Does it feel as if your home improvement to-do list never ends? Try organizing your projects by month. Then knock these 12 items off your list.
Once you become a homeowner, the number of things you need (or want) to improve increases exponentially. There’s always something to be done. But certain times of year are better to tackle specific projects, whether your goal is to save money or sanity. Not sure where to begin? We’ve laid out a schedule below.
January: Clean your carpets and rugs
It may seem counterintuitive to do this when it’s cold out, but according to Jonathan Barnett, founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in Lakewood, CO, your flooring gets really dirty during the winter. Waiting until spring to remove all that grime can make it harder to get stains out. “Plus, the lack of humidity during the winter months allows moisture to evaporate quickly so wet carpets dry faster,” Barnett says. “And a clean carpet provides a healthier and better-smelling home, which is especially important during the winter, when most people spend the majority of their time indoors.”
February: Paint a room or two
Now is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project that you can enjoy year-round. “Indoor projects aren’t weather-dependent; it’s more of a supply and demand thing,” says Shaun McCarthy, president and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO. If you’re hiring someone to paint for you, winter is a good time to do it. You’re likely to get a much better price than you’d get during the spring and summer, when many people book exterior painting jobs. But even if you’re planning to do it yourself, there are still benefits. Brisk winter air is good for curing paint, so cracking that window for ventilation serves a double purpose. (Unlike humid summer air, it won’t make your paint take longer to dry.) While you’re at it, if you haven’t weather-stripped or caulked your windows and doors, do it in February before the winds of March set in, says McCarthy.
March: Clean your gutters
“The most common problem I see in my home inspections is a wet basement or crawl space,” says Marc Shanley, a certified master inspector at Trinity Inspection, which services homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One common culprit? Clogged gutters, which do an ineffective job of directing runoff away from your home’s foundation. All that moisture can cause major foundation problems. Depending on your gutters (and whether you have overhanging trees), you may need to tackle this task more than once a year. Even so, it’s best to do this before the April rains hit.
April: Refinish your hardwood floors
If you’ve discovered hardwoods beneath your new home’s carpeting, wait until spring to complete this labor-intensive but transformative task. “If you wait until it’s really hot out, the finish can cure too quickly and the sheen might not dry properly, which leads to a glossy, uneven finish,” says Arne Johansson, owner of Arne’s Floor Sanding in Minneapolis, MN.
May: Buy a new refrigerator
Although most large appliances go on sale later in the year, refrigerators have their moment in May, in preparation for the summer. To make room for that new inventory, the older versions usually go on sale, which can mean big discounts for consumers. Want even more savings? Consider energy efficiency (look for the Energy Star certification) and ask if you can buy the floor model. Don’t forget to haggle!
June: Freshen up your exterior
Now’s the time to wash your windows (or pay someone to do it), power-wash your siding, and install screens in your windows. Before you power-wash, be sure that all your weatherstripping and caulking is secure (and your windows are closed). Otherwise, you risk shooting the cleaning liquid into your house, says McCarthy. He also advises testing the washer’s power on an inconspicuous area of your exterior beforehand. “You want to clean your house, not take the paint off of it,” he says.
July: Fertilize your lawn
“Your lawn needs a solid four to six fertilization applications throughout the year to keep it healthy and growing,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, an app that matches customers with landscapers. “Fertilizing in July will give your lawn the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get through the rest of the hot summer months. Also, this midsummer application helps to prevent weeds from germinating — setting you up for less weed pulling in the fall.”
August: Paint your home’s exterior
The best time to paint your home’s exterior is when temperatures remain consistent from day to day and don’t drastically dip overnight. “The real key,” says McCarthy, is “to work your way around the house so that you’re always painting in the shade.” First, map out what time of day the sun hits each side of your home, then paint accordingly. Of course, you could always hire a pro for this task. You might want to get some estimates, especially for a multistory house. Investing in the equipment (including a tall ladder or two) might not be worth the cost or the hassle.
