If I’m trying to sell my house, what can I improve on my own that’ll maximize the value of my time and financial investment?

We’ve all seen those shows on TV.

Teams of pros swoop in on an unsuspecting house, squint at the “challenges” it presents, then with the power of Hollywood magic… turn a $50,000 house into a $250,000 sale. Ta-dah! And just like that, the only thing left to do is find a nice bathing suit for swimming around in all that money like Scrooge McDuck.

What about the rest of us—we plebeians without teams of specialists, Hollywood magic, or unlimited funds?

If you turn to the Internet, you might find some confusing numbers out there. There’s a lot of articles that reference a “return on investment” that’s less than 100% of the money you invest.

For example, this Cost vs. Value report for 2019 suggests that if you undergo a backyard patio remodel, the job cost will run an average of $56,906 and net you a total resale value of $31,430.

Uhhh, what?

Recouping only 55.2% of your investment makes it seem like home improvement projects aren’t worth it. At that rate you’ll never make your money back--but clearly, that’s not right.

After all, we’ve seen them do it on the TV.

The problem with those estimate numbers is they don’t take into account DIY folks like us. All the numbers are assuming contractors are being brought in for the room additions, granite countertop installations, bathroom remodels, etc.

We all know that you can save a ton of money doing things yourself, but for me, knocking down a wall or adding a new bathroom is just a bit out of reach. BUT! There’s still hope. We’ve put together this list of a few home improvement projects you can tackle that will add value to your home.

1) Upgrade the Kitchen

If you’re like most people, the kitchen really is the heart of the home, so it’s worth it to spend some time improving it. It should be clean, comfortable, inviting, and updated—especially if you’re hoping for buyers to part with their doubloons.

Since we’re talking about achievable DIY projects here, you might want to reconsider that granite countertop—though it IS a good look.

Fortunately, there are a lot of other things you can do yourself in the kitchen.

  • Add a backsplash to your stove and sink area.

  • Keep it simple paint! A fresh coat, done well (don’t forget the baseboards!), goes a long way.

  • Upgrade those dusty old appliances to new, energy efficient models. A stainless steel fridge/oven/stove/dishwasher suite is a sophisticated look that won’t go out of style.

Closeup of modern kitchen featuring white and grey marble countertops, white cabinetry, and grey subway tile

Reinvent a Room

Do you have an unfinished basement?  A useable attic or area above the garage What about a “trash” room? You know--the one you throw stuff into when you don’t know what else to do with it?

It’s way easier to put existing space to work instead of building out brand-new area! Finish that basement and turn it into a game room for the kids. Transform that haven for squirrels above your garage into a quaint Airbnb and make some money on the side. Turn that trash room into…well, anything would be an improvement, really. You get it. Maximize the space you already have!

3) Go Green

In many places across the country it’s almost impossible to go outside in the summer thanks to the stifling heat. Across the globe temperatures are skyrocketing, the ice caps are melting, bees are disappearing… and cooling costs are on the rise.

Fortunately, some upgrades can help. Installing Energy Star rated windows can save you up to $500 a year AND you can apply for a 10% Green Energy Tax Credit. 

You can also save hundreds but improving breaches in the insulation in your house. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average home has enough leaks to equal a 3 × 3 foot hole in the wall. Yikes! That’s a lot of precious (and expensive) heating and cooling escaping out into the neighborhood.

Locate these leaks by purchasing a thermal leak detector online for under $40. Typical spots are around doors and windows, recessed lighting, the basement, or anywhere wires or ducts lead to outside the house. Happy hunting!

Landscaping featuring a walkway of round pavers bordered by a profusion of pink tulips, flowering trees in the distance

4) Basic Landscaping

It’s tempting, but try not to go nuts with this. You’ve got to find the right balance between the dusty pit where you played kick-the-can as a spirited youth and the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The goal is to increase curb appeal. You can have the most beautiful interior in the world, but if a potential buyer drives up and sees tumbleweeds and dirt, accented by a handful of errant rocks…they might keep driving.

See if you can discover your green thumb and do some planting, mulching, weeding, edging, and lawn care to improve things. Consider even adding a DIY birdbath, bird feeding station, bee hotel, wooden arbor, or bench swing for extra appeal.

5) For the Bold Among Us, Add a Deck!

Now this can be a big job, but if you’re looking for a project to tackle over the summer, this one can add some significant value to your house. More and more Americans are electing to have “stay-cations” in place of expensive trips. Just imagine the vacation-style shenanigans you could get up to all the time, right in your own backyard, if you had a deck!

The challenge with a more intensive project like this? You’re going to need some big tools to get it done--tools you may never need again. Good thing there’s an app for that!

6) New Doors

Are you surprised? Apparently, for the cost, replacing your garage door and front door with new, heavier, high-quality doors can yield some of the highest return on investment.

Have other ideas we missed?  What home improvement projects have you done recently?  Did they go according to plan? Tweet us at @Sparetoolzapp or connect with us on Facebook to share how you turned your home into a Scrooge-McDuck-style success!


For your next project, rent your tools instead of buying them. 



Happy Building!

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