While housing values haven't rebounded to their pre-collapse peak, home remodeling has showed some modest gains according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). While most of the increase in demand for remodeling is for major home additions and alterations (jobs worth $25,000 or more), there is still growing demand for minor changes.
Remodeling magazine's "2008-2009 Cost vs. Value Report" confirms that the home renovation projects that will add the most value to your home (meaning that you are most likely to recoup the highest percentage of the project cost when you go to sell your home) are pricey big-ticket items such as replacing siding with fiber-cement ($13,177 with 87% cost recouped) or vinyl ($12,528 with 80% cost recouped) and adding a wood deck ($10,601 with 82% cost recouped).
But if those home renovations are beyond your price point and you're looking at a budget of just $1,000 what should you invest in to get the most bang for your buck? (Find out what you can do to improve your chances of having a quick sale in Selling Your Home In A Down Market.)
Priority #1 - The Kitchen
According to the National Association of Realtors, the kitchen is the single most important room for most prospective home buyers. If you don't have the funds to do a complete kitchen overhaul, don't despair. For just $1,000 you can make some significant changes that will have home buyers doing a double-take, such as:
- Refacing or refinishing your cabinets. Refacing involves replacing your cabinet doors but leaving the actual cabinets (boxes) intact. Depending on the size of your kitchen you can get it done for about $1,000 professionally or if you're willing to undertake a little "DIY" work you can do it for less. It's a quick and much less expensive way of getting "new" cabinets without the big demolition work (and big pricetag) of brand new cabinets.
If you have wood cabinets you could refinish them instead by simply stripping the old paint or varnish and applying new. For just a couple hundred dollars (plus some elbow grease to sand and paint or stain) you'll get a whole new look.
Changing out the countertops. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may be able to swing new granite countertops with a $1,000 budget (you can find them as low as $40 per square foot on sale or at an outlet). For larger kitchens consider other, less costly options like stainless steel or solid surfacing products like Corian. Use Dupont's online Corian Kitchen Countertop Installed Price Estimator to get an idea of how much it would cost you to have the product professionally installed. If you're feeling adventurous you could create your own form, purchase concrete mix and make the countertops yourself for as little as $50!
- Painting the room. With a gallon of paint covering approximately 350 square feet and running an average of $25, if you throw in the cost of brushes, tape, primer, etc. it could cost you as little as $75 to repaint a kitchen with 700 square feet of wall space.
- Upgrading appliances. Switching to energy-efficient Energy Star appliances will not only improve your kitchen's appearance, it will also save you (and future owners) money on your monthly utility bills.
- Updating accessories. Small changes like replacing outlet covers, cabinet knobs and drawer pulls can give your kitchen an entirely different look and feel. When you consider that the average kitchen can be upgraded with new accessories for as little as $150 (according to the DIY Network), it's a no-brainer for your small remodeling budget.
- Tiling the floor. According to the Weather Channel's home expert Danny Lipford, ceramic tile is the flooring preference for today's home buyer. If you have a small or moderate sized bathroom you may be able to find discounted tiles that you can install yourself (many tiling stores and home improvement centers offer free weeknight or weekend courses) for as little as $1 -$2 per square foot.
Priority #2 - Bathrooms
After kitchens, bathrooms are a home buyer's biggest concern. The good news here is that, according to the nationwide home improvement contractor ReliableRemodeler.com, bathroom renovations typically realize a homeowner an 80-90% return on their investment. For a small space, $1,000 can go a long way to helping you boost your home's value. (You think your updated house looks great. Will buyers feel the same way? Don't miss Fix It And Flip It: The Value of Remodeling.)
In addition to tiling the floor, you could upgrade the vanity and sink. Depending on the size of your vanity and the number of sinks you would like to install you can buy a premade, finished piece at most "big box" home improvement stores (i.e. Lowe's, Home Depot) and sink for several hundred dollars. Or opt for a pedestal sink (or two) and freestanding cabinets for storage - a hot new trend - and you'll still come in well under your $1,000 spending limit.
Priority #3 - Crank Up the Curb Appeal
Small changes outdoors can really boost your home's curb appeal for a potential buyer. Here's where your $1,000 budget can create the biggest impact:
- Add a deck. If you're a handy guy or gal, or you have friends that fall into that category, consider building a wood deck to add to your home's outdoor living space. If you're not looking at a mammoth-sized deck you should be able to purchase the lumber, tools and supplies for less than a grand.
- Replace the lawn. HGTV suggests that if you can get the job done for your $1,000 budget, ripping up your existing lawn and replacing it with sod will positively impact your home's value. Just don't forget to water!
- Pretty up the entranceway. Draw buyers to your front door with attractive planters, flowers and a hardwood bench or set of chairs and a small patio table. Line the walkway with a border of perennial plants or simple lighting fixtures.
Priority #4 - Get Efficient
Use your $1,000 budget to make a smart and eco-friendly investment in your home such as:
- Going tankless. Installing a tankless hot water heater for $150-$1,000 (depending on size) is an attractive energy-efficient upgrade for today's homeowners and buyers... and it will save you between 10-20% on your utility bills monthly.
- Installing ceiling fans. Ceiling fans aren't just decorative - they're an easy way to reduce your overall energy consumption during hot summer months. (Find out how to reduce your costs with these inexpensive tips in 6 Ways To Save On Your Utility Bill.)
Not sure where to start? Hire an interior designer for a flat hourly fee to get some professional advice or ask a local realtor to walk through your home and give his/her opinion of the best renovations you could make given your local market.