September: Replace your windows
Caulk adheres better when the temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees, so those glorious days of late summer and early fall are an ideal time to replace your windows. Plus, when the cold weather does hit, new windows will keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house.
October: Buy new appliances
Big-ticket appliances such as stoves, washing machines, and dishwashers debut their newest models around this time of year. That frequently means deep discounts on the old ones. Some retailers will even start their holiday sales early. Double savings!
November: Remodel your bathroom
Contractors are entering their slow season this month, so they’re more willing to jump on a small project and get it done quickly, says McCarthy. “A powder room is a good way to test a contractor out, especially if you’re in the market for a larger renovation like a kitchen,” he says. “If you like the way it turns out, great; if you don’t, it’s low risk.”
December: Build a deck
You’ll probably get a good deal, because deck builders will be winding down for the winter. But adding a deck onto your house when it’s cold out makes sense from a building perspective too. December is less humid, so if you’re using pressure-treated wood, it’ll dry more consistently and evenly. Also, the hot sun won’t beat down on it, which can cause warping and cracking.
Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.
April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.
$500 refund: It’s all in the details
Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”
Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.
Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”
Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.
$1,000 refund: Think upgrades
Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.
Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.
$2,000 refund: Add style
Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.
Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.
Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.
$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind
Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.
Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”
$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy
Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.
Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.
Whether you seek a craftsman home or your taste is more contemporary, these homes have the style you want at a price you’ll love.
Curb appeal might not be at the tiptop of your home-buying wish list, but maybe it should be. Attractive landscaping and a welcoming exterior can draw in buyers like you — but also increase your resale value when you’re ready to move on. The good news is that great curb appeal is available at every price point. We’ve found homes for sale under $200K across the country, from Pittsburgh, PA, to Sahuarita, AZ. And they all have plenty of presence at an affordable price.
Boutiques, eclectic coffee shops, restaurants, and yoga studios occupy West North Avenue, a short walk from this adorable ranch home. The sweet two-bedroom, one-bathroom home has a gorgeous front yard. Visitors will be drawn in by the manicured boxwoods that line the sidewalk, archway, and climbing vine. Inside, hardwood floors, French doors, and crown molding add to the home’s cottagelike feel. But the most notable feature is in the backyard. There, you’ll find a private, fenced lawn with a patio that’s made for spring entertaining.
Sahuarita has it all: great restaurants, an easy commute to Tucson, AZ, mountain views, and tons of golf courses. This home adds to the town’s charm. A stucco exterior complements the desert landscaping. The low-maintenance front yard adds a bit of Zen, with a few pops of color from flowering plants. No mowing needed! The neutral color scheme continues inside, making the 1,780-square-foot floor plan feel bigger. The three-bedroom home includes a large master suite and new appliances in the laundry room.
It’s only a short drive from I-279, which brings you right to the center of Pittsburgh. But this charming three-bedroom brick home feels as if it’s tucked in the woods. The home has a tidy landscape on a parklike lot that exudes country comfort, and it’s close to five gorgeous parks. But don’t overlook the home’s remodeled interior, with crown molding and a designer-inspired paint scheme. The neighborhood offers public transportation within walking distance and easy access to Pittsburgh’s hospitals, shopping, and schools.
It may have a modest name, but Humble has a lot going on. There’s plenty of shopping and restaurants, and it’s close to Houston, TX, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. In the peaceful Woodland Pines subdivision, this four-bedroom home’s contemporary exterior and landscaped front lawn make a great first impression. The neat grounds underscore the home’s well-cared-for appeal, and with plants in pots and in the shade, there’s no intimidation factor. The backyard offers plenty of recreation space, with a large covered patio. And the neighborhood pool and playground are steps away.
