Home Improvements That Will Raise Your Property Value in San Diego

miniature house with coins stacked next to it

You have to spend money to make money. That cliche is especially true when it comes to home improvements. By spending some money to maintain your home, you can make a lot of money when it comes time to sell.

Here are the home improvements that will increase your property value in San Diego: Kitchen and bathroom updates, smart home devices, EnergyStar appliances, front yard landscaping, fire pit out back, and a replacement for that old, tired garage door.

In this article, we will walk you through all the improvements that will improve your value of your San Diego home and some that may not be worth the money.

Table of Contents

This article will cover:

DIY vs. Contractor Projects

DIY Construction
Photo credit: Pixabay


Cost is key when it comes to DIY projects. You can save a lot of money by doing the job yourself, right? Not so fast. Start by determining the skills, tools, and materials you’ll need to do the job. If you don’t have them, calculate what it will take to get them.

This can end up costing more than hiring a contractor. Contractors can often get better deals on materials, and they’ll have the tools and know-how.

Keep in mind: Time is money. If it’ll take you more time than you have to invest in the project, it’s better to hire a professional.


Safety is king (and queen) when it comes to home improvement.

For example, interior painting might be something you can safely accomplish on your own, but exterior painting often involves scaling high ladders. Even if you have one tall enough, you may not have the comfort level or experience to do the job safely yourself.

The same goes for replacing siding. Knocking down walls is another job better left to the professionals. Take out a load-bearing wall, and you’ve got costly and dangerous structural damage to your home.

Saving a few dollars here and there could end up costing you thousands in the emergency room. If you can’t do it safely, hire a pro.

Building code permits

Another consideration before embarking on any DIY project? Building code permits.

In San Diego, you need permits for additions and remodeling projects and any repairs to electrical, mechanical, or plumbing systems.

Check with the city before beginning any project since requirements vary in different locations. A contractor can navigate the permit process on larger projects and will know which permits you need.

Getting the Best Return on Your Investment

Brick and stone house
Photo credit: Pixabay

Projects with the best ROI

If you choose wisely, improvements to your home can increase its value. According to the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value report, these are the top five areas with the best return on investment in San Diego. Note: prices quoted are averages and will vary.

Garage door replacement

Cost: $3,893
Resale value: $5,571
Return on Investment (ROI): 143.1%

If you need a new garage door, you’ll get a great return on your investment. You’ll give your home an instant facelift, and you can save on heating and cooling costs with an insulated garage door.

Manufactured stone veneer

Cost: $10,654
Resale value: $14,453
ROI: 135.7%

Add the beauty of stone to your home without the installation hassle and high price of natural stone. Manufactured stone veneer is lightweight, flexible, and you can install it on almost any surface. 

Entry door replacement

Cost: $2,088
Resale value: $2,325
ROI: 111.4%

This is another way to up your home’s curb appeal. Steel or fiberglass doors with insulation can improve your home’s energy efficiency. They’re also durable and more secure than the builder-grade variety.

Roof replacement (asphalt shingles)

Cost: $27,321
Resale value: $25,806
ROI: 94.5%

A new roof isn’t cheap, but you will get a lot of your money back when you sell your home. A leaking, sagging roof won’t pass inspection. A new roof will boost curb appeal and energy efficiency.  

Window replacement (vinyl)

Cost: $19,575
Resale value: $18,438
ROI: 94.2%

You’ll save money on your energy bill with warm and cool air staying inside your home. Vinyl frame windows need less maintenance than wood and will add a modern look to your home.

Worst investment projects 

Looking at the same report from Remodeling Magazine, the projects with the worst ROI involve major, upscale remodels or additions to your home. 

An upscale kitchen remodel can set you back $150,000 or more. You’ll only get 58% of that staggering sum back if you sell your home. 

Upscale or mid-range bathroom remodels give you a 61% and 73% return on your investment, respectively. 

Want to add a new master bedroom or bathroom? Go for it, but don’t expect to recoup a lot of the cost. ROI for a new bathroom is 63%; ROI for an upscale master suite is 65%.

Another project that is the subject of debate: swimming pools. A swimming pool adds about $20,000 in value to a median-priced home in San Diego. Installing an in-ground swimming pool can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $80,000 plus. 

Pools need maintenance, and if you don’t have the time or desire, you’ll have to pay someone else to do it. There is also the issue of safety.  San Diego requires fencing at least 6 feet high around swimming pools, so that’s another cost. 

While you may be OK with this investment, prospective homebuyers may not want the cost, hassle, or liability that comes with a backyard pool.

