Live-In Home Improvement Guide

A colleague of mine had a great thought after reading my last article about our built-in project. He asked for some thoughts on the most beneficial upgrades and “special touches” to add to a home that can be enjoyed while living there but also pay off when homeowners decide to sell. I had to think a lot about these ideas because home improvement priorities are very subjective. Many of us would agree that there are so many things we would love to change or upgrade in our homes… but would those changes provide any kind of return on investment in a sale? Or would the next owner move in and overhaul our hard work?


The conundrum of deciding which improvement projects are worthwhile, both for enjoyment and resale, is one that many homeowners face. There are so many options and a ton of inspiration to choose from, but most of us have a budget to stick to that must be factored into making decisions. So, let’s discuss the best options for investment. Each of these ideas provides not only a high return on investment, but also tremendous enjoyment and quality of life benefits for current homeowners.


Home Improvement Guide

Bathroom featuring a glass walk-in shower with white subway tiled surround accented with vertical mosaic tile strip.

Bathroom Upgrades: Buyers want a spa-like bathroom with a walk-in shower and separate tub. Tile the shower, update the fixtures, and paint the room a soothing color. As a homeowner, I can assure you that you will love this relaxing space to get ready for the day. Don’t feel like you have to install luxury fixtures, but do make an effort to choose elegant, stylish finishes.






Effortless Style: This idea applies to many different parts of the home. Think about what materials are most durable and easy to clean. Go with quartz or granite for counter tops, and be thoughtful about your decisions for finishes on things like faucets and sinks. Many materials show dirt, finger prints, food splatters, etc. very easily. That will get old! Also consider resale factors and shy away from anything too customized. Stick with styles that will appeal to many types of styles and design tastes, otherwise buyers will only see a home full of things they need to change.


Good Lighting: Based on my experience (and I’ve toured a lot of homes), good lighting is essential. It is very obvious and depressing when a home is “dark”, so it’s a wise investment to install functional, yet stylish lighting in a home. Recessed lighting spaced three to five feet apart is typically recommended. For some pizzazz, add a beautiful pendant light or tasteful fixtures above dining tables, kitchen and bathroom counters, islands, or in the foyer. I have also been seeing a lot more style added to lights in bedrooms as well, so that could be a great option for a small investment to punch up bedrooms. Lighting can really add a lot of fun to a home!


Landscaping: I can sum up the ongoing benefit of landscaping pretty succinctly — curb appeal. Give your gorgeous home a nice setting. Landscaping provides color, life, charm, and pride of ownership for a home. You will love coming home to a house that has a nice flower bed or row of shrubbery versus a bare yard. Eventually, buyers will love the well-kept yard too. If you don’t have a green thumb, call a local garden center. Most will provide ideas or even a design for little or no cost.


Finish Out Attic/Basement: This improvement project is substantially more expensive than my other ideas. However, this project will actually add usable square footage to a home and endless possibilities for use and enjoyment. This is a great way to add a bonus room to be used for crafts, reading, an office, or playroom, and the basement can house a wet bar, workout room, man cave, additional playroom space, and a safe haven in the event of severe weather. I can honestly say that a basement is a non-negotiable want for our next home, so if you have the opportunity to finish out that space, get a quote and seriously consider it. These types of flex spaces are hard to find and can be really special if done right for a 90% return on investment.


Replace Windows: This is most applicable for older homes because of all the energy-efficiency standards and features that have been developed. I have had clients whose utility bills have decreased by several hundred dollars each month after installing new windows. It is a substantial investment, but it will pay off. Plus, the seals on new windows keep your home cooler or warmer relative to the season. It’s not pleasant to live in a drafty home, either hot or cold, so do consider this option if your home’s windows are more than 15 years old.


Flooring Options: Flooring can completely change the look and feel of a home. It is a big project, but updated floors are a great way to enjoy your space. Right now, hardwood and ceramic tile are in highest demand, so go with those materials if possible. If you’re changing out carpet, lower pile is preferable because it is easier to keep clean. The color and style possibilities are virtually endless, so do some homework and really think about what looks best in the home and what will be attractive in the long run. Consult a designer or friend with a good eye for style if you’re having a lot of trouble making a decision.


As I said before, there are so many home improvement projects that can make your home more functional, efficient, stylish, and comfortable, but you have to prioritize what you want most. How does your family “live” in the home? Where do you spend the most time? What stands out as lacking in the current space? Trust your instincts and you’ll make the right choices.

What other ideas do you think would provide improvements in your home?

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