Home Upgrades That Are Seriously Worth Making (Think: ROI!)

by | BiggerPockets.com

There are few better things to come home to than a freshly renovated kitchen with modern appliances and pristine cabinetry. Whether you’re enjoying your new kitchen, bathroom, or backyard addition yourself, or hoping to increase your property value in an effort to sell, there are a few home upgrades that make more of an impact than others. Before demo day begins, be sure to consult this guide to help you make the most of your home improvement budget.

In this post, we’ll be exploring different types of home upgrades and how they translate to ROI, as well as appeal to home buyers and tenants.

Garage Door Replacement

Depending on where you live, your garage door can easily be the focal point of your home from the street’s view. In fact, a garage typically makes up 30 to 50 percent of what’s seen from the street, which means improving its appearance is actually a pretty high-impact item when it comes to making home renovations.

What it means for buyers:

  • Improved curb appeal
  • More space for storage
  • Potential for livable space

What it means for you:

According to Realtor.com, a garage door replacement has one of the highest ROIs at 98.3 percent, with a low job cost of $3,470. This means you’re making a cost-effective upgrade that has a huge impact on the value of your home.

Things to consider

When revamping your home’s garage door appearance, it’s best to consider the weather in your area before buying a new door. Materials like fiberglass have poor insulation and can become dull when exposed to harsh weather, hot or cold. Steel is actually the most popular material for garage doors thanks to its reasonable price, durability, and low maintenance.

You’ll also want to keep in mind which color you decide to paint your garage door as different buyers will have different tastes. Stick to neutral tones that match the rest of your home’s exterior and one that suits the feel of your neighborhood.

Landscape Improvements

If you live in an area where residents spend a lot of time outside, you may want to consider making some landscape improvements before selling or leasing your property. Just like a garage door, great landscaping adds curb appeal and can make your home more attractive to buyers and prospective tenants alike. Depending on the type of landscaping improvement you make, your property could see a reasonable or substantial value increase.

What it means for buyers:

  • Large trees and hedges can create added privacy
  • Xeriscaped areas tend to be more low maintenance
  • Fenced-in areas make property more attractive for buyers with kids or pets

What it means for you:

Changing up your home’s outdoor space can be as big or as small of a change as you want to make it. If you want to add a wood deck for example, you might expect a bill of just over $10,000 with an ROI of 82.8 percent. Or a xeriscaping project could end up making more sense for your budget.

Sacha Ferrandi, CEO of Source Capital Funding, offers this tip: “If you’re thinking about upgrading your home’s landscape, you should take a look at what’s popular in your neighborhood before starting the work. A xeriscaped front yard with cacti might not survive in your rainy climate, for example—creating more of a hassle for buyers rather than providing value.”

Related: Landscaping: 4 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Yard’s Curb Appeal

Smart Home Features

Smart home features may not have been on your to-do list of home renovations before, but they might need to be. Why? Home automation features like temperature control, home security, and lighting appeals to millennial buyers that are used to accessing just about everything they need to right from their fingertips.

Plus, integrated security systems add peace of mind for first-time homebuyers and families. In fact, 81% of homebuyers said they’d rather buy a home with smart home features already installed, according to Digitized Home.

What it means for buyers:

  • More robust security
  • Efficient utility management with an average savings of $98.30 per month (per Digitized Home stats)
  • Modern, innovative, exciting

What it means for you:

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a home automation system installation is between $381 and $1,771.

Things to consider

As smart home systems are becoming more and more popular, the options are becoming expansive. When choosing a home automation system, consider what features are going to be most useful for homebuyers in your area. For example, remote AC control might not be as useful in a cold place like Seattle, but maybe lighting control would be.

Backyard Deck

Another home upgrade on the lower end of job costs is a backyard deck addition. This project has a national average cost of just under $11,000, with an ROI of 82.8%, according to realtor.com.

What it means for buyers…

  • More appealing outdoor space
  • Room to host
  • Less maintenance than grass

Brian Kelley, VP of BCCU, offers this pro tip: “Compared to other projects like a major kitchen remodel or a master suite addition, a backyard deck addition still resides on the cheaper end of the spectrum, with a substantial ROI.”

Things to consider

If you live in an area where residents might not spend a lot of time outside, building a new deck may not be as much of a property value increase than a bathroom remodel or other comparable project. You will also want to take weather into consideration as you choose materials for your deck. If you live in a super wet climate, wood may not be as sustainable as a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material.

Luxury home interior boasts amazing white kitchen with custom white shaker cabinets, endless marble topped kitchen island with drawers and stainless steel appliances over wide planked hardwood floor.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen is most often the center of your home—it’s the place you cook meals, kids do homework, and friends and family gather. That’s why kitchen remodels are amongst the most popular (and most expensive) home upgrades. Now, you don’t have to replace every cabinet, backsplash, or fixture to boost your home’s market value. A few simple upgrades and modern enhancements could do the trick to make your home more appealing to buyers.

What it means for buyers:

  • More storage
  • New appliances with less maintenance
  • Improved aesthetics in the home’s interior

Related: Appliances – To Repair or Replace: That is the Question

What it means for you:

A minor kitchen remodel is what you make of it! A few simple changes like swapping out cabinet pulls and new appliances automatically make the kitchen look newer. Another low-budget change is simply taking the doors off of main dish cabinets for a more open, modern feel.

Things to consider

When visualizing a design for your new kitchen, be sure to choose features that will appeal to the general homebuyer’s market. A pink kitchen, for example, might be your dream—but it could turn off potential buyers when it’s time to sell.


Increasing your property’s value doesn’t have to mean a full on HGTV-scale remodel. With these tips, you can make an upgrade that fits into your budget and gives you a great return on your investment!

What other renovations do you think offer the most bang for your buck? 

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!


About Author

Emily Banks

This guest blog was written by Emily Banks. She is a Bay Area Native who got tired of SF’s cold beaches and decided to move to San Diego. She is currently the editor for 365 Business.  When she is not typing away on her office keyboard, she can be found eating street tacos in the sunshine.


  1. Peter W.

    This may be a dumb question but when I read the Realtor article on this I read it as negative ROIs (i.e. 98.3% “ROI” is really meant to be -1.7%). If these negative ROI numbers are right then how do people make money on rehabs? Is it some sort of synergy from doing multiple of these at the same time?

    If they’re really true and you make nearly $2 for every $1 you spend then wouldn’t we see a lot more of these from owner-occupants?

    • Vaughn K.

      A couple things. First, replacing a kitchen in total on a house that has a decent, but not ULTRA modern/fancy kitchen is completely different than replacing a kitchen in a place that is super trashed. Flippers usually want a place that is really trashed out (even if it’s just in cosmetic ways), and then pay accordingly up front, so as to have proper margins built into the deal. You don’t buy a place that’s already nice and saleable, at near top dollar, and then tear everything apart to try to build value.

      Also, flippers don’t get “retailed” on a lot of this stuff a lot of the time. They find a contractor who works for good rates, or might even cut them a great deal because of repeat business. AKA somebody who calls up the first contractor on Yelp and has them do their kitchen will be paying WAY more than an experienced flipper does to whoever they’re working with.

      Those numbers there are largely based off of having a place that is already decent, and paying full pop like your average homeowner will. Neither of those is a situation a flipper will be getting into if they know what they’re doing.

  2. One' Nielsen on

    Peter W, the money on flips is at the front end or if you are capturing a lot of the upgrade cost as sweat equity. Otherwise you are right. Most upgrades to a house done for aesthetic reasons are money losers. If its broke fix it. If you can fix it and make it pretty go for it. Otherwise you are right a 98% ROI is a 2% lose.

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