Indoor Projects 


White paint and roller
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Painting is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to transform the interior of your home. On average, it costs between $2600 and $4000 to hire a pro for a 1,900-square-foot home. You can cut that cost by more than 50% if you do it yourself. 

Once again, consider your skill level and the amount of time you have to paint your home.


An updated kitchen is an attractive feature for prospective homebuyers. If you don’t have $50,000+ for a major kitchen remodel, consider smaller changes that can have a big impact. 

You can save some green by going green. Energy Star certified appliances will appeal to younger, eco-conscious buyers. Repainting or refacing outdated cabinets is cheaper than replacing them. A new faucet, updated lighting fixtures, or new drawer pulls can update an older kitchen.


Tile bathroom
Photo Credit: David Cedrone / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

New light fixtures, a refaced or repainted vanity, and updated accessories like towel rods can help modernize an outdated bathroom. 

If you’re going a bit bigger, consider new flooring (get rid of carpet if you still have it!). Walk-in showers are edging out jetted tubs in master bathrooms. You’ll save on the water bill with low flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets. 


Homebuyers prefer hardwood flooring because of its beauty and durability. This is a costly upgrade, and prices vary depending on the materials you choose. 

You can spend anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000+ for 200 square feet if you have it professionally installed. If that’s a budget buster, you can save money installing laminate or vinyl plank flooring yourself.  

Plumbing and fixtures 

It’s not glamorous, but functional plumbing is a critical part of home maintenance. If you’re selling your home, the plumbing must work. You’ll have to replace leaking or broken pipes. 

If it’s time to replace your water heater, get an energy-efficient model or even a tankless water heater. Prices range from $1,000-$3,000. New fixtures can update your kitchen and bath. 

Landscaping Trends That Improve Property Value 

Landscaping with plants
Photo credit: Shutterstock


If you keep a well-manicured, pristine lawn, you’ll be raking in the profits when you sell. We recommend planting Bermudagrass, tall fescue and St. Augustine for the best looking drought-tolerant lawns. The high concentration of sea salt in the soil may make it tough to maintain other types of grass.

Artificial turf is a big no-no when it comes to improvements that will raise your property value. An artificial lawn is a big turn-off to prospective buyers with children and pets. 


Photo credit: Curtis Clark / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

Flowers add pops of color to any yard. Choose low maintenance, native plants accustomed to San Diego’s climate and soil conditions. Some options: California Poppy (the state flower), heat and drought-tolerant Yarrow, or pollinator magnet California fuchsia.


Trees add long-lasting beauty and cooling shade to any landscape. Again, native species cut down on maintenance and environmental damage. Also, consider the tree’s size at maturity when deciding what and where to plant. Excellent choices include purple-blossomed Jacaranda trees, Western Redbud, and Royal Purple Smoke Tree.


Hardscaping adds functionality to your outdoor space while cutting down on maintenance. The term refers to any non-living elements in your yard. Adding more living space to your home increases its value.

Rocks vs. pavers

Whether it’s a walkway or driveway, pavers give you a smoother surface and extra curb appeal. Gravel is less expensive and low maintenance, but keep in mind the loose stones can and do travel. It’s also not as comfortable for bare feet. 

Fire pits

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says you’ll recoup 67% of the cost of installing a fire pit. Fire pits are a focal point, a fun gathering place for family and friends, and they extend the hours you can stay outside on a chillier night.

Outdoor kitchens

It’s hard to imagine a city more suited to an outdoor kitchen than San Diego. Even in the summer heat, they’re appealing because you don’t have to heat up your house to cook dinner. According to the NAR, you’ll get 71% percent of the cost back when you sell your home.


Add beauty and zen to your outdoor zone with a water feature. The sight and sound of moving water calm the nerves and can drown out the neighborhood noise. But keep in mind: A fountain or water feature won’t add value to your home. Then again, it won’t devalue it either.

Retaining walls/gazebos/pergolas

These features add visual interest and increase privacy. They can also help with functionality.

For example, a retaining wall can prevent soil erosion. Gazebos can add another gathering area with seating. Pergolas offer shade and can support hanging plants or vines.

Deck vs. patio

Decks and patios give you more outdoor space, and they’re popular among the home buying set. But which one is the better choice?

Decks are platforms attached to your home, while patios sit on the ground. Patios are usually cheaper, but you’ll usually get a better ROI with a deck. 


Decks are made of wood or composite boards. Wood decking is cheaper than composite, and many homeowners love the traditional look. You’ll have to sand and repaint or restain a wooden deck. While composite decks cost more initially, they’re lower maintenance and last longer than a wooden deck.

