for Home Improvements

Carpenter sanding cedar wood deck before staining.
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Before we discuss whether you should add a bathroom or build a deck, let’s figure out how to pay for it.

You could save up the thousands — or hundreds of thousands — to make it happen. Or you could get a personal loan, which is probably easier than you think.

A good resource is Fiona, an online marketplace that’ll help pinpoint the best loan for you. It searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $250,000 at rates starting at 2.49%, and spend up to seven years paying it back.

Now… is that new bathroom worth the expense?

These Are the Best Home Improvements (and the Worst)

Looking down on a cozy outdoor living patio.
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Which home improvements pay off the most when it’s time to sell your house?

Think curb appeal. Spend your money on the front of your house, where everyone can see it.

According to “Remodeling” magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report” for 2018, here are the five home improvement projects with the best payoff:

  1. Replace your garage door: This costs an average of nearly $3,500 but basically pays for itself, earning you 98% of your money back.
  2. Manufactured stone veneer: It’s made from concrete, but it looks like stone and adds a classy touch to your home’s exterior. As an example, replacing 300 square feet of vinyl siding with manufactured stone veneer costs about $8,200. But you’ll earn 97% of that back when you sell.
  3. Install a steel front door: Get rid of that old wooden door! This costs about $1,350 — 91% of which you’ll get back.
  4. Add a wooden deck: A 16-by-20-foot deck will cost you nearly $11,000. You’ll get nearly 83% of that back.
  5. Minor kitchen remodel: New cabinets, countertops and appliances will run you about $22,000 for a 200-square-foot kitchen. You get 81% back.

Here are the five home improvement projects with the lowest payoff:

  1. Building a backyard patio brings the lowest return: 47%.
  2. Master suite addition: 48%.
  3. Major kitchen remodel: 53%. (A major kitchen remodel goes well beyond new cabinets and includes big-ticket items like stone countertops, all new appliances, and new lighting and flooring.)
  4. Adding a bathroom: 55%.
  5. Remodeling a bathroom: 56%.

Other Home Improvement Projects to Keep in Mind

“Remodeling” magazine’s annual report is referenced a lot in the remodeling industry, naturally. It doesn’t cover everything, though. Beyond that report, we’ve picked up a few other tips for you.

DIY: Do-It-Yourself Paint Job

Woman taking a break while painting apartment.
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The simplest DIY home project is probably painting. Even if you’re not particularly handy, you can paint walls yourself without hiring any skilled labor.

A fresh coat of paint improves any room. More specifically, if you paint your bathroom blue, your house could sell for thousands of dollars more than expected, according to a report by Zillow.

That same report also recommends that you paint living-room walls with more neutral colors like light beige, oatmeal or pale taupe. That way, potential buyers can visualize their own furniture and TV and artwork in your living room.

In any case, if do-it-yourself home projects send you to Home Depot or Lowe’s, you should use Ibotta to get cash back. At the time we checked, Ibotta was offering 1.5% cash back on all purchases at Home Depot, and $1 cash back on various products at Lowe’s.

Plus, you’ll get a $ bonus from Ibotta after you upload your first receipt.

Mmmmm, Hardwood Floors

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Ooooohhh, hardwood floors. SO NICE. I’m a sucker for these.

If you rip up your carpeting and install wood floors, you can expect to recover about 91% of the cost if you sell, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Homeowners spend an average $4,400 to put in hardwood floors, with the cost ranging from $1,000 to about $10,000, according to the Home Advisor website.

I want stained teak floors in my house so bad.

Insulate Yourself

Man installing thermal roof insulation layer - using mineral wool panels. Attic renovation and insulation concept
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Your attic could be allowing warm or cool air to escape, driving up your power bills. Adding insulation to your attic can significantly lower your energy costs. So insulation can eventually pay for itself, whether you sell or not.

The Department of Energy’s website has in-depth instructions for how to insulate your home, although we’d recommend hiring a professional to do it.

Make the Home Improvements You Want

Happy couple talking to each other while paining their walls during home renovation process.
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Sure, it’s nice to boost your home’s resale value. Just keep in mind that if you’re planning to stay in your home for some time, you should just remodel it the way you like.

It’s your house. It’s your castle. Enjoy it.

Replace the kitchen cabinets however you want. Paint the bathroom whatever color you want. Pink, lime green, whatever. Go nuts.

There are so many home improvements you could make! There’s all kinds of work you could be doing to your house right now!

Thanks a lot, HGTV.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is a homeowner and has hurt himself making home improvements more than once.