This upgraded home in Arizona’s third-largest city is big on personality. But it’s not just the fabulous palm tree in the front yard that will pull you in. Low-maintenance landscaping, lined with river rocks, makes a charming (and easy-to-care-for) front yard. And the home’s color scheme, drawing inspiration from its desert surroundings, sets off those always-sunny skies. Interior updates include fresh paint, new kitchen countertops and appliances, and new flooring. Mesa’s relaxed, suburban feel pairs well with its year-round festivals, plentiful parks and green space, and thriving cultural district. This three-bedroom home puts you right in the middle of it all.
Filled with historic buildings and surrounded by gorgeous natural features, Acworth is the kind of town where visitors flock for weekends. Walking trails, Lake Allatoona, and Lake Acworth are close by. This home in the town’s quaint Charleston Park neighborhood lets you take full advantage. The craftsman-style home’s front door — complete with transom window — hints at the charm and comfort within. A welcoming front porch and colorful landscaping beckon from the sidewalk, and the home’s color scheme is a soothing backdrop to all that greenery. The interior boasts a spacious living room, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms.
Right in the middle of suburban Cypress, this four-bedroom home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac. The two-story home has fresh exterior paint, a new front door, and a large, flat lot with refreshing shade trees. With blond brick, a fresh coat of paint, and well-manicured shrubs, this charmer is ready for buyers. Thoughtful updates continue inside, with a granite backsplash, a huge master suite, new flooring, and new appliances. Best of all, the restaurants, nightlife, and shopping on Jones Road are nearby.
Flipping homes is a thrill, but don’t forget your own home’s potential. Enjoy that new-home feeling again with these simple tips.
If you’re anything like me, you may find that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of flipping houses. I’ll admit — buying an old house, fixing it up, and flipping it for a profit is pretty exciting. But if you get too distracted by flipping houses, it’s easy to let your own home fall by the wayside.
While profitable remodeling projects can be more tempting to work on, you can still benefit from tackling projects in your own home. Remodeling your home will not only up its value, but also improve the way you feel about it. After all, who wouldn’t love to cook in a newly remodeled kitchen?
Here are five easy, inexpensive projects that will really make a difference in how you feel about your home.
Add a new coat of paint
Whether you decide to paint your kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom (or all three!), a coat of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room. The best part about painting your own home is that you don’t have to stick to neutrals, because you aren’t trying to attract any buyers.
If you’ve been dying to paint your kitchen red or your bathroom blue, then do it! This is your chance to paint your home the colors that make you happy.
Refresh your kitchen
The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home, so it should be one of the first rooms you remodel. And unless you moved into a brand-new home where you were able to design your kitchen from scratch, chances are there are a few things you’ve been eager to change.
If you’re lucky enough to have nice wood cabinets, don’t worry about replacing them. A splash of paint and some new hardware can work wonders and make your kitchen look brand new, without having to spend hundreds on new cabinets.
The same goes for laminate or wood countertops. There are plenty of DIY kits you can buy to transform your countertops for a fraction of the cost.
A new backsplash is also an inexpensive way to add some life to your kitchen — plus it’s a cinch to install.
Install new doorknobs, faucets, and light fixtures
While they are probably the easiest feature to overlook, new doorknobs and fixtures can make a huge difference in a room. Depending on the type of doorknobs you purchase, and considering that most homes have quite a few knobs, the price can add up pretty quickly.
If you don’t have the time or money to replace all your doorknobs at once, work on replacing just a couple every month, starting with the most obvious ones.
Faucets can get pretty expensive as well, especially if you want to replace them in both your kitchen and bathroom(s). If you want to save some money, I recommend searching online or heading to the clearance section of your local home improvement store.
If you’re lucky, you can find great deals on some beautiful faucets. Replacing all your faucets at once might not be feasible, so don’t be afraid to take your time with this project. Before you know it, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of attractive faucets in all your rooms.
As for light fixtures, you may already have fixtures that you like, but they just need a color update. Instead of buying new fixtures, grab a can of spray paint and go to town. It’s amazing what a difference a $3 can of spray paint can make!
