house front door
Jason Finn/istockphoto

5 Projects That Boost Home Value — and 5 Cheap Alternatives

View Slideshow
house front door
Jason Finn/istockphoto

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.

Related: Home Improvement and Decor Trends for 2021



Improvement: Add Attic Insulation
photopixel/shutterstock

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% return on investment after adding attic insulation, according to solar matchmaking site Energy Sage. HomeAdvisor ballparks an average cost of $1,700-$2,100, but that includes hiring a pro to do the dirty work.

Budget Alternative: Install a Programmable Thermostat
Steve Debenport/istockphoto

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.

Related: 13 Little Home Improvement Projects That Make a Big Impact

Improvement: Swap Siding for Stone Veneer
Kwanbenz/shutterstock

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 more than 95% 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 $9,357.

Budget Alternative: Wash Existing Siding
Greg McGill/shutterstock

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.

Related: 13 Surprisingly Simple Home Repairs You Can DIY to Save Big

Improvement: Replace the Front Door
David Papazian/shutterstock

Improvement: Replace the Front Door

Replacing a tired-looking front door may be a smart move. This simple project can recoup nearly 70% of its cost when you sell, according to the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report. A steel door is a better value than fiberglass for most homeowners. It could lead to a healthy 68.8% return on investment, according to Remodeling's data, and with installation costs an average of $1,881. 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.

Budget Alternative: Add Quick Curb Appeal
Semmick Photo/shutterstock

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.

Related: 20 Ways to Upgrade Your Home That Will Save Money in 2021

garage door
Jason Finn/istockphoto

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 95% on homeowners' investment, according to the Remodeling 2020 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.

Budget Alternative: Fake a Carriage-Style Door
karamysh/shutterstock

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.

Related: DIY Disasters: 20 Repairs to Leave to the Pros

Improvement: Remodel the Kitchen
Andy Dean Photography/shutterstock

Improvement: Remodel the Kitchen

Kitchens sell houses, according to prevailing real estate wisdom. So it's no surprise that homeowners can recoup neary 78% 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 $23,452 for this kind of remodel.

kitchen backsplash
Sisoje/istockphoto

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.

Related: 20 Winter Home Improvement Projects for Under $1,000

Home-improvement Projects to Skip
Jo Ann Snover/shutterstock

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 2020 Cost vs. Value Report, homeowners recoup barely more than 50% of their investment after adding a upscaled master suite. That puts this project squarely at the bottom of the magazine's list. At an average cost of $282,062 for a master suite of this caliber, this pricey improvement may still be worth it for some homeowners — just make sure resale isn't the primary motivation.

Related: 32 Ways You’re Ruining Your Home and Don't Even Know It