Cheap House Improvements Under $500 That Will Increase the Value

Whether you intend to sell your home in the near future or stay put for the long haul, house improvements can increase the value of your property. But if you shudder at the thought of wasting your time on labor-intensive projects that may or may not add equity, you’re not alone.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend your entire savings—and every weekend from here to eternity—to keep your house up to date. We found a slew of smart projects that are relatively simple, will cost you no more than $500, and will be catnip to future buyers—or just make your everyday life a bit brighter.

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Before you begin your house improvements…

We’ll offer this pre-project tip that will make your life a lot easier: declutter.

“A common problem I see when I initially start working with a client is too much stuff that is not being used,” says Tracie Stoll, a DIYer, designer, and decorator who blogs at CleverlyInspired.com. “Declutter first—and in many cases, you can sell those extra items to make money to tackle home improvement projects.”

Now let’s get to the projects!

Make a splash in the bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most visited rooms in your home, and just a few changes can make it one of the most functional and stylish rooms as well. Simple touch-ups like regrouting and recaulking can instantly make the room look cleaner and newer.

Also, swapping out inefficient toilets, faucets, and shower heads for products that aid in water conservation can make a big difference. A low-flush toilet uses 20% less water than a standard toilet, and water-saving shower heads can help families save almost 3,000 gallons of water a year.

“Touchless water faucets are all the rage right now, especially if you have kids,” says remodeler and licensed contractor Mark Clement of MyFixItUpLife. “Touchless faucets are clean and easy, and there are literally thousands of fixture choices, including stainless steel, brushed nickel, chrome, and bronze.”

Just be sure to keep your fixture finishes consistent throughout the bathroom.

Create style underfoot

While updating your flooring is typically seen as an expensive project, it doesn’t have to be.

“If the carpet has seen better days, pull it up to see what is underneath,” says Stoll. “If it is concrete, that surface can be cleaned up and painted. Throw an inexpensive area rug down, and the room will be updated immediately.”

Tiling is another budget-friendly flooring update for your kitchen or bathroom.

“Porcelain and stone are very inexpensive,” says Alan Zielinski, owner and president of Better Kitchens in Niles, IL, who adds that linoleum floors are also very cost-effective, and come in several styles.

“[Porcelain] tiles are very strong, and they can mimic the look of stone and wood,” says Judy Mozen, designer and president of Homecrafted Homes in Atlanta.

Beware: Tearing out an existing floor can add significant labor costs, so if it’s at all possible, lay the new flooring on top of the existing one.

Customize your cabinets

Another inexpensive bathroom and kitchen update to tackle? Fix those cabinets. If they’re in good shape, you can simply clean, sand, and paint them.

“This is also an opportunity to provide a pop of color in the bathroom,” says Clement.

So, what color should you paint them?

“White is a popular color because it is clean, and it looks good with any style,” says Mozen. Black is another popular cabinet color.

Mozen advises homeowners to weigh the condition of the cabinet’s interior area. “If there’s water damage, it’s not worth it to repaint them—that’s like polishing an old shoe,” she says.

Both Clement and Mozen say that sometimes it may be just as cost-effective to purchase new stock cabinets from a big-box store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.

You can also update your cabinets by simply replacing the hardware. New knobs, handles, and pulls in the kitchen and bathroom will make a huge difference.

Add architectural details

You can use wainscoting, shiplap, and crown molding to add craftsmanship to your home.

“I love wainscoting,” says Clement. “It takes a two-dimensional drywall surface and immediately makes it feel homey. And there are a lot of wainscoting choices ranging from wood to PVC.”

However, Clement warns against using trims made from medium-density fiberboard in a room with a lot of moisture, because this material cannot withstand water and will mold.

“Adding crown moldings to the ceiling of various rooms or adding shoe moldings to the floor is a great way to dress rooms up without major additions,” says Allen Shayanfekr, CEO and co-founder of Sharestates, a real estate investment company that focuses on fix-and-flip properties. “Working with a trim carpenter to have these added can do a lot aesthetically for the appearance of rooms and the overall value of a home.”

Light it up

Lighting is another way to update your home without spending a fortune.

