Which indoor improvements do you think are most likely to increase home value? A quick, unscientific survey of my friends came up with “New Kitchen” and “New Bathroom” vying for the top spot, but guess what – they were wrong. Yes, these improvements can increase the value of a home, but you might end up worse off if you splash out on a $30,000 kitchen and it increases your home value by $20,000. Give me five minutes, and I’ll reveal my insider secrets to improvements that will increase home value, without leaving you out of pocket.
Indoor improvements to increase home value include:
- Taking your house into the future
- Maximizing your size and space
- Cutting energy costs
- Tackling those little repairs
- Updating lighting
- Making minor bathroom and bathroom updates
- Replacing outdated items such as popcorn ceilings
- Painting using neutral colors
- Updating worn or dirty floors
- Decluttering and adding storage
- Giving the house a deep clean
These, and more are the indoor improvements that could increase the value of your home if you do them correctly, and on a reasonable budget. And I can speak from experience on this point. I have purchased and improved a number of homes and through this process learned through trial and error, which improvements are worth the time, effort and money.
Indoor Improvements To Increase Home Value
Just as with outdoor improvements to increase home value, not all indoor improvements are created equal. While some will add value to almost every home, others will only increase the value of the home if they are:
- In keeping with the general aesthetic of the house: Why? Because a sleek, modern kitchen with all the high tech bells and whistles, is not going to improve the value of a Victorian property that is otherwise period correct.
- Appropriate for the neighborhood: Why? Because all of the gingerbread style house trim in the world is not going to improve your home value if you live in a modern, contemporary style neighborhood.
- Priced to suit the neighborhood: Why? Because if you upgrade too much and create a five bedroom, five bath, multi-million dollar property with all of the best, high-end extras, nobody will want to buy the house if it is in a neighborhood of $200,000 fixer-uppers.
- Completed to an acceptable standard: Why? Because unskilled DIY jobs are at the very least off-putting to would-be buyers and a worst, they can result in a home inspection that throws up so many issues; no buyer is going to want to take it on.
- Carried out with the appropriate materials. Why? Because not only can the wrong materials produce an unsightly end result, but they can cause damage, home inspection issues that affect the sale or even dangerous conditions within the home.
- “Style Neutral”: Why? Because you may have spent a lot of time and money on the Neon Steampunk style interior design, but only another Neon Steampunk fan is going to appreciate it.
- What the home needs: Why? Because if you have a sagging, two-layered roof, single glazed windows throughout, and a furnace on its last legs, prospective buyers aren’t going to be swayed by the new kitchen.
In addition, a recent survey showed:
- Over 70% of new homeowners knew, even before they made an offer, that they wanted to renovate or redecorate the home they were viewing, in their own style.
- The majority of people didn’t have a massive issue with the sellers decorating or choice of fixtures and fittings if they were inoffensive, neutral enough to be ignored, or could be “dressed up” accessories until the buyer was ready to make their own mark on the property.
- A house that raised lots of small questions threw up red flags. For example:
- “Do those cracked electrical outlets work?” can lead the buyer to wonder “If the outlets are in bad condition, are the rest of the electrics OK? Do we need an electrical inspection? Will we have to rewire? Is the house safe?”
- “Why does this door stick?” can lead to “Is the door sticking because of moisture issues? Does that mean the house is damp? Is there hidden mold? Has the door frame been warped because the foundation is sinking?”
As a result, homes with lots of small repairs were off-putting, not because of the minor repairs themselves, but because the would-be buyers wondered if those repairs could be symptomatic of more significant problems.
- Random, out of place items such as:
- Just one wall in a room having a fresh coat of paint.
- One new but unmatched handle on a single kitchen cabinet or
- A cheap and cheerful light fitting in an otherwise which has obviously just been installed in an otherwise untouched bathroom.
give the impression a seller has tried a quick and dirty facelift in an effort to unload the house quickly. And this often leads buyers to question why the seller is in a hurry to move quickly.
What Does All Of This Tell Us?
When planning indoor improvements to increase home value, ensure your work is in keeping with the general look and feel of your property as well as being in keeping with the community in which it is located.
There is a danger of spending too much money on indoor improvements and as a result, either pricing your home out of the neighborhood, having no chance of ever recouping your investment, or maybe even both.
