interiors & styling: 10 Home Updates That Actually Pay Off & Add Value

Let’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

This 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

Curb 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

Not 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

Windows 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

Bathroom 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

Exterior 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

Is 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

This 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

As 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

This 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.

To 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.

Lots 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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