Today’s real estate market is uncertain, and homeowners want to do whatever they can to increase the value of their homes—even if they’re not planning to sell in the near future.
Updating the look of your home doesn’t have to bust your budget. Lisa Laube, chief merchandising officer for Floor & Decor, says that a few simple and inexpensive tricks can bring your dated home into this decade.
According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value report, homeowners can expect good returns on investments in their kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. Homeowners recouped 75.4 percent of the cost of their minor kitchen remodels, while basement and bathroom remodels recouped 70.3 percent and 65.2 percent of their costs, respectively.
1. Pick a room and update the flooring.
“Wide-planked hardwood floors—think five inches or more—is an updated version of the classic wood floor,” Laube says. “It’s more popular than the traditional two-and-a-quarter inch flooring and a sure-fire way to bring some life to any room.”
An added bonus: It’s easier to keep clean than carpeting, and healthier, too. It won’t trap dander and other allergens that can make allergy sufferers miserable all year long.
Cost: If you’re intent on going the high-end route, Laube suggests Brazilian cherry. It retails for around $5.49 per square foot and looks great in every room. But you don’t have to break the bank to update your floors; hardwood flooring is available starting around 99 cents per square foot, and you can find great options in the range of $2 to $3 per square foot.
Don’t forget about installation costs. While other types of flooring are good DIY projects, it’s generally a good idea to leave hardwood floor installation to the pros.
2. Dress up your kitchen.
Many homeowners dream of owning a high-end kitchen with all the bells and whistles, but that dream isn’t necessarily feasible on their budgets. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to update your current kitchen. A simple backsplash upgrade will do wonders for your space.
“Right now, the huge trend is glass tile,” Laube says, “but other popular options include stone, travertine, and marble.” Many of these tiles come in large 12-by-12 sheets, allowing you to swap out your backsplash in no time. Plus, many retailers offer how-to classes, giving you a chance to perfect your technique before trying it in your own home.
If tile is out of your comfort zone, consider adding new hardware to your cabinets or painting your cabinetry a different color. Both options will give your kitchen a much-needed facelift.
Cost: The one-foot square sheets are good options. They range in price from 99 cents a sheet all the way to $13 per foot. The backsplash may be a good place to splurge, Laube says, because you generally don’t need much tile, and you can cut your costs by doing it yourself.
Don’t forget to include the cost of mortar and grout when estimating your expenses.
3. Create a spa-like bathroom.
“In today’s real estate market, many buyers expect updated bathrooms, both in the master and powder rooms,” Laube notes. And while you may not be able to afford a steam shower and built-in sauna, you can easily update your look with new tile.
Choose a large tile to cover the bathroom floor. Small tiles on the floor make your home look dated, while large, rectangular tiles make the room stand out.
However, small tiles do work in the shower, Laube says. As with backsplashes, many retailers offer DIY classes on tile installation in the bathroom, and you may want to check one out before proceeding with your project. Once the tile job is complete, add a few coats of paint to the walls and your bathroom will feel brand new.
Cost: For a small powder room—around 50 square feet—you may be able to spend less than $200 for nice tile and a gallon of paint. For a larger room, $400 or less is a good number to aim for, provided you’re handling the installation yourself.
According to Laube, Carrera marble is trending right now. It is generally more expensive than other options, ranging from $3.49 per square foot up to $5.99 per square foot. To get the look for half the price, opt for porcelain tile that’s printed to look like Carrera marble.
4. Make your basement more inviting.
So often, basements look dated and forgotten, despite the fact that they’re used as gathering spaces for children and families. Make your basement feel more like home with some simple, durable upgrades.
Warm up your space with wood-look tile or luxury vinyl plank flooring. Again, both of these projects are DIY-friendly and are quick ways to make your basement feel like it belongs with the rest of your home. Laube suggests adding a rug, a coat of paint, and some new lighting to complete the budget-basement renovation.
Cost: Luxury vinyl plank ranges from $1.59 per square foot and up, while wood-look tile can start around $1.79 per square foot. Both are easy to clean and both are waterproof, added bonuses in a basement prone to water. When pricing your project, don’t forget to include the costs of vapor barriers or underlayment, as well as mortar and grout if you’re using tile.
Ilyce Glink is the author of ten books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Her nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters,” appears in more than 125 newspapers and Websites, and her online “Ask Ilyce” columns are read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. She is a top-rated radio host on WSB Radio in Atlanta, the Home Equity blogger at CBS MoneyWatch.com, host of the Internet program “Expert Real Estate Tips,” managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and publisher of ThinkGlink.com.