“Adding inexpensive new lighting fixtures in areas with a lot of visibility in the house can have a large impact on a home’s value,” says Shayanfekr. “Adding a few sconces and possibly an inexpensive chandelier—something around the $300 price point—can make a huge difference in a hallway, living room, or kitchen,” he says.

Create the perfect palette

Perhaps the easiest way to transform a room is with paint.

“I would say paint is the No. 1 room changer with very little expense,” Stoll says. “And don’t forget the trim; that is the icing on the cake.”

The beauty of paint is that you can use it to update practically anything. You can paint the interior or the exterior of the home. You can paint the walls, the cabinets, and other furniture.

Stoll even recommends spray-painting your lamps and then buying new lampshades. On the outside, you can paint the front door and paint or stain your deck or wood fence. You can paint your outdoor furniture and, depending on the material, you can even paint your garage doors.

 

Posted by Terri Williams on realtor.com

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How to Set a Home Renovation Budget

Before you start picking out tile and paint chips, be sure you know how much it will cost to remodel your house.

Ready for a kitchen renovation? Anxious for a bathroom remodel? The easy part is knowing your goal for home remodeling — whether you’re trying to keep up with your growing family, add office space, or increase your home’s value.

But figuring out how to plan a home renovation that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky.

Here are five key steps in planning your home remodeling project.

1. Estimate home renovation costs

As a general rule of thumb, you should spend no more on each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. (Get an approximate value of your home to start with.)

For example, a kitchen generally accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so spend no more than this on kitchen renovation costs. If your home is worth $200,000, for example, you’ll want to spend $30,000 or less.

A kitchen remodel should cost no more than 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value. Photo from Offset.

Something else to keep in mind: Contrary to popular belief, kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment, according to analysis from Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate. Every dollar you spend on a kitchen remodel increases the value of your home by 50 cents.

The highest return on investment? A mid-range bathroom remodel.

2. Consider home remodeling loan options

If you plan on borrowing money to fund your home renovations, there are a number of loans out there to help with just that.

  • Refinancing. Depending on your current interest rate, you might be able to refinance your mortgage at a lower rate and/or for a longer loan term, which could lower your monthly payments and help you save up for your renovations.
  • Cash-out refinance. If you have enough equity, you could also consider a cash-out refinance, which means refinancing your existing loan for an amount that’s higher than what you owe. Going this route, you pay off your original mortgage and have cash left over. Use a refinance calculator to see if refinancing makes sense for you.
  • HELOC. If refinancing sounds like too big of a leap, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might work better. A HELOC works a lot like a credit card in the sense that it has a set limit that you can borrow against.
  • Home equity loan. Although it sounds similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan is a bit different. This loan requires you to take out all the cash at one time. They’re often referred to as “second mortgages” because homeowners get them in addition to their first mortgage.

Refinancing, getting a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan are all big decisions, and it can be tough to know which one makes the most sense for you. As with any new loan, consult with a lender to see which option is best for your situation.

3. Get home renovation quotes from contractors

Some contractors will give you an estimate based on what they think you want done, and work completed under these circumstances is almost guaranteed to cost more. You have to be very specific about what you want done, and spell it out in the contract — right down to the materials you’d like used.

Make sure that contractors’ estimates include the full scope of your project. Photo from Shutterstock.

Get quotes from several contractors, tossing out the bid from the one who gives you the lowest estimate. Going with this choice could be asking for problems, as low-priced contractors are known to cut corners — at your expense.

4. Stick to the home remodeling plan

As the renovation moves along, you might be tempted to add on another “small” project or incorporate the newest design trend at the last minute. But know that every time you change your mind, there’s a change order, and even minor changes can be costly. Strive to stick to the original agreement, if possible.

Even minor changes to your remodeling project’s scope can add significant costs. Photo from Offset.

5. Account for hidden home renovation costs

Your home may look perfect on the outside, but there could be issues lurking beneath the surface. In fact, hidden imperfections are one of the reasons renovation projects end up costing more than you anticipated.

Rather than scramble to come up with extra money after the fact, give yourself a cushion upfront. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for unforeseen expenses, as they can — and do — occur. In fact, it’s rare that any project goes completely smoothly.