Buyers want to put their own mark on a new home but may not have the money to do it straight away. Therefore they want decor they “can live with” so your improvements should be style neutral, but not bland.
Those small repairs you have lived with for years can set off alarm bells for buyers. Likewise, random, odd fixes, shoddy workmanship, and bargain basement materials scream “The owner made cheap fixes to sell quickly. What’s wrong with this house?”
You should try and look at your property today in the same way you did the first time you saw it. Imagine you are a buyer looking for a home, viewing your house. What do you see? How does the house make you feel? Would you see this as a “must-buy,” a “fixer-upper,” or too questionable to risk your hard earned savings on?
With all of this in mind, these are the affordable indoor improvements I recommend, to increase home value and give the best return on your time money and effort. Enjoy.
Giving The House A Deep Clean
Before you say anything, I know, this doesn’t sound like an “Improvement,” but stay with me on this, and you will understand why it is number one on my list.
First of all, tackle one area at a time, beginning with your least used room and leaving the “busiest” until last.
- Strip the room of everything, so you are left with a bare shell.
- Run a dry cloth over all of the surfaces to remove dust and if there is any heavy dust build up, use the vacuum.
- Put a couple of drops of dish soap into a bucket of “as hot as you can safely stand it” water and swish to create a little foam.
- With a lint-free cloth, wash the ceiling and then one wall at a time, from top to bottom, finishing up with the paintwork and baseboards.
- Follow-up, in the same order, with a fresh bucket of plain water to rinse.
- Use a cleaning eraser to shift any stubborn marks and make a note of any spots which can only be revived by repainting.
- Wash the windows, inside and out – as long as you can do so safely, and do the same with hard flooring.
- If you have carpet, and you do not intend to replace it before putting the house up for sale, hire a carpet cleaner.
- For kitchens and bathroom follow the same process, but use cleaners designed specifically for these rooms.
- Don’t forget to open up closets, cabinets, etc. and clean inside.
Before you replace the contents of a room, clean each item in the most appropriate way.
- Wash the hard surfaces of furniture, accessories, etc. as you did the with the walls.
- Put any machine washable items through the laundry, including curtains, cushion covers, etc.
- Send other textiles to the dry cleaners.
- If you have a dishwasher, you can use it to wash all manner of household items.
Only place cleaned items back into the room.
The jury is out on using fragrance, but most people agree – the smell of strong, chemical cleaners is off-putting, as are heavily fragranced household air fresheners or lots of conflicting scents. If you choose to use them, do so sparingly and use items with the same fragrance. If you are looking to try out different smells for your home, here is a great fragrance diffuser for only $38.95 on amazon. It also comes with 7 different smells for you to try at your home.
If all of this feels like just too much work, spring for a cleaning service to do it for you. Most charge around $400 for a “deep clean.”
Decluttering And Adding Storage
An untidy home is off-putting for buyers as it gives the impression there isn’t enough room in the property for all of their things. Not only that, if your rooms are crowded with belongings they will look smaller and less “livable” which is also a big buyer turn-off.
In addition, real estate professionals recommend you leave 30% of your storage space and closets empty when preparing to show your home. Apparently, this is the sweet spot that shows you have plenty of fabulous storage, so much in fact that you haven’t filled it up. All of this makes decluttering and adding storage an incredibly cost-effective indoor improvement to increase home value.
Many homeowners see the word “decluttering” and think it means “Throwing everything I own away and leaving one, ugly ornament on an end table.”
Decluttering is about looking at all of your belongings and deciding which ones you want to:
- Keep and use on a regular basis
- Store away for occasional or seasonal use.
- Place in permanent/semi-permanent storage
- Place in the garbage
Go room by room and identify anything that comes under points 5-7 and get them out of the house.
Then you can take all of those special things that you could never bear to part with, but don’t really “do” anything with and store them in boxes, wrapping fragile items in paper or bubble wrap. If you have somewhere clean and dry to store these items out of the way, then any sturdy cardboard box will do. If you have them in your closet or somewhere else visible, consider buying some “pretty” boxes in keeping with your color scheme, this way they are more of a design feature.