Revive your bathroom
A coat of paint, wainscoting, and a fresh shower curtain and linens are all super easy ways to instantly transform your old and tired bathroom.
If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you could even replace the flooring or change up the vanity. Getting ready in the mornings will be that much more enjoyable if you can do so in a beautiful bathroom.
Boost your curb appeal
While it’s always satisfying to remodel the interior of your home, you don’t want to forget about the exterior. Fortunately, there are a couple of simple changes you can make to really boost your home’s curb appeal.
If you can’t afford to replace the front door, try painting it instead. A new porch light fixture, house numbers, and a mailbox can also make a huge difference for your home’s exterior.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to stop coming up with excuses. Go fix up those kitchen cabinets that you’ve hated since you moved in!
Does the mere mention of winter bring to mind drafty days and chilly nights? Follow this advice.
The struggle to keep warm is real, especially when temperatures start to dip below freezing. No one knows this better than the citizens of cold climates. But what’s the best way to deal with the chill? Is having a programmable thermostat worth it? Do heavy-duty curtains really curtail the cold? We asked our frigid-weather friends for their best tips on staying toasty indoors when winter is in full force. And no, moving to Miami, FL, wasn’t one of them — though that’s not a bad idea.
1. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed
If your windows and doors are super old, and it’s in your budget to do so, replace them. Jeana Kraft, a resident of Wausau, WI, says her family opted for a brand of windows that are manufactured in northern Minnesota, one of the coldest places in the country. “I think they have an edge on designing windows that can withstand long, very frigid winters,” she explains. Otherwise, try placing clear plastic over especially drafty windows or add a threshold seal to your sliding doors, suggests Brian Hugins, who resides in the suburbs of Chicago, IL.
2. Invest in insulating curtains
“This is particularly useful for sliding glass doors, older windows, or if you have a couch in front of your windows,” says Karen McConnell of Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. “When you’re reading or watching TV, it’s pretty hard to get comfortable with an icy breeze trickling through, and curtains can mean the difference between coziness and cranking up the heat (and the corresponding utilities bill) yet again.”
3. Keep the doors between rooms open
“Because of our house’s wonky heating system, some rooms get really cold, whereas others are overheated,” says McConnell. “We’ve found that if we keep the doors open to the overheated ones, it helps to keep everything a little more balanced and comfortable.”
4. Stock up on flannel sheets and down comforters
“We still keep a lot of blankets on hand in sitting rooms, and we place flannel sheets on the beds,” says Kraft. For McConnell, pairing flannel sheets with a down comforter makes a “huge difference on cold nights.” Never underestimate electricity-free means of keeping warm.
5. Install a programmable thermostat
“But make sure you re-evaluate your settings every few months, particularly if you have different heating/cooling zones in your home or your lifestyle has undergone any changes,” advises McConnell. “I realized I needed to do this when I wandered into our family room and was surprised by how toasty warm it was. We still had the heat settings tailored to when my daughter was younger and we spent almost all our time there.”
6. Splurge on floors with heated coils
“We have them in our master bath, and I thank God each time I wake up on a cold, dark morning and step onto my heated bathroom floor,” says Kraft. “If someone told me that I had to take 1,000 square feet off the design of my home in order to meet the budget for a heated bathroom floor, I would take the heated floor.”
7. Light a fire
“We had a wood-burning fireplace in both our previous and current homes, and on cold nights, it could heat the whole house,” says Kraft. If you do light a fire, be sure to close the chimney flue once you put it out. Otherwise, you’ll let in a lot of cold air.
8. Insulate your attic
“That was the first thing we did when we moved into our house,” says Heather Wiese, of Dexter, MI, outside Ann Arbor. It’s a weekend project that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates can save you 10 to 50% on your energy bill. You can use either loose fill insulation (and “blow it in” with a machine you can rent from a home improvement store) or batts, which are sold in large rolls. Pro tip: Be sure to fix any air leaks with foam sealant or caulk, or the extra insulation will be for naught!
