10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comLet’s talk renovating… more importantly- projects that actually pay off (in a literal sense). I’m often asked which rooms to tackle first in a home renovation. Emmett and I always try to practice responsible remodeling from an investment perspective. If you’re not in your forever home, you should definitely be smart about renovating and the money you put into your home. Whether you’re updating your house and are planning to stay for years, or you’re almost ready to list your home and move onto the next, I’m hoping this post is helpful and educational in helping you decide which areas to address for the best ROI (return on investment). Click through for 10 home updates that actually pay off and add value to your home. All of these have over an 80% ROI (most of them are actually in the 95+ percentile range). I promise this isn’t a boring money post… it’s more about which spaces to focus on when renovating (and why), so you can make a nice profit, good decisions, or a smart investment when it comes time to sell! It’s honestly a huge part of renovating… these are the things that are most attractive to buyers. 

#1 // Remodeled or Updated Kitchen

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comThis one is probably obvious, but the kitchen is still king when it comes to ROI on home improvement projects. Whether you’re tackling a budget-friendly update (like swapping the countertop or backsplash) or going for a full scale remodel- the kitchen will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes time to sell. Any improvement in the kitchen you can make, is a smart one!

#2 // Nice Landscaping & Curb Appeal

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comCurb appeal is a big deal when it comes to adding value to your home. Spruce up and replace landscaping, give your exterior elements a fresh coat of paint, and clean things up. Even small tasks like replacing your mailbox, house numbers, or exterior lighting goes a long way in terms of resale value! Remember this post from last summer, when Jacqueline convinced her husband to share his landscaping tips with us? Their home exterior and charming boxwood lined sidewalk will forever be my favorite.

#3 // A Finished & Functional Basement

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comNot every home has a basement, but if yours does- make sure it’s finished and functional. A big buyer turnoff is seeing an unfinished or non functioning basement… aka- a project they’ll eventually have to tackle or address themselves. If you finish your basement, you can add livable square footage to your home (majorly increasing the value), while making your home more functional. If your basement is already finished, I’d recommend analyzing how to best use the space. If you’re short on bedrooms, maybe create another bedroom in the basement. If you live in a single-bath home, adding a bath to the basement would be a smart decision. If your home has plenty of square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms- a media room could be a fun selling point for a large, luxury home. As long as the space has a clear, intended use and function that makes sense for your home- it will bring you a nice ROI.

#4 // Updated Windows

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comWindows are an expensive update, but one that you will most definitely recoup. Updated, efficient windows are a big deal for buyers and can totally transform the look of a home. Not only are they an aesthetic update, but they improve heating & cooling in your home, as well as sound proofing. Check out this post for more details.

#5 // Remodeled Bathroom

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comBathroom remodels are very similar to kitchen renovations, in terms of resale value. If you have multiple baths that need updated, always begin with the master bath as your priority. It’s the biggest selling point bathroom in a house. Another thing to keep in mind for resale value… if you only have one bath in your home- make sure you install or keep a functioning bathtub. In other words- don’t swap your only tub for a shower… you’ll end up losing a lot of money when the time comes to sell!

#6 // Exterior Door Replacements

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comExterior door replacements are a huge selling point and provide an extremely high ROI (right behind remodeling the kitchen, believe it or not). Replacing your front door (again- increasing curb appeal) and garage doors are high on the list for recouping your investment. While they’re expensive to update, they’re certainly a smart financial decision.

#7 // Fresh Paint

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comIs there anything paint can’t fix? It’s a magic resource! A fresh coat of paint is also a good investment. Unless you’re in a high-end, super luxury designer home, stick to painting your house in a neutral palette prior to selling. That will best appeal to the mass market. I’m not advising you to live with boring paint colors, but if you’re hoping to sell quickly or are ready to list your home- you may want to consider swapping bold and bright colors for soft neutrals. Regardless, a nice paint job (nobody likes scuff marks or dents on the walls) is a good use of money.

