The Best Home Improvements for the Money
By The Editors

Your home sweet home will be a lot sweeter if your sweeteners are things that pay for themselves.


Buy a trash-heap home and the first thing you're looking at is a pile of credit-card receipts.

Money on domestic junk is a losing proposition. But smart home repairs can actually pay for themselves.

That worst-house-in-the-best-neighborhood? You bought it. It’s yours, now — for better or worse.

Resale value is hidden behind the time, money, and effort you need to put into it.

Someplace under that peeling lino and water-stained wallboard is some genuine profit. It’s there, right behind the time, money, and effort you need to put into it.

So you’re going to have to throw some money at the new house.  But where to throw it?

The idea is to be strategic, with some of the fix-up expenses going towards long-term resale value (even if you have no plans to sell) and the rest going to what you want out of the place.

Lots of places like HGTV, Zillow, and RamseySolutions have good advice on where to spend money with a hope of making more than you spend.

All of these return about 90 to 100 percent or more of what you pay for them:

  • Garage door replacement.
  • Front door replacement.
  • Bathroom – but a small renovation, not a teardown. 
  • Landscaping. Add some color to the front yard and vary the height of plantings. Roses. Ferns. Basic stuff.
  • Kitchen. Again, not a teardown, but a small reno.

And here’s some stuff that doesn’t boost a home’s value by much because they’re a) expensive and b) only appealing to your inner idiot. That guy wants you to feel free to indulge, because there’s no point in owning and living in a house or a relationship that doesn’t feel like home:

  • Swimming pools, hot tubs, waterfalls dancing waters, etc.
  • Lawn art. Gnomes, windmills, plaster wildlife, all that. It’s your front yard, not a mini-golf course. A nice, tasteful Venus de Milo is okay, but only  if it’s the original.
  • High-end landscaping — the kind of thing that makes your patio feel like a floating pleasure pier.
  • Luxury features — like marble countertops around that amazing fire pit, which is another crazy thing that you’ll lose money on, because if you ever sell that super fixer-upper, the first thing a buyer’s going to wonder is how much it’ll cost to get rid of all the attractive, but lethal death-traps. Tiki torches, flamingos and normal home-buyers just don’t mix.