Your kitchen is calling from 1988, but your bank account doesn’t want to answer. We get it: According to Remodeling Magazine, a minor kitchen makeover averages $20,122, while a major renovation can hit a you-gotta-be-kidding-me $60,000.
If you’re looking for something a whole lot more budget-friendly, a mini kitchen makeover for about $500 can go a surprisingly long way. Check out these eight cheap remodels to get your kitchen renovation cooking for a whole lot less.
1. Declutter the counter space
Kitchens tend to collect tons of stuff—like Mr. Coffee coffee makers, George Foreman grills, and weird canisters of wooden spoons—on countertops. An easy way to dramatically transform a kitchen is to simply put all that junk away. For around $490, you can install two separate shelving units to transform the dead space in that cabinet under the sink that no one ever uses.
“Glide-out shelving can get around obstructions like pipes or disposals and make the kitchen a more useful space,” says Nina Ward, interior designer and regional director for ShelfGenie. Plus, the shelves can hold up to 100 pounds of kitchen detritus—that’s a whole lot of paper towels.
2. Paint just about everything
A chorus of experts says the most affordable and transformative kitchen makeover is to paint, paint, paint—and not just the walls, points out Tracy Kay Griffin, lead designer at Express Homebuyers, a real estate investment company based in Springfield, VA.
Colors such as orange or red immediately “spice up” your kitchen, says Sean Juneja, co-founder and CEO of Decor Aid. A new Viking red stove can cost upward of $5,000. But a stove panel that’s easy to install can quickly and easily cover your existing dishwasher. It costs about $500 and comes in vibrant shades like cherry red and pink lemonade. It’s like a quick shot of decor adrenaline.
5. Amp up the lighting
One of the single most important elements that have a profound effect on any space is whatever devices are holding the humble lightbulbs.
“Changing out fixtures can not only update your space but also provide ambiance,” says Juneja. “A new pendant upscales the kitchen instantly and provides the biggest bang for the buck.” He likes this West Elm pendant style for a sleek yet warm look, or you could go for a bit of drama with this bundle of glowing orbs from CB2. Handy? Buy black cables from your local hardware store and hang generic lightbulbs for approximately $100 plus an electrician (maybe another $100 to $150) to make sure everything is safe.
6. Reface upper cabinets with glass
There are some things in your kitchen you definitely want to hide, like that family-size bag of Cheese Balls. Other stuff you want people to see: the vintage barware you scored at a garage sale. Swap out the heavy wooden doors on your kitchen cabinets for ones with glass to display your cute dishes and glassware.
“It instantly modernizes and opens up a kitchen,” says Juneja. It costs approximately $500 for an average-size space.
7. Update tired flooring
“If you have outdated vinyl or linoleum flooring in your kitchen, a fresh wood-looking floor can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the room,” says John Horner, founder of Central Ohio Home Buyer.
Depending on the size of your space, a nice wood laminate can easily be put in for about $500 in material.
“Many of the laminate flooring found in your local home improvement store is either click together or stick down, and very simple to install yourself.”
Another inexpensive way to transform your kitchen from something “dull into something amazing” is to install new laminate countertops from your local home improvement store, which often carries its own brands.
“New countertops can drastically improve the look of your kitchen for a very reasonable price,” says Horner. “For a medium-size kitchen, they can cost around $500 and installation is easy.”
Spending a little time on DIY and professional upgrades now can pay off big come spring.
Fall is the season for posting apple-picking photos on Instagram, enjoying pumpkin spice–flavored everything, and spending weekends enjoying the autumn scenery. Just peek out your window —whether you live in Boston, MA, or own a piece of Atlanta, GA, real estate — the cooler temps and changing leaves are hard to resist. While beautiful, fall is also the perfect time for rolling up our sleeves and tackling those home improvement projects we put off during the summer.