Patios are most commonly made of concrete, brick, stone, pavers, tiles, or loose gravel. There are pros and cons to each, and the design options are endless.

Fencing for value

A new fence will cost you anywhere from $6 to $25 per linear foot and will bring you about a 50% ROI.  

Benefits of fencing

Fences can add security, privacy, and style to your yard. They serve the dual purpose of keeping unwanted intruders out of your yard and your kids and pets in it.

Types of fencing

Wooden fences remain the most popular because of their height (privacy) and classic look. PVC fencing is a cheaper option. It’s not as sturdy, but it’s water-resistant and can last for years. 

Vinyl fences have a higher price point, but they don’t need repainting and are more durable than a wooden fence.

Aluminum fencing is growing in popularity. It’s a more decorative option and is low maintenance.

A metal or stone fence will cost you more, but you’ll see a 70% return on your investment.

Outdoor lighting

Light up the night by installing outdoor lighting. It adds ambiance and security, accentuates your home, and gives you more time to enjoy your outdoor oasis. It also entices buyers who drive by at night.

The National Association of Landscaping Pros says you’ll see a 50% return on your outdoor lighting investment. 

Solar lights

These lights are cost and energy-efficient, and they’re easy to install. They look great along walkways and driveways and help your family and friends avoid obstacles in their path.

LED lighting

You can make your space shine with LEDs (light emitting diodes). They’re brighter and more energy-efficient than traditional bulbs. They cost more initially, but you don’t have to replace them as often.

From waterproof strips to string lights to color-changing LEDs, you can use them in all kinds of ways in your lighting design.

Automatic lighting

If you’re adding lighting, you might as well make it smart. Choose light bulbs/systems that can connect to your phone, router, or smart hub. Smart switches allow for remote on/off functions or more advanced options like motion sensors or voice-activated control. 

Light timers are nothing new, but newer technology allows you to control timing, brightness, and even color via an app or your home network.

Irrigation systems

Automatic sprinklers sprinkling water on lawn
Photo credit: Brenda Ryan / Lawnstarter

Automatic sprinklers

Automated sprinkler systems save time and conserve water. You’ll want to make sure yours is in good working order if you’re selling your house.

If it’s time for a replacement, consider a smarter system that you can control from your phone or home hub. Some measure weather and soil conditions and turn on only when your lawn needs water. 

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation uses less water and puts it right where your plants and flowers need it … at the roots. Like sprinklers, you can get app-controlled smart systems that detect when your plants need water.

Smart Home Features 

Smart thermostat
Photo Credit: EVB Energy Ltd / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Smart home technology is a wise investment, especially if you’re putting your house on the market soon. This industry is expected to reach $135.3 billion by 2025.

Smart home features won’t necessarily raise your property value, but they will help your home sell faster.

Here are some of the features with the highest demand:

Automatic locks

The first and easiest switch is to smart bulbs. You can control them by phone or voice activation and schedule when they’ll turn on and off.

Smart plugs are another option and allow you to turn lights on or off without a switch. 

For rooms with a lot of lights, a smart switch might be the best move. Wired versions are most common, but wireless systems are also available.


Smart thermostats take programmable systems one step further. They learn your patterns and behavior and adjust heating and cooling accordingly. They cost around $130 and can save you hundreds more in just the first few years. 

They’re also a huge selling point for millennials looking for a new home. Like other smart systems, you can control them remotely with your phone. 


Smart locks save you from digging in pockets and purses to find your keys. You can also track who is entering or leaving your home, like your teenagers or friends checking on your house/pets while you’re away. Some smart locks use a passcode; others operate via phone app.

Working Out the Bugs

While you consider these big-ticket items, don’t forget about the ongoing maintenance. Holes in your deck or floorboards could be a sign of a termite or ant infestation.

A yearly inspection by a certified exterminator could save you thousands down the road.

Don’t Forget the Small Stuff

While most home improvements will raise your property value, it’s best to start with projects that will provide the most curb appeal, from small touches like a new mailbox to hanging plants on the porch, 

Use this guide to help you decide the best use for your home improvement dollars. And remember, value isn’t just about resale. It’s also about how much you’ll enjoy the improvements while you’re still living in the home.

Main Photo Credit: Freepik

Laura Hatch

Laura Hatch

Laura Hatch is a journalist who spends her free time hiking with her husband and three sons. From Pikes Peak in Colorado to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and McAfee Knob near Roanoke, she’s made it to the summit of the country’s favorites.