16 DIY Projects to Improve Your Home’s Value

Whether readying your home to sell or looking to increase future value, consider these DIY projects, most of which require minimal time and expense. While some projects are best pursued shortly before putting a home on the market, too often, homeowners wait until they are ready to sell to make improvements. These DIY home improvement ideas will typically return value at sale and make it a nicer place to live.  

Enhance Lighting. Well-lit rooms look bigger. Use bright and energy-efficient LED lightbulbs throughout the house so prospective buyers see it in its best light (literally). Use decorative light bulbs to spruce up an otherwise plain room.   

Paint Interior Walls. A fresh coat of paint will brighten a room and cover the dings and dinginess of daily wear and tear. Save this one for shortly before putting your home on the market, and choose neutral colors. If you will live with newly painted walls for a while, use adhesive wall hooks to hang artwork to leave your walls hole-free when ready to sell.

Upgrade Kitchen Cabinet Hardware. Replace the hardware on your cabinets and drawers for just a few dollars to give your kitchen a new, modern or upscale look. Be sure to buy hardware that will fit the existing drilled holes and follow these tips to ensure a smooth installation.

Install a Kitchen Backsplash. A well-designed backsplash adds flair while protecting walls from cooking splatters and stains and can go a long way toward a kitchen facelift at a fraction of the cost of total rehab. Choose a material or design concept that is no more than a few years old to help ensure it won’t appear dated when you’re ready to sell. Showcase your new backsplash with undercabinet lighting, which adds visual interest and functionality. These step-by-step instructions make it easy.

Revamp Cabinet and Pantry Interiors. Well-organized kitchen storage areas appear larger, making them appealing to would-be buyers. Customize combinations of shelving, drawers, and other design elements to create storage that fits your available space. If custom design isn’t within your budget, use Lazy Susan turntables, wire racks, and clear plastic storage containers. These tips also apply to closets and work spaces (think laundry room and garage) throughout the house. Everyone appreciates well-designed and functional storage areas!

Refinish Hardwood Floors. Restoring hardwood floors is not a DIY project for everyone, but it may be worth the investment if you’re a pet owner or have kids. In the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, the cost recovery for refinishing hardwood floors was 147% (#1 cost recovery remodeling investment).

Upgrade Kitchen and Bathroom Fixtures. New fixtures can make the entire space look new and make prospective buyers feel less like they were in someone’s personal space. If budget is a concern, limit your upgrade to the most used or visible fixtures, e.g., sink faucets and vanity lighting.

Add Crown Molding. Adding decorative crown molding adds elegance and depth to a room. Correct proportion is critical, however, so you may want to consult a professional before proceeding. Poorly installed (or painted) crown molding can decrease your home’s value.

Install Ceiling Fans. Ceiling fans are a great addition to almost any room, especially in the Chicago area, where they circulate cooling lake breezes in the summer and distribute heated air in the winter, reducing energy costs year-round. Ceiling fans come in a wide range of designs, and many are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, assuming you have an electrical box already in place that can support the weight and vibration of a fan. If you’re unsure, check with an electrician! Use Energy Star’s ceiling fan guide to choose the right size fan.

Install a Programmable Thermostat. Give your older home a high-tech boost with a smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats are simple to install and help save money on energy bills while providing the convenience of connecting wirelessly with your smartphone to provide constant updates. Thermostat software, which you can transfer to the new homeowner, is just the tip of “smart home technology,” which includes everything from appliances to lighting and security. Not everyone may appreciate this technology, so don’t go overboard unless you plan to use and enjoy it.

Create a Kitchen Island. A kitchen island remains one of the best ways to increase the salability of a home with little risk of them going out of style. Buyers value the added countertop space, storage and seating they provide. However, kitchen islands require sufficient space and clearance. There should be enough room for two people to pass between the island and any other wall or object. As this is a significant investment (especially if it involves electrical and plumbing work), only proceed if you have sufficient skills or funds for quality work. A cheap, pre-fabricated island will likely be worse than no island and detract from your home’s value.

Install or Upgrade Window Treatments. Window treatments can distinguish your home from others, given that many homes sell without them. That said, window treatment preferences are personal based on style and function. If yours appears dingy or outdated, upgrade to something you can enjoy but which is neutral in style, e.g., simple blinds. Consider privacy, shading, insulation and climate control.  


Don’t Forget Curb Appeal

Assess the exterior when considering DIY upgrades to spruce up home sales appeal. Most REALTORS® (92%) suggest sellers improve curb appeal before listing a home for sale, according to NAR’s 2023 Remodeling Impact Report. A poor impression from the outside can mean they’ll never see all the beautiful enhancements you made on the interior.

Upgrade Front Door Hardware. A fresh coat of paint on your front door and new hardware make a great first impression. Recent studies have shown black to be popular, but consider your home style and neighborhood when choosing a color and finish. Avoid overly trendy or unusual colors. While you may be a big fan of red, not everyone is.

Refresh Exterior Trims. Pressure washing can give stone, brick or vinyl-sided homes a fresh look. Look for mold that grows where there is little or no sun. In other instances, your home may need a fresh coat of paint. If this feels overwhelming, focus on the trim, especially in the front of the house and decks.

Consider Garden Beds and Other Landscaping. A well-manicured and landscaped lawn is a plus for many, but not everyone has the time or interest to maintain such areas. One alternative is to add window boxes to the front of your home. There are many designs to choose from, and most are easy to install. Higher-end boxes offer self-watering and UV inhibitor features for plant health and lower maintenance.

Add Outdoor Lighting. Exterior lighting can significantly improve curb appeal, especially at night, and increase security. Well-placed lighting can accentuate the best architectural or landscaped features of a home. Battery-powered LEDs make it simple to install accent lighting fixtures without the expense of electrical wiring.

DYI mistakes and how to get the best ROI

When planning DIY upgrades, ask yourself if the upgrade will have broad appeal. Avoid others’ mistakes by reading about these DIY failures. Consult a REALTOR® before spending big bucks on an upgrade to assess its local appeal and whether you can expect a return on your investment. Use this cost versus value chart to assess the ROI in your market on the most common upgrades.

Whatever project you undertake, allow enough time to finish before you plan to put it on the market for sale. A half-finished project is a big turn-off to most buyers. Also, be honest about your DIY skills. Poorly executed projects will hurt your resale value, and you may have to pay a professional to re-do your handiwork.

A November 2022 Harris Poll found that 65% of sellers who had sold a house within the past two years took on at least two home improvement projects to prepare it for sale. And nearly a third of recent sellers believe they could have gotten a higher price for their home had they made more home improvements or repairs before selling. If going the DIY route is not for you, GNP’s expert residential construction teams can identify options based on your project goals, budget, timeline and short- and long-term ROI.

GNP Realty’s in-house family of diversified companies provides our clients with full-service strategy and hands-on support for all your real estate needs. From brokerage and management to construction and maintenance, we tailor ourcommercial and residential services to help you achieve your goals as a property owner or investor.