5 Projects That Boost Home Value — and 5 Cheap Alternatives

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couple painting on a house wall
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REMODEL AND RECOUP

Some home improvement projects pay off more than others when it comes time to sell. For homeowners considering putting their houses on the market in the next year or so, here are several jobs to tackle — and some budget alternatives — that can help attract buyers and boost your home's value without overspending.

gloved hands holding insulation in attic of house
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IMPROVEMENT: ADD ATTIC INSULATION

Hold off on those flashy, pricey renovations, because energy efficiency is what really pays off. Adding fiberglass insulation to the attic to help maintain a home's temperature can boost resale value. On average, homeowners saw a 116.9 percent return on investment after adding attic insulation, according to solar matchmaking site Energy Sage. Remodeling's experts ballpark an average cost of $1,343 nationwide, but that includes hiring a pro to do the dirty work.

man uses smart phone to control thermostat
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BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

Looking for a cheaper energy-efficient fix? Homeowners can install a programmable thermostat to save roughly $180 a year on energy bills, according to the government's Energy Star program. Basic models cost as little as $50. For $100 to $300, a Wi-Fi-enabled "smart" thermostat can detect when you're away, turning down the air conditioning or heat automatically. Bonus: These thermostats appeal to younger homebuyers who are accustomed to smart devices, according to Consumer Reports, and some utility companies offer significant rebates to customers who install them.

stone veneer on side of house
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IMPROVEMENT: SWAP SIDING FOR STONE VENEER

Nothing dates a house quite like dirty, aging vinyl siding. Swapping just the bottom third of that siding for manufactured stone veneer can seriously boost a home's curb appeal and bring a nearly 95 percent return on a homeowner's investment, according to Remodeling magazine. The magazine's experts estimate that replacing siding (in part or completely) costs a nationwide average of $8,907.

man washing vinyl on side of house
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BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: WASH EXISTING SIDING

Cleaning vinyl siding costs next to nothing, so homeowners who can't stomach spending thousands on stone may want to invest some elbow grease instead. The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends using a soft-bristled brush, mild soap, and water to clean siding. Its website also features a list of recommended cleaners for grimier jobs and specific stains such as rust or grease. Power washers are fair game as long as the siding manufacturer allows them, but be sure to follow all directions. For instance, aiming a power washer higher than eye level can drive water behind the siding, experts warn.

open front door of house
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IMPROVEMENT: REPLACE THE FRONT DOOR

Replacing a tired-looking front door may be a smart move. This simple project can recoup a bit over 91 percent of its cost when you sell, according to the Remodeling 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. A steel door is a better value than fiberglass for most homeowners. It could lead to a tidy 74.9 percent return on investment, according to Remodeling's data, and with installation costs an average of $1,826. The magazine also found that an enhanced entryway, of which a door is a key part, can add as much as $24,000 to a home's perceived value.

man painting front door
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BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: ADD QUICK CURB APPEAL

A new front door can make a home more eye-catching, but smaller projects can help, too. Painting an existing front door can cost as little as $50 in primer, paint, and supplies — just be sure to pick the right color. While a bold, contrasting front door can make a house stand out, steer clear of gaudy hues that clash with the home's style or existing color scheme. (Still in doubt? White and red have perennial appeal, according to Angie's List.) Other cheap updates: Dress up plain windows with shutters for about $50 a pair, and consider adding flower-filled planters or window boxes for additional color.

man replacing garage door
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IMPROVEMENT: REPLACE GARAGE DOORS

Don't stop with the front door— the garage door may need to be replaced, too. This project also brings a return of about 98 percent on homeowners' investment, according to the Remodeling 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. The report says prospective sellers in upscale areas may want to splurge on higher-end carriage-style doors with a heftier price tag of more than $3,600.

carriage-style garage door
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BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: FAKE A CARRIAGE-STYLE DOOR

Some new paint can also work wonders for a garage door on the cheap. Again, use the home's existing color scheme and the overall look of the neighborhood for guidance. And don't stop with paint: For $300 to $500, consider adding faux decorative windows to the top of the garage door, as seen on HouseLogic. Updated exterior lighting and decorative hardware such as powder-coated pull handles can complete a high-end carriage-door look at a fraction of the price.

remodeling kitchen
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IMPROVEMENT: REMODEL THE KITCHEN

Kitchens sell houses, according to prevailing real estate wisdom. So it's no surprise that homeowners can recoup 80.5 percent of the cost from a minor kitchen remodel, according to the Remodeling report. That includes replacing cabinet doors and hardware; switching out laminate counters; and adding a mid-range sink, energy-efficient appliances, and new flooring. The magazine's experts estimate an average cost of $22,507 for this kind of remodel.

woman painting cabinets
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BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: REFRESH THE KITCHEN FOR LESS

At more than $20,000, even a "minor" kitchen remodel is still too pricey for many homeowners. To keep costs low, try painting cabinets instead of replacing the doors. Add a sleek tile backsplash for big impact— depending on the type of tile and amount you need, you may be able to do it for less than $1,000, even with professional installation, according to HomeAdvisor. And if high-end counters are out of the budget, take another look at laminate. These days, it can do a credible impression of granite or even marble. Homeowners can spend as little as $1,500 for 30 linear feet of laminate, compared with $2,700 for a stone slab, according to Fixr.

bathroom remodeling
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HOME-IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS TO SKIP

Wondering which improvements just aren't worth the cost if you want to sell your house soon? According to the Remodeling 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, homeowners recoup less than than 50 percent of their investment after adding a master suite or a backyard patio. That puts these projects squarely at the bottom of the magazine's list. At an average cost of $54,130 for a patio and $256,229 for a master suite, these pricey improvements may still be worth it for some homeowners — just make sure resale isn't the primary motivation.

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