#8 // Outdoor Living Space

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comThis one can be surprising to some people, but designated outdoor living spaces have a very high ROI. Whether you install a deck, a small patio, a pergola, or fix up your porch– an emphasis on a functional outdoor living space (even if it’s small) is a good idea. You could add an eating area (full size dining table or bistro set), a lounge with a fire pit, or you could go as far to create an outdoor kitchen or grilling station. As long as the space is functional and intentionally designed, it will be a big selling point.

#9 // Energy Efficient & Smart Home Functions

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comAs tech progresses, energy efficient products and smart home features continue to increase in popularity. It’s probably no surprise that smart home tech is a great investment in terms of resale. From smart thermostats to efficient windows with built-in security sensors that sync to your phone- or apps that control your lights and garage doors… these are all great selling points that will bring you a nice profit when it comes time to sell. Hey! We’re living in the future, folks.

#10 // Reinvented Room

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comThis last one is specific to your home. What is your house missing? I’ll use our previous home as an example. We didn’t have a large dining table (remember our small breakfast nook?), so we transformed our carport into an outdoor, covered dining space. This was a great selling point for buyers who were looking for additional dining space and enjoyed entertaining. I also designed the built-ins in my previous office to fit a full-size bed where my desk lived. That allowed the room to function as an office (which yields a lower ROI) or a bedroom (which yields a higher ROI). This also allowed the room to appeal to Emmett & myself, but also potential buyers. My point being… think of what your home is missing or how a space might look to buyers. If you’re missing a laundry room- it might be worth it to transform a closet into a laundry space with stackable units. Think about how to squeeze the maximum functionality out of your home, by giving rooms a dual purpose.

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comTo wrap things up, I believe in renovating with a balanced mindset. We always consider ROI and adding value to our house (since this isn’t our forever home), but we also renovate the spaces that make us happy and use materials we love. We’re going to be here for a bit, so Emmett & I want to love living here. That’s not to say we make stupid financial decisions when it comes to renovating… it just means we try to find a balance between what makes us happy and what will give us the best bang for our buck when it comes time to sell.

10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value - roomfortuesday.comLots of people assume we’re house flippers, and that’s definitely NOT the case. Flipping is fast and all about the bottom line. We actually care about the materials we put into our home (we use higher end materials), we don’t have a deadline to sell, and we’re not trying to recoup the maximum amount of dollars. In the end, it’s still nice to make a little profit, but for us- it’s more about creating a beautiful home we love living in and sharing it with you all. Regardless of your how or why for remodeling, hopefully this list will help you hone in and decide which spaces or projects to tackle first. As always- please drop questions or comments below! I love having conversations in the comment section.

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  1. I really like this post, as I’ve been considering how far to update the current home I am in. I have no idea If we will be in it forever. but I do tend to change my decorating style every 5 yrs or so, and because of that I am terrified of going too far one way and hating it later. For instance the Iberia tile floors that were in your kitchen are in my powder with a duravit vero sink. After almost 3 years I still very much love it. But the black door knobs that are in my house, not so much anymore. I am wishing they were brass (and unfortunately they are pretty high end so an expensive swap at this point) I love the black framed windows that everyone is doing but I also fear that if I updated them in a couple of years I will hate them.
    Okay, okay, I am rambling a bit here. I guess my point is sometimes it’s hard to pull the trigger on updates because you almost want to play it safe for fear of wanting a change later and the biggest fear I think we all have is -losing money. And my husband is so not an Emmett, lol. He’s not nearly as handy or nearly as motivated to deal with my ever changing style. I’ve watched your style evolve a bit since your move from Ohio and I see myself moving away from a lot of the mcm style stuff and leaning back towards traditional decor. Eeeek! I never thought I would say that lol. While I love reading blogs and getting on Instagram both have made me uber indecisive about home choices. My first home, I simply looked through my Domino Magazines, made a decision on what I wanted and went with it. Ha!
    Have a good day Sarah!