“Enjoying the weather can put you in a great state of mind and allow you to focus on the task at hand — and do it well. Beyond that, most building materials are at their best when they are installed at moderate temps,” says Phil Eby of Eby Exteriors in Akron, PA. Plus, contractors typically have fewer projects during the fall, so you’re more likely to find help quickly if you don’t want to go the DIY route. Especially if you plan on listing your home in the spring (or anytime within the next year), you’ll want to prioritize the best home improvements for resale. To figure out what’s worth your time and budget, we asked real estate agents and other professionals for their expert opinions. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Paint the front door
ROI: 80% to 140%
Hands down, the easiest exterior project is also the one that reaps the biggest rewards. A freshly painted front doorhelps your home stand out from the block, and it can be finished in less than an afternoon. Fall is usually the perfect time for this activity; just pick that afternoon wisely. “Normally, exterior painting should be done at a time when the temps are at least 50 degrees or so and aren’t dipping below the 40s at night. This allows the paint to adhere properly and prevents it from freezing before it is fully dry,” Eby says.
2. Refresh (or repair) the deck
ROI: 80% to 120%
A deck is only as good as its condition. If the wood is splintering, the finish faded, or the rails shaky, call in the experts. “A buyer who sees a dirty deck that’s in disrepair may sour their feelings about your house, and even if they still want to buy your home, they will certainly use it as a negotiating point,” says Eby. Even if you have to outright replace the deck, it’s worth the expense. (Just remember to get a permit!)
3. Enhance the exterior
ROI: 60% to 100%
If your exterior paint job is in decent shape, a few touch-ups could suffice. But for those with chipping paint or a 1970s color scheme? Call the pros immediately. “The last thing you want is to scare buyers away before they even get inside,” says Than Merrill, former host of A&E’s Flip This House and CEO of FortuneBuilders. On average, you’ll spend $1,000 to $3,000 (for a 500- to 1,500-square-foot single-story home), but he estimates that the investment in curb appeal can help properties sell for up to 10% more than others on the block. Just stick to neutrals: This isn’t the time to try out a statement color.
4. Replace or repair your roof
ROI: 50% to 110%
“The peace of mind offered by a functionally sound roof is invaluable to its respective occupants and is weighed heavily by those intent on making a purchase,” Merrill says. A new roof can be basic or with details that enhance curb appeal, but its main value comes from instilling confidence in a prospective buyer. This holds true for repairing leaks and for cosmetic damage, which buyers often use to negotiate a lower price.
5. Power-wash the exterior
ROI: 40% to 110%
The ROI for this project can vary based on just how dirty your home was before the wash. If the home was merely a little dirty, the ROI may not be as great as it is for one that will look almost new after the wash. If your home falls into the latter category, it can be worth it to hire a pro. “The ROI could be 100% or more, even if done by a pro for $1,000 or more,” Eby says. If you decide to go DIY, Eby cautions to take care to avoid spraying water in a direction that’ll force it behind siding or under shingles.
6. Window replacement
ROI: 50% to 80%
Windows can be hit-or-miss investments, mainly because they are expensive to replace and almost invisible to buyers. “It’s been my experience that unless the windows are damaged or so poorly insulated that your utility bills are sky-high, most buyers don’t consider windows to be a major deciding factor,” says Wingfield.
7. Update your HVAC
ROI: 20% to 50%
This project ranks as one with the lowest payoff, simply because current buyers have come to expect all homes have central air. An upgrade isn’t a selling point unless the system was old to begin with. “If your existing system has been in place for more than 10 to 15 years, it’s likely that you’ll soon need a new one. It becomes an area that a potential buyer will most likely use to negotiate a lower price,” Eby says. Even then, you might have to show proof of gains in efficiency to recoup your costs.
8. Clean the gutters
Here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “While you may need to wait for inclement weather to realize your return on investment, a mere 30 minutes of routine rain gutter maintenance could prevent thousands of dollars in damage to the foundation of a home,” Merrill says. If you outsource this chore, expect to pay $3 to $9 per foot.