Affordable Ways To Increase Your Home's Value On A Budget

Housing prices in the United States are, for better or worse, stubbornly stuck at all-time highs. Yet, that belies the fact that the number of pre-owned homes actually changing hands across the country has slumped. In fact, existing home sales are down more than 40% from a peak that lasted much of 2021. Many sellers and would-be buyers blame higher mortgage rates — a side-effect of the Federal Reserve's policy of increasing short-term interest rates to combat inflation. (See what a soft landing means for the economy).

If you're considering selling your home into this competitive market, consider taking steps to make your property stand apart as more desirable to potential buyers. That said, if you're moving soon, you won't want to spend too much money on improvements. As well, there are certain renovation projects that should be avoided if you're planning to sell. For example, it's better to leave the decision of what defines a dream kitchen to the new owners. However, there are definitely some cheap, or even free, projects that can increase your home's value and likely appeal to all homebuyers.

Declutter your home

One affordable way to improve the value of your home is to get it tidy. Before any potential buyers arrive to tour your home, declutter its spaces as much as possible, starting with the countertops. Even if you're still using toiletries or cooking implements on a regular basis, make an effort to store them in a drawer, pantry, or medicine cabinet. Remember, it'll only have to be for a little while until you can get comfortable again and spread out.

The same goes for an excessive number of small appliances crowding kitchen counters that reduce the amount of counter space. Keeping a coffee maker on display is one thing, but when was the last time you used that bread maker? Now would also be the perfect time to look at expiration dates on various products and discard any which are past their prime. It'll be that much less work to do at moving time.

If you have a home office or den, shred or discard any old documents that are no longer needed — though Money Analysis recommends keeping your income tax documents for at least three years. As well, straighten up any cords and cables strewn about or consider consolidating a room's wiring with zip-ties. It's okay to leave some personal decorative items on shelves or bookcases, but don't get carried away. Do remove any items that might offend potential buyers.

Do a thorough deep clean

Once your home has been decluttered, the next affordable thing you can do for its look and value is to give it a thorough cleaning. That means vacuuming and/or mopping floors, making your kitchen and bathrooms shine, and cleaning all windows to let in as much natural light as possible. Odors like those from food or pets can create an unfavorable memory for potential buyers, too, so make sure to eliminate them and attempt to prevent them from recurring during the time that your property is on the market. 

If you and your family are able to accomplish the initial deep clean yourselves, that will provide the most value and cost savings. However, you won't want to skip the step of a thorough cleaning, even if that means hiring a professional service to complete the job right. For such services, homeowners can expect to pay up to $50 per hour, so obviously larger homes will cost more. As well, there may be a minimum charge if your home or apartment is very compact.

For reference, for a 3,000-square-foot home, Bob Vila and Thumbtack estimate an average starting cost of $300 for a deep clean, while Angi lists this as the average price for a standard cleaning. For a deep clean, Angi puts the average at $370 and goes up to $750. Bob Vila also gives a higher-end cost of $1,500, depending on the home's exact size and layout complexity. For example, multiple stories and many smaller rooms will cost more than an open floor plan would.

Paint the interior and/or exterior

Finally, once your home is decluttered and sparkling clean, consider painting it. While this project obviously isn't free of charge, painting is a home improvement project that delivers a serious return on investment. That's especially true if your home's interior features a multitude of different colors for each room or color schemes that are especially bold or busy. Instead, a neutral palette consisting of just one or two different colors like beige can easily raise the appeal of your home (on a budget) and reduce its time on the market. 

Painting the exterior of a home typically requires more skill and labor than painting the inside, particularly if your home is more than one story. However, if the existing exterior finish is cracked, peeling, or fading, it could well be worth the investment for a new professional coat. Ditto if the exterior color is outside the norm and possibly polarizing to the majority of homebuyers.

Painting ROI?

The average cost to paint a home's exterior is $3,150, according to Angi. The size, house type, and location are all factors in the total cost. For a 2,000-square-foot home, for example, Angi estimates a cost between $3,000 and $8,000. This Old House, meanwhile, says the average cost to paint a home this size is $5,200. The average cost per square feet is between $1 and $4.50.

So what's the reward? Painting the exterior of your home before selling can deliver serious curb appeal. Speaking to Bankrate, RE/MAX Realtor Reese Stewart notes that an exterior paint job can be costly, but says it "can make all the difference" when it comes to increasing a home's curb appeal (and thus, value).

Moving inside, repainting a home's walls a neutral color can make a big difference for not a lot of investment. According to Angi, the average cost to have pros paint the interior of your house is $2.75 per square foot. If you need detailed paintwork done, this average rises to nearly $5. A home that's 1,200 square feet could run you around $1,000 on the low end up to $4,500.

This said, if you have more time than you do money, or you simply enjoy DIY projects, you can tackle the inside of your home yourself for about $1 to $3 per square feet for the paint and materials. Forbes says the ROI for a fresh coat of interior paint is over 105% (depending on how much you spend on the project).