Realtors Say These Cheap, Easy Upgrades (That You Can Do Yourself) Make Your Home More Valuable

2023-03-23 15:05:46 By : Ms. Joyce Tian

Don’t budget for a kitchen reno just yet — you’ve got this.

Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or just want to ensure your space is measuring up to its fullest potential, there are lots of upgrades at your disposal that can make a dramatic improvement. And even though “dramatic” sounds like code for “expensive,” you don’t need to spend a lot to make your home more valuable.

To help you decide how to get the biggest bang for your buck, Bustle spoke with real estate experts who have all weighed in on the simple swaps that add the most value to your home. Read on for all the upgrades that you can easily do yourself.

Kristina ODonnell, a Realty ONE associate broker and realtor, says that cleaning your home is an obvious but important first step — and this wood cleaning kit can help. “Clean stains from the floors, dust and wipe all surfaces — including doors, switch plates, counters, and cabinets and replace burnt-out light bulbs,” she advises. This cleaner works well on wooden floors, cabinets, furniture, and more. Just shake the bottle, buff the product on with a cloth, and you’ll have clean, shiny, polished surfaces.

“The least expensive thing a seller can do is to remember that less is more,” ODonnell tells Bustle, making these vacuum storage bags a must on your house prep shopping list. “Remove excessive decorations and personal items, pre-pack these things as preparation for the move,” she continues. This set comes with eight size-small bags to help reduce the space of your items by up to 80%. It even has a travel pump for when you’re on the go.

“A good addition would be a few fresh towels in the bathrooms placed neatly over the towel bar,” ODonnell advises, and this bathroom towel set definitely fits the bill. It comes with 12 towels of varying sizes, including bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. They’re made from thick, soft 100% cotton and will add a coordinated touch to any space.

ODonnell knows that sometimes messes happen, but she has a stylish solution. “If the closets are messy, pick up a few simple square baskets to store the messy or miscellaneous items to create or give the appearance of organization,” she says. Thankfully, you can choose whatever shape basket you’d like, like this rope storage basket. It comes in over a dozen color options, including solid and two-toned finishes, and has convenient handles that help you easily organize your space.

Another easy tidying solution, ODonnell says, is to “freshen up the kitchen cabinets with shelf liners.” This set measures 18 by 36 inches, though it comes in a few different sets of dimensions so you can get the perfect fit. They sit directly on top of wire shelves to ensure items don’t fall through the cracks while delivering an overall cohesive look that’s sure to impress guests and future buyers alike. They’re waterproof, too, making them super easy to clean.

ODonnell understands the value of good lighting, like these LED motion sensor lights. “For evening appointments, it is best to have a light in each room operable by the wall switch or include a nightlight,” she says. These lights, which are motion activated, can be easily installed with either screws or adhesive tape, both of which come included with purchase. No need to worry about battery drain, either, since they automatically shut off as well.

Freshen up the look of your space with this decor paint. “Fresh paint is always desirable using muted and basic colors. Whatever you do, remember to keep it simple as the goal is to make the home appeal to as many buyers as possible,” ODonnell says. This sage green paint dries to a vintage, chalky finish and can be used on cabinets, furniture, and more.

Gabriela Agostinelli, a realtor, advises paying particular attention to your entryway, and you can easily dress it up with this plaid rug. “Landscaping and the front porch or door are your first impression. While the buyer agent is trying to open the lockbox, the buyers are checking everything out. Make sure you have a fresh doormat,” she counsels. This model is both reversible and washable, making it practical for outdoor use on its own or layered underneath a doormat.

But the attention to outdoor detail doesn’t need to stop at the entryway. “In the backyard, also utilize lighting to create a nice ambiance. Solar lights are a good choice,” Agostinelli says. These solar outdoor lamps give off a lovely glow thanks to the panels that charge during the day so you can turn them on and off at night. The interior strand lights give them a unique look for a warm ambiance.