    1. Hi Traci! I definitely resonate with your sentiments here! In our last home, renovating was easy because the home lacked any and all character at the time of purchase. The style of the home was very basic, and lended itself to multiple styles. Our current home is very definitely a specific architecture. We live in a California Mediterranean style home. When I was having difficulty making decisions for our house, I started wondering why. It’s because I didn’t understand some of the elements of our home. Once I researched a little bit, I was able to understand A LOT about our house, and now have a better direction to take it once we really begin our renovations. I still plan on injecting our style with the decor, but certain styles will not be appealing to buyers who are looking for this style of home. We plan on being here a long time, but that’s definitely something I’ll be heavily thinking about when it comes to renovating each room. I just wanted to give you something to think about, as someone who has been there before. Have a great rest of your week!!

      1. Thanks so much Lauren! That’s really good advice. You have a great day as well!

      2. Another great point, Lauren! Homes that lend themselves to multiple styles are definitely easier when it comes to renovating (more options), but maybe more difficult in the sense that you have to decide. Such a smart decision to research California Mediterranean homes and then base your purchases on classic materials as seen throughout history in these types of homes. That is the best way to do it! Smart lady :) xo

    2. Such a great talking point, Traci! PS… I still LOVE those tiles- you grabbed them just in time, because shortly after my kitchen reveal they were discontinued (too bad!!). I totally understand wanting to play it safe, but also create a home you currently love living in. My mindset has always been this- decorate and renovate for the HOME you live in. All of our houses have been totally different in terms of aesthetic… our first home was a bungalow, our second home was a rambler, and our current home is a colonial. As your style evolves (which is totally normal)- try to keep in mind the architecture and style of your home. Balancing that with your personal aesthetic will really help. If you renovate with that in mind and keep it classic, I feel like it will have better longevity and will feel more cohesive. Trends come and go, so when making major changes, try to avoid those. If you’re going to test out a trend- do it in a less permanent way (through accessories, paint, pattern, etc). While I absolutely loved our first home (the historic bungalow), I’ll admit- I didn’t do a great job of that. We renovated that home in our early 20’s and I definitely followed trends. The interior style didn’t really match the exterior and I think there was a bit of a disconnect. The older I get, the more I embrace the architecture and what speaks to the house. If I could do it all over again, I’d renovate and decorate that house in a totally different way. You live, you learn… that’s all part of it :) xo

  2. Our house was built in ‘98 so it’s got the orange-y oak cabinets throughout- BUT, when we bought the house it was in pristine condition! The owner was a classic car mechanic or something and was very into detail and I could tell he kept this house up n running in perfect condition. The kitchen has “new” samsung appliances and a quartz countertop, but those orange cabinets…. ugh. I just don’t know if it’s worth it to demo and redo because there really is nothing “wrong” with any of it…just so ugly! If I liked 90s style it would honestly be a perfect kitchen! Lol! Anyway, we don’t plan on this being our forever home so it’s hard to spend money on this or the master bath (also fine, just is orange and basic) because it’s the HUGE projects probably both around 20k!

    1. My advice? Paint the cabinets! Or paint the boxes and replace the doors if the panel style is dated (like I’m doing in my powder bath with our 90’s cherry vanity). I think you’ll be amazed at the transformative power of paint… plus, if they’re in great shape to begin with- no need to replace. Paint, swap hardware, maybe swap the countertop or backsplash, and call it a day. You’ll get a better ROI… if it’s in good shape, the layout is nice, and it’s functional, no need to reinvent the wheel :)

      1. Thanks Sarah. I honestly think I will paint them. I’m doing our guest bath as a practice project with painting cabinets and doing our first ever tile floor together (going to look up your tile tutorials!) and we will decide what to do with kitchen after we see how bathroom goes!!!!! Thanks!!!!

