Home Improvement Ideas

And Affordable Upgrades You Will Love

As a former Realtor, I still enjoy going through open houses and seeing all the great ways that people have significantly improved their homes, often with a minimal amount of money. Tired kitchen cabinets, drab walls and stained carpets can make a home look old and run down. However, a few affordable changes can restore life to your home and make it look brighter and well-maintained. What are some home improvement products that could transform your home ... and what are some changes that you may want to skip or, at least, postpone?

Dining Room with FireplaceCredit: www.morguefile.com

The Best Home Improvement Product is Paint

Nearly anyone can transform their home with a coat of paint. It is one of the least expensive changes you can make to your home, and can make the most dramatic difference. In our own family, we taught our daughters how to paint their bedrooms when they were teens, and now that they are adults one of them has gone on to paint the entire interior of her home, and much of the exterior trim, as well. Even the most attractive house will begin to look dingy after a while if the paint is never refreshed. You can paint walls, ceilings and even old cabinets and bookshelves. The change will be dramatic, especially if you use a variety of colors. If your home is very contemporary, you may want to use white as the primary color, and then accent the rooms with stronger colors. However, traditional homes are lovely when at least some of the rooms are painted in rich shades of blue, burgundy and green, or even shades of peach and pink. Bring home several different paint samples and paint a few swatches of the colors on the walls at different spots. Live with it a few days, and see which color looks the best on the wall. It is very hard to make a good decision based on seeing a small paint swatch under the fluorescent lights in the store.

You can get a lot of good, inexpensive ideas for paint colors and decorating from magazines and Amazon books like:  "501 Decorating Ideas Under $100" from Better Homes and Gardens.

Home Improvement Products: New Switch Plates and Outlet Covers

Once you have painted the walls, your old switch plates and outlet covers may look old-fashioned and yellowed.  If so, you can purchase new ones for very little money.  For children’s bedrooms, you can even find switch plates that match the décor of their rooms.

Home Improvement Products:  Hardware and Knobs for Cabinets and Doors

If you painted the interior or exterior doors of your house, or the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you will probably want to replace the hinges and door knobs or handles with shiny new ones.  This is an opportunity to reflect the style of your home.  At the home improvement store, you will find door hardware in designs ranging from shiny, contemporary chrome, to antique looking crystal, or country style brass.  This is a great opportunity to coordinate your home with your furnishings.

Home Improvement Products: New Toilet Seats

Toilet seats need to be replaced periodically, or they can begin to look stained and unappealing.  While you are freshening up the rest of your home, take a close look at the toilet seats and replace them, if necessary.

Home Improvement Products: New Curtains or Old Blinds

After painting each room, pause before you simply turn around and re-hang those old drapes or blinds.  Perhaps you want to go with an entirely different window treatment … shutters, wood blinds, elegant sheers, or decorative shades.  If your old drapes have been hanging in the window for a long time, they may be holding a lot more dust and dirt than you realize.  They could also be starting to rot.  This is the time to give your windows a facelift, too.  While you’re at it, do your bedspreads need to cleaned or replaced?

Improving Your Floor

 Depending on the type of floor you have, you may be limited in the changes you can make, without spending a lot of money.  If nothing else, you may want to have your carpet professionally cleaned, or buy some new decorative rugs to put on your hardwood floors.  If your home is on a concrete slab, one popular new look is to remove the carpeting and have the bare concrete floors professionally stained.  Then, use area rugs that go with the furniture in the different rooms.  However, this contemporary look does not appeal to everyone, and bare concrete can be cold.  At the very least, do your best to have your floors look as clean and fresh as possible, and use a few new rugs to cover spots that are particularly stained or worn.

Improving the Drive-up Appeal of Your Home

Finally, look at your house from the street.  Would a tree in the front yard soften the lines of the house?  What about shutters on either side of the front windows?  Have you considered painting the front door a deep red or dark green?  Why not plant flowers around the doorway?  All of these improvements will enhance the drive-up appeal of your home, and most of these changes can be made very inexpensively.

Home Improvements You May Want to Skip

So far, we have discussed inexpensive changes that can easily be done as you are able to afford them.  Most of these improvements could be made by the homeowners, themselves.  They could also be done a little at a time.  However, some home improvements can be very expensive, and may not always be worth the money.  Only you can decide.

There are some home improvement choices that you may choose to skip if you are looking at them from a purely business point of view.   In other words, these are improvements that may bring you pleasure, but will not increase the value of your property.  You can do them for your own pleasure, to make your home more comfortable, or for other personal reasons; just don’t expect to get a return on the investment when it comes time to sell your home.

 What are some of the changes that you would only do for your own pleasure or comfort, not to increase the value of your home?  They generally fall into four groups:  swimming pools and Jacuzzis, elaborate patios and landscaping, excessively expensive home decorating, and high-end appliances.  This does not mean you should not make these improvements.  It just means that you should think about them a little harder.  Are you going to have to borrow money to make these improvements?  How long do you plan to stay in this home?  Are the upgrades essential to your comfort?  Are they going to cause financial strain? 

 Although some people like swimming pools, others will choose not to purchase a home with a pool.  In either case, they do not increase the resale value of a home nearly as much as they cost.  However, if you plan to live in your home a long time, and you believe that owning a pool is an important part of your family life and personal enjoyment, you may want to install one for your own pleasure.

The same issues relate to fancy patios and elaborate landscaping.  Future buyers may be attracted to your home because of the lush backyard, but they will not pay significantly more for it.  However, if you live in a climate where you spend a lot of time outdoors, or if you enjoy working in the garden, then making these improvements may be worth it to you.

Indoors, you are dealing with the same dilemma.  I once saw a home where the owners had spend a significant amount of money hiring a professional to paint lovely landscapes on a number of walls.  The murals included life-like depictions of the homeowner’s grandchildren.  Although they loved their walls, potential buyers were less enthralled … often stating openly that they planned to paint over them.  Although the homeowners hoped to recoup the cost of their murals, they were unable to.  Even if you love your marble counters, designer wallpaper, or heavy draperies, your future home buyer may not be willing to pay any more for your house than they would for one with more typical design features.  Do these things for your own pleasure. 

Finally, the same can be said for high-end kitchen appliances, heating systems, dishwashers, etc.  Install these items for your own comfort and convenience, and only if you can afford them.  Do not purchase them because you think you will get the money back when you sell the property. 

Remember, sticking with some of the simple, affordable home improvement projects mentioned in the first paragraph can make a tremendous difference in your house, for very little money!

If you are interested in reading more about maintaining, improving or selling your home, you may also be interested in the following articles:

Home Improvement Financing Ideas

Stage a Home for Sale

Becoming a Realtor: Think Safety

Finding the Home of Your Dreams

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Inexpensive Ideas That Can Make a Big Difference

501 Decorating Ideas Under $100 (Better Homes and Gardens Home)
Amazon Price: $19.99 $6.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 10, 2016)
You don't have to spend a fortune to create a fresh new look in your home. This book has hundreds of clever ideas to help you!