 

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow

 

4 Rock-Solid Reasons to Remodel Your Home in 2018

iStock; realtor.com

As 2018 dawns, there’s no question the real estate market is, well, a little crazy. Home values are surging, money is relatively cheap, and inventory is tighter than tight.

That’s all downright welcome news for owners who’ve been considering remodeling.

“Remodeling remains a very attractive option to increase your home’s value,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®. And that can be a smart move whether you’re prepping your place for sale, or giving it a refresh for the long haul.

“The big variable here is location,” says Vivas. “If you’re happy with your neighborhood and your place has some value, there’s an advantage over trying to move—because there may not be somewhere else for you to move to in your price range, or you may have to make a bigger cost jump than you would if you were simply remodeling.”

Still wondering whether to grab a sledgehammer and get swinging? Here’s the thing: The longer you wait, the more expensive renovating or remodeling gets. If you’ve been on the fence, this may be the year to get off it. Better yet, rebuild it! Here’s why you should get moving now.

1. You (likely) have more cash

Consumer confidence is high, unemployment is low, and incomes are growing—which means you likely have more money in your pocket. Plus, if you’re a homeowner, chances are good that your home equity has increased along with skyrocketing home prices over the past few years.

So when it comes to spending cash on all those get-to-it-later home projects, you’re probably in good standing.

In fact, the remodeling market is expected to grow 7% this year, saysRobert Dietz, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

“This market should be sustained by the fact that homeowners are remaining in their homes longer,” Dietz says.

2. Interest rates for building loans are low

Interest rates for home equity lines of credit—which offer a flexible way of obtaining funds to pay for things such as home improvements—are still historically low. And even though interest paid on HELOCs is no longer deductible under the new tax reform legislation, experts say the building loans remain a good deal.

“Interest rates are still quite friendly but will likely go up this year—and lenders are competing for loan business,” says Tom Miller, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, who also owns a remodeling company in the Pacific Northwest.

Simply put: Take advantage of those low rates now before more increases hit.

3. It could be cheaper than buying a new home

If you live in a high-cost metro area and already have a foothold in the real estate market, remodeling your existing place could be cheaper than buying a new one. Maybe a lot cheaper (unless, of course, you were planning on downsizing).

There are a lot of factors to consider, however: How much equity you have in your place, what your current mortgage rate is, and whether major renovations are even feasible. But experts agree that, in many cases, the current seller’s market makes renovating a more palatable option than buying.

“We think remodeling will be a major trend in 2018, because we’ve seen prices grow so much that a lot of potential buyers are being priced out of their own markets,” Vivas says. “And that’s where you see a turn toward giving up on trading up and buying again and considering other options like renovating.”

This is especially true in expensive markets such as New York and California. Plus, these high-cost areas are expected to feel the heaviest burden of the tax reform provisions that limit mortgage interest deductions and eliminate the deduction for state and local property taxes.

“Some of the tax benefits linked with purchasing will be sidelined or diluted,” Dietz says.

4. Costs will go up the longer you wait

The construction industry is facing a major shortage of skilled laborers and rising materials costs, and there’s little indication this trend will reverse anytime in the future. This higher demand translates into higher pay scales for available, qualified workers—and those costs ultimately get passed along to you, the consumer. The situation is expected to get worse over time.

“Labor costs will continue to escalate as remodelers pay up to get and keep construction trades on the jobs,” says Fred Ulreich, chief executive officer of the NARI.

Furthermore, the multibillion-dollar cleanups of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma drove materials prices even higher—and the effects are expected to last into 2018. The NARI predicts materials costs will rise about 5% this year, especially for supplies such as lumber, drywall, and concrete.

What’s more? Labor shortages will not be resolved overnight, Miller says. For the would-be remodeler, that means your costs will likely go up the longer you wait.

“There are no signs that remodeling demand or costs will taper off over the next several years, but will continue to rise,” Miller says. “Holding off on a project—if you can find a reputable remodeler available now— will only cost you more next year.”

 

Posted by Holly Amaya on realtor.com

7 Perfect Kitchen Upgrades for a New Look Without Remodeling

Take your kitchen forward without setting yourself back too much.