If you don’t have room in your closets for seasonal items such as winter coats and you store them away instead, consider investing in some vacuum bags so that the things will take up less space.
Chose the items you want to have on display and arrange them in small groups, hang them in picture frames or Google “homemade display hacks” for inspiration
Finally, identify a “home” for everything you will be using on a day to day basis. Investing in affordable shelving units, and creative storage solutions will not only help you to stay tidy and organized, but you can take them all with you when you leave.
Updating Worn Or Dirty Floors
We may be secure in the knowledge that buyers plan to replace everything when they move in but, paradoxically little puts a buyer off more than knowing they will HAVE to do something as soon as they move in.
For floors that are staying “as-is” take the time to nail down any squeaky floorboards, regrout or give the existing grout a thorough clean, hire a machine to deep clean carpet and wash uncarpeted floors. Hardwood floors can be wiped, or sanded and restained depending on the state of the floor and your budget.
Carpets with too many stains, marks or worn patches to rescue can be replaced for minimal cost. Real estate professionals say that you can find reasonable quality, neutral carpeting for $400 – $600 and can improve the value of the home by as much as $2,000.
Meanwhile, if you are thinking of replacing any flooring with hardwood, go for engineered hardwood which won’t break the bank but is still of a high enough quality to appeal to buyers. Oh, and don’t underestimate the power of a new vinyl floor in the kitchen or bathroom. As long as it is in keeping with the rest of the room, there is nothing wrong with this basic, hardwearing flooring.
Painting Using Neutral Colors
First things first. Neutral does not mean bland or boring so don’t paint every wall of your house in the exact same off-white shade. Pale blues are popular for bedrooms, light browns and tans are a favorite in living rooms while the up and coming trend is for grey-blues in the kitchen and bathroom.
The important things to remember when painting are:
- Protect your floors and furniture with drop cloths.
- Wash walls before painting to ensure a clean, even finish.
- Fill holes and sand smooth before applying paint.
- Prepare your paint surface correctly before beginning to apply paint.
- Use reasonable quality paint, brushes, and rollers.
- A satin finish is easier to keep clean than flat paint and hides imperfections better than a semi-gloss.
- Unless the touch-in spots are tiny, don’t repaint small areas or patches of wall.
- Whenever possible, paint all walls, the ceiling, and the paintwork in a room.
White is often the “go-to” color for ceilings, and although that does feel clean and bright, it can be a little harsh. Consider a softer, paler, almost white version of the wall color. Not only will this make the room feel more substantial, but it will also appear warmer.
Replacing Outdated Items Such As Popcorn Ceilings
Popcorn ceilings, vinyl wood-look, paneled walls, “dusty” pastels, and wallpaper borders are just some of the decorating trends that scream “I’m a home that hasn’t been updated in forever. You’ve got a LOT of work to do if you buy me.”
To avoid turning off the buyers take a trip to the DIY store, get yourself some “popcorn softener” and spend the weekend digging off the decorating equivalent to a seventies mustache. While you’re at it, pull those faux wood paneling panels off the walls, strip away the wallpaper borders and cover-up the dusty pastels that make everything look slightly grubby.
It might take a few weekends, but you’ll be paid back in shovels full of increased value.
Making Minor Kitchen And Bathroom Updates
You don’t have to renovate the kitchen or bathroom from top to bottom in order to increase the value of your home. You can deep-clean, tackle any repairs, declutter, add new storage, replace dated decoration, and address worn or dirty floors in the same way as the rest of the house, but if you have the extra time, money, and energy you could also make a few room specific improvements.
- Remove the dated under sink cabinet and replace with a pedestal sink and you instantly have more floor space which can make the entire room feel bigger.
- Install a low-flush toilet or make sure your existing toilet.
- Replace frosted glass shower doors or enclosures with plain glass. You should also do this if the existing glass is cracked, chipped, or severely scratched.
- Visit your local DIY store and see if they have any end of the range faucets or other plumbing or lighting fixtures. You can find high-end items at bargain prices and give your bathroom a quick, luxurious lift.
- A new, large mirror can flood the room with light.
- Wall mounted lighting can be more attractive than harsh overhead light.
- A dated, plastic sink, especially if it is shell-shaped or something similar should be replaced if possible.