There are tons of small styling choices you can make that will have lots of impact, too. “Have plants and a beautiful pillow on your front porch furniture. It will look inviting,” Agostinelli says, and this set of pillow covers is a great option. Featuring a charming nature-inspired print, these covers come in a range of dimensions to fit multiple pillow sizes. Made from durable polyester, they’re sure to provide a pop of color to your outdoor furniture.

“I also recommend creating a Zen or meditation garden. It is inexpensive and it’ll wow the buyers,” Agostinelli says. “You only need a water fountain, some plants, decorative rocks, and a meditation pillow,” she adds. And this meditation cushion is a great first step toward that goal. It’s filled with buckwheat and protected by a foam layer to help with spinal alignment all without sacrificing comfort.

Small swaps like changing out hardware can make a world of difference, according to Agostinelli. “Although gold is coming back, gold doorknobs scream dated. The most popular among buyers is the matte black, Tuscan bronze, and polished brass,” she says. Grab yourself this pack of cabinet knobs in trendy matte black to give your home that updated look. It comes in a set of five and is perfect for both drawers and cabinets.

“A new kitchen and bathroom faucet will make your home look updated at a low cost,” Agostinelli says, adding that there are tons of varieties available with all kinds of fancy upgrades. This faucet features a pull-down sprayer with a rocker switch that allows you to choose between spray or stream, with a pause button on top. It’s made from stainless steel and features a modern brushed nickel finish.

“Having the perfect lighting atmosphere in your home is very important. An ugly and dated chandelier and light fixtures can bring your room down,” Agostinelli says, so she recommends replacing it with a modern option like this pendant light to give your home a facelift. It features a triple-layer iron orb frame with crystal detailing and needs just one 60-watt bulb.

Alex Blizard, a realtor at The Gorfinkle Group, is yet another expert to echo the importance of maintaining your outdoor space. “Curb appeal is the first aspect of a home that potential buyers see as they pull up the driveway ... Easy and cheap upgrades such as planting flowers, cutting the grass, clearing out weeds are all good ways to start,” Blizard tells Bustle. Thankfully, this gardening set makes it easy. It’s made from stainless steel and includes everything you need for DIY fixes, like a weeder, cultivator, trowel, and more. It even comes with a tote to safely stow all your tools.

Jennifer Wehner, author of The Renaissance Real Estate Agent: Unleash the Art of Systems In Your Real Estate Business and CEO of The Wehner Group, is another expert who agrees old hardware can date your home. “Slightly upgrading the handles on your kitchen cabinets is one of the cheapest ways to create more of a luxury feel,” she says, and these 5-inch cabinet pulls can do the trick. They’re made from stainless steel and feature a matte black finish. The best part is you get a whopping 30 pulls for just $23.

“Nothing screams wear and tear on a home like dirty carpet or chipped tile,” Wehner says, so clean it up with this carpet and rug cleaner. It’s made with a powder formula and is great for fabrics you don’t want to get wet, since it soaks up stains like a sponge. Just sprinkle it on, brush it in, and vacuum it away to deodorize and remove stains.

Realtor Bree-Anna MacDonell says that home sales are often made in the kitchen and bathrooms, so focusing your attention there can have the biggest impact. “In most cases, simply changing out hardware and updating the lighting will give your home a new modern updated feel. A new sleek mirror in the bathroom always packs a big punch while staying on budget,” she explains. Thankfully, you can score this rectangular wall mirror on the cheap. It’s low profile and comes with all the brackets and hanging hardware you need to install it.

Ginger Lazovik, real estate agent for the Falk Ruvin Gallagher team, lays it out simply: “The entryway and adjacent rooms continue to draw a buyer in or turn them off. Make sure your entry way has good lighting, obvious storage for coats, and more, and a fresh coat of paint.” Luckily, this coat rack gives you plenty of places to store or stage belongings, thanks to its five double-sided metal hooks, each of which can hold up to 5 pounds.