        1. Yay!! Keep me posted- can’t wait to hear or see how it turns out :) Happy Friday! xo

  3. How funny! We were just having this conversation the other day. Have all the changes we’ve made been “smart” decisions? For example, our garage had a large hole (where dogs had dug through from their kennel!) in the back that was patched with weathered plywood, and the side that faced our backyard was covered in metal roofing material. When I finally had the siding redone, I nearly hugged the (cute) contractor! My relief from that makeshift situation was all the ROI needed. Happily, many of the other updates we’ve done are on your list. I’m surprised that exterior doors has such a good return; I’ve really been wanting to improve ours! Also, I probably should at least paint our partially finished basement. These decisions can be so hard to make-and so personal! (The topic of money!😱) At the end of the day, I think of it as an investment in our happiness. As you say, we want to love being in our home! Thanks for providing some facts to help inform our choices though! Happy day before Friday!💖

    1. Haha, I love that!! It sounds a million times better… and the cute contractor was an added bonus. Renovating and sticking to a smart budget is so tough. We’re in the same boat, but I completely agree with you- despite the ROI, our happiness is an even better investment :) PS. I totally thought today was FRIDAY… again. Argh!! Happy Thursday? lol! xo

  4. Oh goody, we get to check off most of these worthy investments we’ve thus far made to our 1979 brick home. Mr. Man even constructed an incredibly well-built room addition where the carport used to reside, while matching the exterior materials perfectly. He updated all of the electrical throughout the house. We again installed all new 3-pane windows that were both highly energy-efficient and incredibly noise-buffering in our last home. Our front entry area has been vastly improved with a French drain system and new landscaping. We’ve also made some improvements to the baths and kitchen pantry. Next up is refinishing cabinet doors in the kitchen.

    That all said, the backyard is somewhat of a disaster. There’s no actual landscaping to speak of and the patio area seems to have been constructed by cats…aka, lazily with no apparent skills and using whatever materials happened to be laying around. With virtually all other priority projects completed, I guess it’s time to figure out how to begin to transform this rather Sanford and Son looking space.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this awesome post together. It’s a cool reference tool and gives us all a chance to consider our choices and hopefully rejoice in whatever improvements we’ve made to our properties. Cheers, Ardith

    1. Woohooo!! I’m happy to hear that, Ardith! Your addition sounds incredible- and definitely a space you’ll recoup ROI. I’m envious of your landscaping and drain system- I bet that’s amazing. It sounds like your backyard has a lot of potential. Think of it as a blank canvas to create a more functional and beautiful space. Spaces like that excite me! You’re making very smart updates. Keep it up and cheers to that! xo

  5. You’ve mentioned this once or twice before and I’m curious, what makes you say that this isn’t your forever home? It seems like it has plenty of space to grow (if starting a family is part of your plan) and it’s in a location that you seem pretty happy with. Is it because this is your job and you’ll eventually “finish” it and therefore have no work? Proximity to extended family? None of my business? (A valid response!)

    I hope this doesn’t sound rude, it’s just that people seem to always be on the hunt for their forever home (a fascinating and controversial topic, at least for me) and it just seems so…bold, maybe? to make it clear soon after buying it that this home isn’t that for you, so I’m curious about your reasoning.

    1. Great question, Stacy! Some people love settling in the same home for years and years (or forever), and some people prefer change and moving around from time to time. Emmett and I prefer the latter (our family all lives in the south and midwest, BTW). It gives us a chance to be creative all over again, explore new areas, and start exciting new chapters. With that said, we try to not plan too far in advance… who knows how long we’ll be here or how long it will take us to renovate, or when we’ll feel like starting over again, but we both know that it will eventually happen (because that’s just our adventurous personality type). I think it’s actually kind of a romantic and “dream big” type of notion or mentality. The two of us creating together, building the life we’d like to have, in the area of our choice, at any given moment. Those types of goals just excite us. We’d even like to live abroad someday. Sometimes we even dream of building a home. Who knows what the future will bring or if we’ll ever have a “forever” home… and that’s ok! For now, I can say- we’re loving this chapter we’re currently in and are truly enjoying this home. We both really love it here, and you’re right- for my current job, it is nice to have an endless amount of projects :) To answer simply- we don’t feel the urge to settle down and stay in the same home until we die- at least not in this stage of life, because change can be exciting and much needed for growth. Not a rude question at all- I hope I answered it thoroughly. Thanks for the fun conversation! xo