- Replace old cabinet hardware, being sure to stay in keeping with the rest of the room.
- Some people advocate repainting cabinets, but this is only advisable if you know for sure you can make a top-notch job of it.
- As with bathrooms, a DIY store end-of-line area can be a fantastic place to find cabinetry, and plumbing, and lighting fixtures and fittings.
- A new backsplash can work wonders if the walls are painted, and these days you do not have to stick with tiles. Stone, glass, metal, ceramics, they are all popular options that can revitalize a tired kitchen.
- Replace countertops, especially if the existing ones are damaged or worn. Formica used to be seen as a low-end budget option. However, these days you can find gorgeous marble, granite, and stone options, to name but a few, that look as good as the real thing, but are a fraction of the price.
- LED lighting is available as inexpensive adhesive strips which, when placed on the underside of cabinets, can brighten darker kitchen corners.
- A small extra such as an under sink water filtration system can give a luxury feel for a budget price.
- Swap out existing hinges and slides for soft-closing alternatives. These not only give an upscale feel to the cabinetry, but they’re also popular with parents as these hinges and slides make it difficult for children to shut their fingers in the drawers and doors.
You do not have to buy fixtures for the entire house in order to update the lighting. Sometimes, after you have decorated, moving a light fixture from a room in which it no longer works to another spot in the house is all you need to do.
If something a little more radical is in order, places such as Re-Habitat for Humanity can have modern or traditional lighting at a fraction of the price you would pay in a regular store. Meanwhile, thrift stores and places such as Craigslist can be the source of both new and gently loved fixtures, fittings, and stand-alone lamps.
More significant, open plan rooms can benefit from pot-lights while you can add accent lighting with LED strips, fairy lights or novelty lighting strings to add a bit of character that you can take to your new abode.
Also, don’t forget natural light. By taking down unnecessary window treatments and cleaning windows, you can have a room which is instantly brighter.
Tackling Those Little Repairs
Do you know that broken door handle that you’ve been meaning to get round to fixing for ages? The one you keep forgetting because that door always stands open and you don’t use the handle anyway? THAT is the handle your prospective buyers will try ten seconds before they begin to worry that, if there are multiple little repairs, are there more significant maintenance issues that will need addressing?
So, take a walk through of your home and make a note of EVERY:
- Missing item: Think cabinet door handles, the gap in the floor tiling behind the bathroom door, the missing plug in the sink, etc.
- Area of damage: Not just the obvious, like dents in the wall where the door swung too far, and the handle dented the plasterboard. A useful trick is to use a flashlight and run it slowly over every surface, focussing on the circle of light. This forces you to run your eyes over every inch of the house instead of taking a glance and missing those items you are so used to, that you no longer see.
- Non-functioning item: These are the big things like the garage door rising easily and the little things such as the kitchen drawers sliding smoothly.
- Basic Maintenance Job: While you’re busy with your repairs be sure to replace air filters, clean extractor fans, de-clog sinks, etc.
Not only will tackling these things prevent those “what else is wrong?” thoughts but it will also stop buyers being distracted by little details and allow them to concentrate on how your home meets their needs.
Cutting Energy Costs
This doesn’t have that “in your face – wow!” factor, but it is a fantastic selling point, especially if you make this improvement a few months before your property goes on the market. Having some before and after energy bills can clearly demonstrate how energy efficient your home is, giving it an edge over other, similar properties.
Begin by researching any local energy savings programs that may be available through your local government or energy company. Some projects offer no-cost, or low-cost energy home audits heavily discounted energy-saving items, and in some cases rebate programs.
Indoor improvements to reduce energy costs include:
- Installing a low-flow toilet and showerhead
- Affixing tap aerators to all faucets
- Upgrading the insulation in the attic, basement, and walls
- Replacing an existing furnace or hot water heater with a new, energy-efficient model.
- Upgrading kitchen and laundry appliances to energy-efficient options.
- Swapping out light bulbs for LED versions.
- Seal visible leaks or loose fittings in your ductwork and around vents.
Maximizing Your Size And Space
You do not have to build an addition on the back of your home or convert the attic into a bedroom to gain more space in your home. Although the square footage is something, all house hunters consider, how big the home looks and feels when you are inside, usually ends up being more important. A bright, light and airy 2,000 sq ft home will generally be more appealing than a dark, cramped, run down, cluttered house of $2,250 sq ft.