Given Lazovik’s guidance about a well-considered entryway, this industrial ceiling light is another excellent option to ensure your entryway has good lighting. The curved metal cage surrounding the lamp casts a lovely scattered glow, which is sure to help create a warm and welcoming environment. The crystal rods encircling the bulb add a modern, elegant touch.

Your lighting choices aren’t limited to just bulbs and fixtures. “Remove old, dusty curtains and let the light shine in,” Lazovik says, and these gauzy, sheer curtains will certainly do the trick. They offer a touch of privacy while letting in tons of natural light and feature a rod pocket-style closure at the top, meaning you just slide your curtain rod through the hollow portion at the top. They’re even machine washable.

Another tip from Lazovik is to make sure you clean your windows, and this squeegee set can help. “Dusty, cobweb-filled windows dampen light and make a room look dingy,” she explains, so make use of this cleaning set that comes with an extendable pole and a swiveling head that can rotate to several different angles. It even comes with a pair of microfiber cloths for a deeper clean.

Don’t forget to make sure upholstered furniture looks fresh and clean, Lazovik notes. “I love to use Folex on any stubborn spots or stains that need to be removed prior to showing,” she says. Folex is a fabric stain remover beloved by reviewers, with nearly 80,000 weighing in to give it a 4.5-star rating. It’s great for dirt, wine, food, grease, and more. Just spray it on, rub it into the stain, and let it dry. No need to rinse.

Diana Rodgers, a realtor with Keller Williams Main Line, PA, has a clever lighting trick up her sleeve. “One absolute favorite go-to is cordless lightbulbs. It’s a subtle change but it helps keep a seller's home clear of long or tangled cords. Everyone knows lamps need cords to operate but no one wants to see them running along the floor to the outlet.” These rechargeable lightbulbs fit the bill since they give off the equivalent of 40 watts even when not connected to a power source. They even come with a set of power cap hooks so you can hang them up like a camping lantern.

“Sticking with lights,” Rodgers continues, “An easy upgrade that elevates any seller’s home is a wireless painting light. It is affordable, easy to install, and versatile because it can be used over paintings, bookshelves, or even as a light over a night stand,” she says. This model uses a remote control to let you customize your lighting scheme so you can choose among three different levels of light warmth and control the dimness. It runs on three AA batteries.

“Tall thin planters flanking the front door should be a go-to for sellers who do not want to overstretch their landscaping budget before listing their home,” Rodgers says, adding that they can create symmetry and add color to an entryway. This concrete planter adds a sleek, minimalist touch that won’t compete with whichever type of plant or flower you choose to showcase. It’s weather resistant and features a drainage hole at the bottom, too.

Rodgers recommends stocking up on decorative trays like this one. “They are a great way to organize items,” she explains, adding, “They can be used on coffee tables, side tables, on TV consoles and even as a centerpiece for a dining room or foyer table.” This rectangular version comes in tons of colors and features gold accent handles for a pop of metallic color. Rodgers cautions against over-filling trays, however, and notes that you should stick to creating “nests” of three items.

Another decorative hack from Rodgers is to go with virtually indestructible plants. “Preserved Boxwood topiary plants are a fan favorite,” Rodgers explains. “These very easy-to-maintain plants bring beauty and nature to any space. Boxwoods are perfect for homes where the seller is no longer living there as they do not require water. They provide a pop of color and match any decor style and color.” This particular model is a perfect accent size, measuring 5.5 inches tall. Just mist it once a month to help it stay green and lush.

Tom McSherry, founder and real estate expert of Sections For Sale NZ has an affordable tip to tie a space together. “If the rooms in a home have mismatched trim and beams, adding some molding to unify them can add instant value,” he explains. This flexible molding trim can be measured and cut to your precise needs and sticks directly to walls thanks to its adhesive backing. It’s waterproof and can be wiped clean with a damp towel.