      1. Thank you for such a detailed response! I was worried about sounding judgmental, which is not at all what I felt, but you explained it perfectly – I can absolutely see where you’re coming from. I feel like I see a lot of references to a “forever home” that are specifically in opposition to a “starter home” that I tend to bristle at both terms. As if there is one ideal living situation that you will make steps towards and once you’re there, you’re done. (It’s clear that’s not what you were saying, it’s just where my brain goes with this stuff.) But people have different values and circumstances that don’t fit that pattern all the time! It just doesn’t seem to be something that gets discussed often, but I’m so fascinated by understanding the WHY of some of these decisions. I appreciate your thoughts on this one!

        1. Not at all, Stacy! I’m an open book and I love these challenging questions that lead to fun conversations- so thank you for that :) I think you hit the nail on the head- why do we need labels or terms for the stage of life or type of home we’re living in? Who knows what circumstances or changes someone will encounter that influences their living situation. I’m totally with you… it’s fun and a nice change of pace to talk about the WHY and enjoy the home we’re in for however long that may be. Hope you have an awesome weekend! xo

  6. When I was doing research before we listed our house for sale a source I read had the front door as the highest ROI. I was shocked! I would never have guessed that. And I’m wondering if you and Emmett really have a forever home/place in mind? I get the feeling y’all will always be renovating homes. 😁 It looks like a great life!

    1. Isn’t that crazy, Brittany?! I was surprised to learn that too. It makes perfect sense though, since it adds to security and curb appeal. Check out my long winded comment to Stacy, here in the comment section! Who knows what the future us for us, ha! :) Right now, we’re very happy here and all of these projects are super exciting. I just love the opportunity to be creative on a daily basis. At this stage in our life, I have a hard time envisioning us “settled for good”. lol! xo

  7. Sarah, this post is such a good one! So good, I am making my husband read it! Ha! Our youngest is a senior and we are looking at selling our house in a year. We bought our house new 18 1/2 years ago. It’s hard to know exactly where to put your time, effort and mostly money into the house to sell if you are not in the real estate or design industry. This helps solidify our needs to really sit down and make a list and plan.
    The hardest one for me to swallow is replacing windows. We had a Pella rep come out years ago and it blew us away at the cost of replacing them. Our kid’s bathroom needs to be gutted and everything replaced. It’s been a good one but it is really showing wear. A new front door for us would be good for curb appeal. Yours is so nice! We do need to up our home tech game! The nest thermostats have been on my list for some time.
    Again, such good post on what updates bring value to your home! Thank you.

    1. Haha! I’m so happy you like it, Danna! Hopefully your husband will too. The good news for you… having your home for that many years, definitely means you should be making a nice profit! Holding onto real estate is never a bad idea (according to my finance minded husband, ha). The cost of windows is CRAZY. It’s definitely an investment, but they make a huge difference and are a great selling point. I’d recommend looking into mid-range windows? In our previous home we used Andersen Renewal (which were vinyl), but were able to customize them with frame style and color. They were a little bit more budget friendly, but not quite as high-end as our current Pella ones we have installed in our kitchen. Nest thermostats are on our to-do list this year. I actually noticed them at Costco on my last grocery run! Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend :) xo

  8. It’s so hard figuring out what to spend money fixing up when you know you’re going to sell your home. We live in a 998sqft starter home and are building a new home now. I didn’t see flooring on this list so I’m wondering what you think? Our pets have deteriorated our (already poor quality) carpet. Flooring can be so expensive and I’m debating whether spending a few thousand dollars to replace it all will be worth it. It could be a turnoff to buyers but I also know plenty of people who have bought houses like ours knowing they were going to replace the carpet. I also care too much about quality to put down the absolute cheapest laminate, even though I know our time there is limited!

