You’ve been eyeing a few home improvement projects for months, and have a little extra money set aside. You know that home improvement projects can be expensive, so you want to get the most out of your upcoming renovation. What adds value to a home appraisal? Which projects should you avoid? No matter your budget, we have some tips to help you get the most bang for your buck.


Start in the Kitchen

If you’re wanting the best improvements for resale, you’ll want to start in the kitchen. Conventional wisdom says that kitchen and bathrooms sell houses. If you are looking to add value and get a great return on your investment, the kitchen is likely the place to start. How much will a new kitchen increase the value of your home? According to Zillow, kitchen renovations provide a 75 percent or greater return on investment. Depending on how you choose to renovate, you could get more or less back from this investment.

Full-Scale Remodel

A full kitchen remodel likely includes new appliances, cabinets and countertops. Many home buyers will pay more for professional grade, energy efficient, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Your dollars are best spent on things that improve the flow of the kitchen, and make cooking easier and more enjoyable.

Budget Renovation

You can give your home a facelift with updated back-splashes and farmhouse sinks with updated fixtures. Consider adding touches with a broad appeal, like subway tiles, to give a clean, modern look. If your cabinets are functional for your space, a coat of paint might freshen their appearance with a small investment (and a little “elbow grease”). You may want to consider changing the drawer pulls to complete the transformation.

What to Skip

Kitchens are all about form and function, and buyers are looking for storage solutions. When making improvements, make sure you are either adding storage or counter space. Skip anything that reduces the amount of kitchen storage or workspace.

Also, make sure that your kitchen style, size and quality matches the rest of the home. Many home buyers won’t pay more for a house with a deluxe kitchen if it seems out of place with the rest of the house.



After the kitchen, updated bathrooms are key for a lot of buyers. You want to balance form and function when designing a bathroom, keep in mind how many people will use the space on a daily basis. Often, if your home only has one bathroom and multiple bedrooms, it makes sense to add an additional bathroom to the layout.

Full-Scale Remodel

If you have the space (and the budget), many home buyers prefer separate tub and shower designs. Walk in showers are a nice upgrade if you have the space to accommodate both. A lot of buyers appreciate a consistent design between the kitchen and bathrooms, so use the same materials for countertops, flooring and fixtures. Another consideration: Installing heated floors in the bathroom is an unexpected luxury that most home buyers appreciate. Heated bathroom floors helps homes sell faster, and for more money.

Design on a Dime

If you are looking to make a big design impact, consider incorporating tiles (subway tiles cost between $2 and $10 per square foot) for a clean, timeless design. You can save a lot of money on fixtures by carefully shopping the big box home improvement retailers. Many buyers like clean lines in bathroom spaces, and they prefer shaker-style cabinets. Granite and quartz countertops also make a big impact, and improve resale value.

What to Skip

When designing a bathroom, choose colors that look clean and light. Skip the darker colors in favor of something light and bright. Consider painting cabinets a white or off-white hues to complete the transformation.


Many buyers are looking for modern finishes throughout, and pay special attention to light fixtures and lighting. Buyers want homes that are bright with lots of natural light.

Full-Scale Remodel

When thinking about lighting, many buyers will tell you that natural light is best. Buyers are looking for high quality, energy efficient windows that allow a lot of light in. If you are installing new windows, look for those with double-paned glass, ideally with low-e coatings that reflect heat back into the room in the winter and reflect heat outdoors in the summer. Be sure to understand Energy Performance Ratings before investing in new windows.

Cost-Effective Solutions

If new windows aren’t in the budget, you can give the appearance of a lighter, brighter room with the help of lighting fixtures. Updated fixtures can have a low cost, but provide a big impact. Something as simple as light bulbs can make a big difference, too.  Bright white or daylight bulbs will be much brighter, whereas soft white or warm white-emitting bulbs will have a more subtle, muted tone.

What to Skip

If you have painted a room expecting a huge transformation, only to be disappointed with the outcome, change your light bulbs before painting again. Sometimes simple changes can save you time and money.


Home Essentials

From insulation to electricity, some of the biggest improvements you can make are not always visible. Improving your home’s energy efficiency is important to buyers, and can save you money in the long term.

Full-Scale Updates

When looking to add value to your home, buyers see the value in investing in the essentials, like updated HVAC systems, insulation, updated electric panels and energy efficient water heaters. Incorporating renewable energy elements like geothermal heating, solar panels and wind energy appeals to energy conscious buyers.

Small Scale Improvements

Water heaters are expected to last eight to 12 years. When you prepare to update, consider a tankless water heater, as they provide greater resale value, and play a key role in helping homes sell sooner. Adding insulation is another great use of renovation money. Often energy companies will do an energy audit on your home, and will provide rebates and incentives for adding insulation to make your home more energy efficient.

What to Skip

There are a lot of materials on the market that claim to be “green” or promote energy efficiency. Investigate these claims before investing your renovation dollars — many green products don’t meet minimum energy efficiency standards. Look for the Energy Star logo, and read about their sustainability ratings when purchasing, and search for rebates on qualifying purchases. If hiring a contractor to help with home improvement, consider working with a LEED Certified contractor to ensure they follow green building standards.


Curb Appeal

Your home’s exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see — it’s your home’s first impression. You definitely want your exterior to make a good impression, but that doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune. Consider where your home is located, and how buyers will be able to use the space. Does your neighborhood have lush, green lawns as far as the eye can see? Do drought-tolerant plants make sense? Do you have a spot for the barbeque?

Big Budget, Big Design

Decks and outdoor living spaces can have a big impact on home values. Your outdoor living space is an extension of your home and provides a lot of room for creativity. Consider adding fire pits, bar areas and gathering spaces to make the space more inviting and usable. Consider weather resistant seating options, and keep it consistent with the design of the inside of your house.

Small Changes, Big Impact

Improving outdoor spaces doesn’t have to involve a complete renovation! Planting weather tolerant plants at strategic places around the yard and regularly mowing your lawn will give a clean and well-kept appearance. Take care of the beds with regular weeding and maintenance. If you have exterior lights, maintain good working order, and stay ahead of snow shoveling in the winter.

What to Skip 

 In most locations, adding a pool doesn’t make sense. Buyers are often turned off by maintenance and insurance risks associated with adding a pool to your yard.

See also: Three Ways Your Pool Affects Your Insurance


If you are renovating your home to sell, adding a few improvements can go a long way. Your renovations can definitely affect the value of your home. When you make improvements, be sure to contact your Farm Bureau agent and ensure your coverage keeps up with the renovations. And remember, you don’t have to fix up your home for someone else to enjoy: Changes that make you love your home even more are always worth the investment.