McSherry also recommends updating your entryway, since it can be done affordably and can deliver a serious wow factor. “A front door replacement with an eye-catching model, along with a few simple décor items such as a rug, mirror, or artwork can add instant curb appeal and value,” he says. This runner rug is an excellent, versatile choice since it can be used in entryways, hallways, and kitchens alike. It’s made from a cotton thread with a rubber backing.

Mike Qiu, the owner of, recommends replacing or reviving worn-out flooring, and these furniture repair markers can help. “This upgrade can be done with minimal investment and effort, but it can have a significant impact on the overall appearance and value of your home,” Qiu says. Each set comes with six markers and six wax crayons in natural wood shades. Just shade in scuffs with the closest color match to camouflage scratches.

Martin Orefice, the CEO of Rent To Own Labs, explains that upgraded house markers like these steel numbers are a great way to add curb appeal. “Something new, clean, and clearly visible can go a long way to making your home look nicer and also making it easier to find,” he tells Bustle. These floating stainless steel numbers have a matte black finish, won’t rust, and come with the necessary hardware for installation.

Orefice is another expert who understands the value of good lighting. “It's a small thing, but upgrading all of your light bulbs can help to make your home look bright, clean, and inviting for showings,” he says, adding that a mismatched mixture of different bulbs can be a turnoff for some buyers. So snag this four-pack of vintage Edison bulbs for a retro, cohesive look. They boast 60 watts and feature a soft warm glow that’s not too harsh.

Jennifer Patchen, a broker at Opendoor, explains that there are easy ways to create a dramatic difference in your kitchen. “Upgrading your backsplash can be very inexpensive depending on the materials you select and if you DIY. Adhesive tile mats are all the rage and make installing backsplash easy for even the most rookie DIYers,” she says. This particular peel-and-stick tile is both heat and moisture resistant and can be trimmed to your specifications. To remove them, simply use a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive.

“A statement color for the front door can brighten up the overall look of the home,” Patchen says, and this door paint in a rich cranberry will certainly do the trick, but the shade you select may depend on your area. “I would recommend choosing a bold color that complements and enhances the color of the house but also doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood,” she adds. This particular option won’t fade or chip and dries in just one hour.

Ray Brosnan, managing director of Brosnan Property Solutions, praises the utility of shelves for their ability to neatly organize clutter. He adds, “Any type of extra storage space that you can add will immediately increase the value of your home. By taking advantage of the free space that is available and adding shelves, you can completely change the dynamic of a room.” These floating shelves, which come in a set of three, combine the rustic look of wood with the industrial feel of the metal brackets to create useful storage that works in multiple spaces.

There’s a lot of sense in adding items like this spice rack organizer, Brosnan says. “As more people are choosing to cook for themselves at home, additional space in the kitchen is at an all-time premium. Having the space to correctly organize your spices and equipment can make cooking a whole lot easier,” he explains. This one is made of mesh metal and comes with 28 glass jars with waterproof labels for a streamlined look.

Ashley Melton, a realtor in Charleston, S.C., has a great hack for outdated garages. “One of my favorite cheap upgrades is garage door magnet hardware. It's an instant update, making a plain garage door look custom and amazing,” she says. The set comes with six pieces — mimicking handles and hinges — to deliver a rustic carriage door look in an instant. They’re both UV and weather resistant, too.

Eli Pasternak, the owner of Liberty House Buying Group, recommends a smart plug like this one. “Smart plugs are the best cheap upgrades for your home. They look pretty expensive and have an elegant look,” he says. This particular model pairs with Amazon’s Alexa so you can set up a timer with your lights, appliances, and more. Unlike other models, its low-profile design keeps your second outlet free as well.

Pasternak also believes a toiletry station like this toothbrush holder will add value to your home. “It can be mounted to the wall, which helps avoid cluttering the bathroom. They come in different shapes and styles. This addition can make your toilet look regal,” he explains. This version comes with compartments for floss, a shelf for products, and magnetic cups. Just push a toothbrush into the slot to dispense toothpaste when needed.