Do you have grand visions of gutting your dated kitchen, or maybe blowing out the bathroom walls to create a spa-like retreat? While major remodeling projects such as these can bring value to a home, budget-friendly projects can also deliver a fresh look - and real value for you and potential buyers.
"Something as simple as replacing the hardware in the kitchen can give you a whole new look," says Paul Wyman, a regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors. Wyman is also an expert at determining if a remodeling project will add value to a home.
Curious which simple projects will give your home the most value? Keep reading to learn about a few affordable facelifts and bargain renovations that could boost your home's value and add appeal.
Bargain Renovation #1: Reface Kitchen Cabinets
Would you believe that something as simple as replacing dated cabinetry doors could get you a higher return on investment than other major remodels? We didn't either, until Remodeling Magazine's 2011-2012 "Cost vs. Value Report" told us otherwise.
If the cabinets in your kitchen are well laid-out, sturdy, and plentiful but unappealing, refacing can be a cost-effective alternative to complete replacement. This process, which maintains the existing cabinetry's frames and boxes but replaces the hardware and door and drawer fronts, can be just a quarter of the price of installing all-new cabinetry.
What does that look like in hard figures? Kitchen Solvers, a resurfacing company in La Crosse, Wisc., offers the example of a client paying $6,000 to install solid cherry doors on existing cabinetry, rather than shelling out $24,000 to install everything new. That sure sounds like a good savings to us.
Bargain Renovation #2: Install a New Kitchen Countertop
If you adore the luxurious look of a stone countertop but don't love the high price, there are ways to achieve the high-end feel of granite or marble without breaking the bank.
You can save on granite, for example, by buying remnants from a stone yard, according to a July 2012 Consumer Reports article titled "Get the luxury look for Less." Or, if you have your eye on marble, a slab from Vermont will cost at least 20 percent less than one from Italy, according to the report.
For a truly budget-friendly option, Consumer Reports suggests that you consider a laminate countertop.
Laminate, which is made of sheets of plastic resin and paper bonded to particle board or fiberboard, could resemble granite or marble with today's printing technologies, notes Consumer Reports.
Bargain Renovation #3: Update the Bathroom
According to HGTV's "Maximum Value Projects," on FrontDoor.com, updating a bathroom is a great way to add value to your home. And it doesn't take much to make a big difference.
In fact, HGTV says updating the sink and fixtures will yield more value than replacing the countertop, flooring, toilet, or even the tub and shower. To avoid the premium price and save "hundreds of dollars without compromising quality," Consumer Reports' bathroom remodeling guide recommends selecting sinks and fixtures with basic finishes.
Looking for more value-adding updates that are gentle on your wallet? Consumer Reports suggests replacing an outdated wall-to-wall mirror with individual framed mirrors over each sink, or replacing stained grout with stain-resistant grout.
Bargain Renovation #4: Boost Curb Appeal With a New Roof
Honestly, who looks at a roof? Homebuyers, evidently. Even if most of your roof isn't visible from the street, it is still an important aesthetic and functional feature that's in a prime position to elevate - or squash - your home's curb appeal.
"When people buy a house, they expect it to have a roof, but if it's recently been redone, they will really see the value in that," Wyman says.
Fortunately, for a flashy and durable roof, you don't have to select a costly specialty material - like slate, tile, or metal. Composite asphalt shingles is the most common material, and it fits easily in many types of budgets, according to HGTV's "Maximum Value Home Exterior Projects: Roof."
Composite shingles are now available in a wide range of styles and colors, according to HGTV, allowing homeowners to create a custom look that matches the home's façade or plays up its architectural details.
Bargain Renovation #5: Add a Deck
Looking for a new living space that will add value to your home? Look no further than the square footage waiting right outside your back door.
In fact, adding a deck to your home could offer one of the highest cost-recoup opportunities, according to the cost-value report. And you don't have to choose a high-priced composite material. The survey found that decks built with wood actually delivered a greater return at resale than those built with composite material - boasting a 70 percent return on cost, compared to 62.8 percent.
Because deck-building is a potential DIY project - depending on your familiarity with a power saw, of course - savings could be even higher.
"Any type of work you have the ability to do yourself, with quality, makes it a bigger bargain because you're saving on labor costs," Wyman points out.
But if your home improvement skills are a little iffy, or you would rather sit back and relax during the renovation, it's probably best to leave this one up to the pros.