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My Mortgage Blog

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.

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.

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.

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.

So, what color should you paint them?

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.

There is a warning 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.


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. 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.


Create the perfect palette

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

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.