Kitchen renovations require time and money, taking several months to complete and costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the financial resources for a full-on renovation, there are a variety of ways you can give your kitchen a new look for a lot less. From refacing cabinets to replacing lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Cabinets

More and more homeowners are turning to kitchen refacing as an easy way to update their cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers and hardware and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets in a brand-new veneer. If you’re happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but aren’t necessary keen on the aesthetic feel, consider cabinet refacing.

“It’s for people who have kitchens from the ’70s and ’80s that have solid wood cabinets,” says interior designer Anna León, who has a background in kitchen refacing with Home Depot. “They can take off the original doors and put on modern doors.”

The cost, which starts at around $6,000, depends on the size of the kitchen and the materials used. With an array of options available — such as woodgrains, painted wood and pressure-fused laminate doors like Thermofoil — you can transform a kitchen’s facade easily. Contemporary Thermofoil doors also come in a variety of fun looks, including glossy, matte and woodgrain.

As opposed to a full-on kitchen gut and renovation taking several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes three to five days.

Painting cabinets is a more affordable route to take than refacing, costing around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional to do the job, according to León.

Or, you can always DIY, which is the most affordable option, but is laborious and takes a great deal of time.

“Painting cabinets is great, but it’s all about the prep work,” says Richmond, VA-based interior decorator Lesley Glotzl. “You have to prep and paint them perfectly or they’re going to chip or peel. You can’t cut any corners.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Backsplash

Creating a new backsplash is an easy way to freshen up your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material that will complement your cabinetry, and avoid mixing styles and periods. For instance, if you have ’70s-era cabinetry, you won’t want to pair that with something trendy like subway tile.

If you’re a confident DIYer, tile your backsplash. Or for $20, you can paint it in a bold high-gloss paint that you can easily wipe down after cooking.

In Glotzl’s home, she installed a beadboard backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss blue.

Shiplap is an affordable and durable option as well, and it’s not difficult to DIY. Glotzl also recommends using vinyl wallpapers from companies like Osborne & Little as backsplash, as they come in an array of fun textures, colors and patterns.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Countertops

For countertops, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica — a more affordable option than natural stone — has a lot of cool countertop options in patterns like Greek key or textures like barn wood or grasscloth.

If you’re short on counter space and aren’t looking to add more cabinetry, consider buying a premade island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen.

Or, if you have a more contemporary kitchen, consider purchasing a stainless-steel food prep table from a restaurant supply company. Just make sure you have at least 36 inches between the cabinets and island on all sides for easy traffic flow, advises Glotzl.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Shelving

If your cabinets don’t have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to create open shelving and show off your beautiful serving dishes.

Or, if you have an empty wall, create your own shelving system with floating shelves from a retailer such as Pottery Barn or IKEA. Just be sure you install brackets underneath the shelves if you plan on loading them up with dishes and cooking wares. Glotzl recommends Van Dyke’s Restorers for shelving support.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. Tear out harsh fluorescent lighting and replace it with can lights.

Make food prep easier by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures or ambient Light Tape. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pulls and knobs

If you’re going the cabinet-refacing route, you’ll have plenty of new pulls and knobs to ponder. You can find them at online retailers or local shops.

If you’re painting your cabinets — or even if you’re not — new pulls and knobs can go a long way toward creating a new look in your kitchen. This simple solution is one that works particularly well for renters.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Appliances and plumbing

Dated appliances paired with updated cabinetry will make your kitchen feel incomplete. New stainless-steel appliances are the finishing touch. For less than $500, you can get a new stainless-steel electric range; for less than $700, a brand-new top-freezer refrigerator.

“Compared to everything else you have to do, it ends up feeling like pocket change,” says León.

You can easily update your faucet for under $100 (although, of course, you could spend a lot more). And a new farmhouse sink could be yours for less than $400.

Photo from Zillow listing.

 

Posted by Marissa Hermanson on Zillow

Top 4 Home Renovations for Maximum ROI [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home, or are a homeowner planning to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the most “Return On Investment” (ROI).
  • While big projects like adding a bathroom or a complete remodel of a kitchen are popular ways to increase a home’s value, something as simple as updating landscaping and curb appeal can have a quick impact on a home’s value.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen

Brighten it, expand it, organize it — whatever it needs, your kitchen is an update away from ideal.