    1. Great question, Lexie! According to data from the National Association of Realtors, 55% of home buyers will pay more for updated, hardwood flooring ($3k+ more). 90% of buyers said they want and prefer hardwood flooring as opposed to other types. With that in mind, I’d definitely say it’s worth updating your flooring before listing your home. It really can be a big turnoff for potential buyers and you’d definitely recoup your investment if you choose wisely. Hope this helps :) xo

      1. That’s helpful to know, thanks!

  9. We were in a similar situation with our first home Lexie! And actually, I have an idea you may not have thought of…when you’re ready to sell, a great alternative to replacing would be to offer your buyers a specified amount of credit towards replacing it with something they want! In California that’s a popular thing to do, and actually most people will accept that alternative and not ask for closing costs to be paid by the seller. It takes the pressure and anxiety off of the situation and can be a win-win for everyone!

    1. Thanks for the input, I hadn’t considered that before!

  10. Hi Sarah! Checking in late today (I promise I have actually been up for a while.🤣) I was happy to see that I have actually completed my front door upgrade since this post. Go, me. I have not painted the basement though… We’ve recently been discussing a move sooner than we anticipated. That always gets me thinking about repainting because you know I’ve got a colorful household. As I was perusing real estate listings, I noticed that it wasn’t terrible paint colors that bothered me. I was far more distracted by furnished interior photos. I wonder if I’m alone in this? That’s another topic, I guess-getting ready to sell. (I know you have a post AND a handy checklist on that topic.😉)
    Anyway, happy Keep Up the Good Work Tuesday!💜

    1. Hello, hello! I actually got the post up late (I was in work mode yesterday and totally spaced), so I figured I pushed it live after your internet time window. Haha! Thanks for checking back in and saying hello :) Yesss- your front door upgrade is fantastic! Way to cross that off the list, between then and now. I’m intrigued to hear about a potential move?! That is so exciting. Will you stay in the same area? When we’ve house hunted in the past, I think over personalized spaces feel like a turn off to me… like I’m intruding, or at least it prohibits me from visualizing our life there instead. I DO have a bunch of tips for getting your home ready to sell. I’m cool with bold paint colors and a different aesthetic- that’s all easy design changes… as long as it’s clean and clutter-free. I am super excited for you!! What a fun new chapter. Can I convince you to move to Salt Lake, so we can be neighbors? Haha! Can’t wait to chat more about this! xo

      1. You definitely make SLC seem amazing, but all that SNOW is a hard pass for me. We probably won’t move for a couple of years, but the situation right now is pretty “fluid.” I’m trying to convince us that we’re adventurous enough to move abroad for a short while…Ah dreams.😁

        1. Haha! I know… the snow is a lot. I’m in full support of your potential move abroad- that’s incredible and one of our dreams too! I am squealing with excitement over here for you! What fun! And for the record- I totally think you’re adventurous enough for that ;)

  11. Awww…I miss Ardith! I know she’s had a rough year and I just wish we could cheer her up remotely! This was a good post and worthy of the read. To think this was before all the mayhem and craziness began is wild…and also seems like much further in the past than February!

    1. Aww, I know! It’s definitely hard to believe this was in February before all of the chaos that occurred this year. You’re totally right- it seems like forever ago!

  12. Still a good post Sarah! I went down the rabbit hole of looking at related posts to this one. They are all so good & helpful!
    Hope Ardith is okay. Thought about her several times in past months. Hope you are having a good week.

    1. Thank you Danna! I love hearing that :) and yes- my sentiments as well. I hope you’re having a wonderful week, too! It has been super productive over here! xo