101 Worthwhile Home Improvement Ideas (Part 1: Your Home’s Interior)

Upstairs home improvement tips

This is the first of a three-part series focusing on improvements to increase your home’s market value and, if you’re planning on selling your home, improve your chances for a quick sale.  Throughout this series, our recommendations are based on the actual experience of homeowners we have worked with in the past to successfully market and sell their properties.  These ideas range from the inexpensive to some that require planning and expense.  But regardless of their cost, each suggestion will result in a positive return on the time and money you invest.

In home improvement, planning and cost control are critical.  These recommended improvements are known from actual experience to work, but it is up to you as the homeowner to implement them smartly.  This means that you need to plan, shop bids and prices, and execute your plan efficiently.  Don’t take on any project you can’t finish.  Poorly planned projects tend to drag out which diminishes your chances for successful and profitable completion.  So plan as though you are undertaking a military mission.  There’s  a lot more downside to under-planning than there is to over-planning.

Here’s our first set of ideas which are general recommendations to upgrade the interior of your home:

Brighten rooms with new wall paint.  Try an interior color scheme that creates a more relaxing environment.   Clean, soft blues, greens, and yellows and warm, earthy beiges, tans and browns usually work.  The concept is to use subtle, neutral interior wall paint colors then add colorful accessories for excitement and interest.  Painting is a relatively low-cost project with high returns.

Window covering replacement.  New curtains and blinds can go a long way in brightening and updating a room.  Try sheers for a light, breezy atmosphere; drapery or blinds when more privacy is required.

Increase storage space in the garage, utility/laundry room, kitchen and baths.  Either replace outdated shelving and cabinets with modern, efficient designs or construct new storage where space permits.  Do not over-build; the goal is a clean, uncluttered appearance.

Turn unused attic space into living space.  Finish the attic and convert it into an extra bedroom.  In general, houses with more bedrooms sell at a higher price and the return on investment on attic conversions can exceed 100% if done well.

Update the laundry room.  A well-designed laundry room that is modern, bright, and cheerful makes household tasks more tolerable.  Gives your home another competitive selling point and well worth the investment.

Update HVAC equipment including an energy-efficient furnace.  Prospective buyers always appreciate modern, energy-saving mechanical systems – it’s one less thing they have to do.

Replace filters of HVAC units.  Helps air smell fresher.

Install a programmable thermostat.  Much more energy-efficient than non-programmable thermostats.

Update/upgrade insulation.  Use appropriate R-value insulation for both thermal and sound insulation.  An easy way to impress buyers.

Update master bedroom design.  A romantic bedroom design is very appealing to potential buyers.  Consider soft, pastel wall paint colors, limited use of floral wallpaper, and crown molding.

Add crown molding.  Available in countless colors, widths, and styles – from simple to elegant; classic to contemporary.  Molding is the icing on the cake and gives an ordinary looking room the special touch needed to make it stand out.

Install a bay window.  Enhances ambience by bringing light and outside scenery into the room.  Makes rooms feel more open, spacious, and inviting to potential buyers.

Update child bedroom décor.  Remove age-sensitive design features such as nursery rhyme themes.  Instead select non-age-specific themes and colors that are more appealing to a greater number of potential buyers.

Replace old light bulbs with new, brighter bulbs.  Better light creates the impression of more space, assuming the room is clean and uncluttered.

Install track lighting.  To highlight artwork, showcase a particular element (such as a kitchen island) or illuminate the entire room.  Consider flex track lighting or suspended track lighting.  Include a dimmer switch to make lighting more versatile and an effective mood enhancer.

Clean or replace worn carpeting.  Any real estate agent knows that new, wall-to-wall carpet can sway potential buyers to select your house over another.  Type of carpeting is important; opt for the best quality you can afford in a neutral color.  If old carpeting is still in good condition but soiled or stained, hire a professional carpet cleaner for spot removal or deep cleaning.  A necessary improvement that also has a high return.

Install wood wall paneling.  A popular home improvement project that improves room appearance and increases home market value.  Select the best quality interior wall paneling you can afford.

Add a built-in.  They not only save space but give a home designer appeal.  Consider a built-in bookcase for the den or a built-in entertainment center for the family room.

Install a fireplace.  Whether wood, electric, or gas, a well-constructed fireplace always improves market value.

Clean existing fireplace.  Invest in new fireplace tools and/or accents.

Install a home sound system.  Although usually more of a lifestyle project, in certain geographic regions it’s a norm for new construction.  Particularly important for homes designed for indoor/outdoor entertaining (see Part 3 of this series, Exterior & Landscaping).

Finish the basement by building a game room /exercise room.  Use durable, neutral carpeting and finishes.  Wire the room for sound and entertainment.  Don’t forget abundant storage.

Selectively purchase new furniture.  Sometimes a good option if you’re moving and know you’ll be purchasing a few new pieces anyways.  New furniture pieces can help buyers visualize the potential of a room.

Dispose of junk furniture.  Space is worth money.  If you know you’re going to get rid of old furniture when you move, then get rid of it now.  Your rooms will look larger and the extra space is worth more than the furniture.

Give your home a thorough cleaning.  Top to bottom, even wash the windows.  You’ve probably never done it before.  Clean homes get more money and it costs you almost nothing if you do it yourself (or with free help).  This ought to be a no-brainer, but some people don’t believe it’s actually true.  Cleaning and polishing has a very high return on investment.

Make sure all doorknobs, latches, deadbolts, handles and faucets work.  Even if you home is not new, buyers will feel reassured that everything actually works.  Similar to buying an older vehicle that has been meticulously maintained.

Make sure the doorbell works.  No explanation necessary.

As the occupant of your home, you’re there to enjoy the benefits of the improvements you make.  However, from a purely financial perspective, it’s best not to over-improve your home to the point it exceeds the value of any other home in your market.  Sometimes it’s possible to push the market a bit, but to do that you’ll need to be able to concretely justify the amount your home’s value exceeds comparable home sales.  You’ll want to have those facts ready when your house goes on the market because people will ask (including the mortgage lender’s appraiser).

If you liked this article, be sure to see Part 2 and Part 3 that focus on Kitchens & Baths and Exterior & Landscaping.