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home — and the wear and tear proves it. It’s the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it’s time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside — and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they’re invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn’t have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that’s the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can’t find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won’t sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you’ve been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated — that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

 

Posted by Luke Caldwell on Zillow

9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Bathroom

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

A bathroom should be a place of comfort — the optimal environment for a relaxing soak or getting ready efficiently during a harried morning.

“You’re going to spend time in there every day,” says Sarah Hurd, part of the mother-daughter team behind Short Story Renovations, a Baltimore-area design, rehab and staging company. “You should not hate your bathroom.”

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

Here are nine signs that your bathroom could use a little work.

1. Not photogenic

“It’s weird how you can see in a picture what you can’t see anymore with your own eyes,” says Angela Hurd of Short Story Renovations.

The fix: She and her daughter, Sarah, recommend that clients take a photograph of their bathroom to get a better sense of what they might not otherwise notice. People can become blind to the discord — from a mismatched color palette to accumulated junk on the vanity counter, she says.

2. Outdated colors

Funky hues can be one of the most noticeable signs that a bathroom is out of date.

The fix: White, gray and black palettes will lend an element of ageless beauty to any space, says Michael Merschat, an architect with high-end residential design-build firm Wentworth Inc. of Chevy Chase, MD.

People are coming back to “that white, timeless look, be it a very modern-style white or something with a little more traditional flare,” he says.

 

Crisp, neutral palettes can lend calm sophistication to any bathroom. Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Smells like a bathroom

“With some bathrooms, you walk in and they just have an old bathroom smell,” Sarah Hurd notes. It’s another indication that it’s time for a renovation.

The fix: Replacing a toilet’s wax seal, fixing a persistent, mold-causing sink leak, or adding better ventilation to a windowless bathroom can all be sure fixes for a fresher-smelling experience.

4. Bad layout

Awkward bathroom layout is another indication that it’s time for an update. Odd arrangements, such as a toilet directly next to the bathtub, are typical in bungalows and houses built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, when plumbing was a new phenomenon.

The fix: Installing a separate water closet can be a winning move, Merschat says. “It gives a nice bit of refinement to the room when the toilet isn’t sitting out in the middle of the space.”

An outside-the-box arrangement can refine an otherwise predictable space. Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Leaks

When brown water stains appear on the ceiling below the bathroom, it’s definitely time to make repairs and update.

The fix: Take the opportunity to put in modern fixtures that conserve water and speak to your style, Merschat advises.

6. Poor lighting

“If you’re either blinded by the lights that are overhead, or it’s so dim you can barely see yourself in the mirror, that’s a problem,” says Sarah Hurd.

The fix: Better light fixtures and brighter light bulbs may be the first step on your path to a bathroom redo.

New light fixtures easily brighten and modernize the space. Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Stylistic relics

If you have wallpaper or popcorn ceilings still hanging around from decades past, your bathroom is due for an update.

The fix: Wallpaper is making a comeback, so think about using it in a new way. “We’ve actually redone powder rooms where we’ve put wallpaper on the ceiling to give it a different pop,” Merschat says.

8. Low on storage

Can’t store all the things you need in the bathroom? This calls for action.

The fix: Install a larger vanity, or add shelves above the toilet. You could even knock out a wall and steal a little space from another room to create a linen closet.

Install a new vanity with broadened storage options, like open shelving. Photo from Zillow listing.

9. Time to sell

If you’re not interested in fixing up your bathroom for yourself, do it for your home’s next tenants.

The fix: A fancy new washroom can add just the right panache to spur potential buyers to action. “Redoing a bathroom that’s just an eyesore within the house might make a huge difference,” Merschat says.

If you’re ready to renovate, start thinking about the look you want for your new bathroom. At Short Story Renovations, the Hurds use Pinterest to share ideas with their clients.

“[We] start a board that all of us can put stuff on,” Angela Hurd explains. “That way [our clients aren’t] in the dark about what we’re trying to do.” This practice helps everyone involved get a feel for one look and stick with it.

 

Posted by Becca Milfeld on Zillow