To make rooms look and feel larger, you should:
- Replace drapes and heavy, fussy window treatments with lightweight, light-colored alternatives and paint window frames in light colors. Alternatively, if it is in keeping with the room try blinds or shutters.
- Low-cost fabrics, throws, and cushion covers can be used to give an airier, fresh feel to a room, especially if the existing textiles are dark or drab.
- If possible, replace large, dark, heavy items of furniture. If you plan to sell any furniture when you move, try to unload it now. If not put some of the pieces you can live without either into storage, in another emptier spot in the house, or ask a friend or relative to store them for you.
- Give every nook and cranny a purpose. That odd little empty spot at the top of the stairs? A small comfy chair and side table turns it into a reading nook. The awkward space under the stairs? Some shelving and a sliding door provides both storage and a design feature
- Large mirrors are both a popular design feature at the moment and an excellent way to make rooms feel bigger and brighter.
- If you can’t find a suitable mirror or it just wouldn’t work in the room, consider a reflective surface to bounce light around the room.
- If you are feeling more adventurous knocking down a non-load bearing wall can transform a pair of smaller, darker rooms, into one large open-plan area.
- Conversely, if you have one big empty floor space, it can look more appealing if you break it up into “rooms.” Use sliding fabric or glass panels, a half-wall that doubles as a bookshelf, or some simple uprights to define specific areas.
- Not quite ready for knocking down walls? Try replacing a door with a wide sliding wall section. This allows light to flow, and still gives the option of privacy. Not to mention the fact this is very trendy at the moment.
Taking Your House Into The Future – Making Your Home Smart
An indoor improvement which people often overlook is upgrading to smart home technology. The only issue you need to be aware of is that not all products work on all phone operating systems. So choose items that will “cooperate” with each other and with which you can use if you are an Android or iOS fan because you never know which phone your potential buyer is going to have in their pocket.
- Gone are the days of expensive security systems that were hard-wired and required a monthly monitoring fee. Today you can by a wireless, DIY security system, monitored and controlled by your phone, tablet or laptop, for under $200.
- Upgrade your lighting with smart bulbs which will not only learn your habits but can be controlled via your phone or set to a wide range of pre=programmed modes.
- Tado Cooling is a unit that affixes to your wall and sends infrared signals to your existing a/c, allowing you to use your phone as a remote.
- Upgrade your electrical outlets to ones which have USB charger ports.
- Install a wireless conversion unit to your deadbolt. This allows the homeowner to lock and unlock the door remotely, send temporary “virtual keys” to visitors, tradespeople, etc., and, if the function is enabled on your phone, open the door when the phone is in your pocket, and you approach the house.
- A new, smart, thermostat will not only cut your energy bills now, but it will appeal to buyers in the future. Choose one that can be programmed and will learn a homeowners habits and your potential buyers will be hooked.
- Liftmaster have a retrofit kit for your garage door opener which will allow the door to “talk” with your heating system to adjust the temperature when it is open.
- Upgrade your smoke detectors to ones which will also detect CO2, send an alert to your phone if they are set off and also tell you, via messaging, when the battery needs replacing.
- Add wireless flood detectors in the laundry, bathroom, and kitchen to receive alerts if there is rising water on the floor.
Indoor improvements to increase the value of your home do not have to be costly remodeling jobs that drain your savings and cause you stress. By touring your home with your “buyer glasses” on you can identify all of the little things that may detract from your homes best qualities.
Clean, Tidy, Fresh, Bright, Open Space, Affordable Luxury, and Forward-thinking are what today’s house hunters are looking for, and you can deliver, without breaking the bank.
If you enjoyed this article about indoor improvements, check out some Outdoor Improvements To Increase Your Home’s Value. Some outdoor improvements will add value to almost any home. For other improvements, whether or not the value of the property increases will depend on the neighborhood, the local climate, and a range of other factors.
If you are thinking of sprucing up the outside of your house, adding some outdoor features, or landscaping around your property, take the time to read through this guide. I’ll give you the benefit of my research and share with you which improvements are most likely to add value to your home.
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.