Top 10 Improvements a Homeowner Can Make to Add Value to Their House

By Alex Russell

Small changes can lead to big improvements. (photos: Jeff Dubro)

From relatively small undertakings like reorganization and decluttering, to large-scale projects like refurbishing a kitchen or installing a new addition, there is a wide variety of ways homeowners can use to increase the value of their home.

The following, compiled with the help of professionals in the fields of architecture and real estate, examines the top 10 things that can help improve a property’s value. All 10 ideas are categorized in order of highest-to-lowest prevalence and effectiveness, according to Lindsey Peake, of Peake Management.

1. Decluttering and organization

In discussing popular and beneficial changes owners tend to make to their homes, Jeff DuBro, of DuBro Builders & Architects, underscores the merits of functionality and personalization. The central belief of his company’s work lies in the mantra that “bigger is absolutely not the recipe for a better home.”

Peake also believes in the “less is more approach,” recommending that “non-essential items” get packed up or donated as soon as possible. She strongly suggests getting rid of things that “have not been used” in about a year’s time, “not including family heirlooms, of course.”

2. Home staging

Staging a home is something the owner can do shortly before a potential buyer stops by to take a look at the property. Home staging often incorporates redecorating, the rearranging of furniture, as well as adjusting the overall aesthetic of the interior space.

Peake considers “having the home staged” as an “important investment that will pay off at the closing table,” saying that it is something “all sellers should seriously consider.”

3. Increasing curb appeal

Curb appeal relates to the exterior of a home, such as the state of the yard or even how clean the windows appear to be at first glance. The view of the property from the curb is often where first impressions are made upon the buyers.

Since both the outside physical characteristics of a home and the quality of the yardwork come into play, Peake recommends keeping the edges trimmed and neat, as well as the application of “fresh mulch,” which is “inexpensive and makes things look sharp.”

She adds, “I always suggest to sellers to hire a window cleaning service…it’s amazing to see how great a house looks with clean windows.”

4. Creating an inviting front of the house

A positive and inviting front of the house can set a good attitude for potential buyers. Some of the primary methods include removing dead or thorny plants along the front path and near the front door, as well as the placement of a neat welcome mat.

In addition, Peake suggests homeowners “repaint the front door.” Typically, “a red paint color works best…not quite candy apple red,” but a “more muted and toned down” shade of red.

5. Interior cleanliness and aroma

Decluttering, reorganization and so forth are manageable tasks that often lead to overall sprucing-up, like dusting or vacuuming. A home’s general scent is typically contingent on small things like this, and more importantly, as Peake explains, aromas “leave lasting impressions” on buyers.

“The top 3” scents in her experience tend to be “citrus, pine” and “vanilla.”

Peake warns homeowners not to “overdo it,” as a particularly strong smell, however pleasing it may be, “can turn off” potential buyers. In essence, “keep it pleasant but not overpowering.”

6. Flooring repair and carpeting replacement

Whether the cause is termites or flooding, replacing badly-damaged hardwood flooring is not only an important safety concern but can also provide an older living space with a shiny new stage of sorts; a room’s general aesthetic can greatly improve once new flooring is put in place.

The same applies to carpeting; replacing old, worn rugs or carpeting can liven up the space and create a new feeling for that specific area of the house.

7. Kitchen & bathroom remodeling

Lisa DuBois, of the Chrissy & Lisa Team at RE/MAX West End, explains that Covid had a major impact on the real estate market and highlights how “throughout the pandemic, people spent a lot of time in their homes and identified changes and improvements they wanted to make.”

DuBro agrees. “In the age of Covid, so many people view their homes, more than ever, as a refuge. Where the lines between family life and work life have become more blurred than ever, we have seen a renewed, keen interest” in terms of homeowners investing in “quality design and craftsmanship…thinking more than ever about” just how they live, day-to-day.

Accordingly, two of the most basic and integral spaces in a home, the kitchen and bathroom, are possible remodeling projects that “offer the highest rate of return” for the owner. And as mentioned earlier, going all out is not always the most viable solution; carefully planned, detail-oriented tweaks can make a sizeable difference. Even without a “complete rehab,” DuBois notes that “a cosmetic refresh with a coat of paint on the cabinets” or the installation of “granite or quartz countertops” can produce strong, positive results.

8. Energy efficiency

A relatively new yet growing theme in the housing market is the focus on being energy efficient. Improving a home’s insulation and the installation of solar panels are some of the ways owners can up make their home more energy efficient and save money in the long run. For example, once installation is complete, new solar panels may qualify for federal and state tax credits.

9. Personality of design

DuBro stresses that buying and owning a home is a major investment. “Our homes are the place where we connect…to our families, to our friends, to ourselves, and to the dance that is our unique lives. At their best, our homes enrich our lives and provide us the stage to live well.”

DuBro strongly believes that “homes create their value through meaning” and that a well-produced and personalized overall design, whether it involves how the yard looks and is maintained, or whether it has to do with the interior space and how objects within that space are arranged and utilized, is absolutely key to how a property affects one’s daily life.

The more thought that is put into a home’s design and refurbishment, the more an owner will get out of that space and the higher that property’s market value will be.

10. Integrating a new addition

DuBro’s 20 years of professional experience in architectural design has directed the focus of his work on “the value of thoughtful design,” while at the same time “translating that design into a well-crafted and carefully-executed home.”

In terms of renovation work, he explains that his “most common commission” is the integration of “a moderately-sized addition” to the original structure. “The primary goal with this type of work is to activate all parts of our clients’ properties efficiently, functionally and gracefully.”

An addition not only helps increase a property’s value (due to the increase in square footage), but it also provides more room for day-to-day activities and can perhaps serve as an extra source of income (by renting out the unused space).