Home Exterior Upgrade With the Best ROI

Front door with flowers and plants around it

When you’re preparing to put your home on the market, all sorts of little problems suddenly jump out at you. What will buyers think of the track lighting, the damp basement, the wall-to-wall carpeting in the media room? It can be tempting to update everything at once, and put the best possible version of your home out there.

But don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal. The only purpose of home upgrades is to increase the sale price. If you spend $10,000 tearing up old carpet and refinishing the floors, but it only bumps the sale price up by half that, you’ve actually lost money. And even big no-brainer renovations like new kitchens and bathrooms are often poor investments, returning only 80-90% of the money put into them.

Luckily, some home upgrades are proven to have a greater return on investment (ROI) than others. Here are four of the most lucrative ones.

1. The Front Door

In life, first impressions matter, and home showings are no exception; one top agent claims that buyers make up their mind within seven seconds of first setting eyes on a home. Curb appeal can make the difference between a potential buyer wanting to come inside, or deciding to drive to the next home on their list.

One of the most powerful components of a home’s curb appeal is the front door. A study from Zillow actually found that having a black front door increased a home’s sale price by 2.9%. The median US home value is just over $243,000, so a 3% increase in sale price comes to around $7.300. Considering that a steel door only costs a few hundred dollars at Home Depot, this easy upgrade offers a staggeringly high ROI.

2. Window Boxes

Installing window boxes under your street-facing windows is an easy, inexpensive way to boost your home’s curb appeal. Copper or iron window boxes can give your home a stately, dignified vibe, or you can opt for painted wood boxes to achieve a more traditional cottage look. Make sure you fill them with seasonally-appropriate flowers that complement your home’s color scheme.

When you’re choosing flowers for your new window boxes, also consider giving your yard’s landscaping a refresh. Many agents note that trees are one of the most overlooked features of a home, and one study showed that every $500 invested in landscaping had a return of four times that.

3. Light fixtures

There are two aspects to light-related upgrades. First, updating light fixtures is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to boost your home’s appeal. Replacing bulky light fixtures with sleeker, more modern fixtures like recessed lighting can instantly make your home seem more sophisticated, and comes at a very low price point.

Second, you’ll want to maximize the amount of light in your home. Remove heavy, obstructive window treatments like drapes or curtains to admit as much natural light as possible, Then consider installing brighter bulbs in all your light fixtures, aiming for an average of 100 watts for every 50 square feet. A brightly-lit space seems larger and cleaner, and simply increasing the amount of light in your home can make it massively more appealing.

Be careful not to use harsh white light, though, which can create a sterile, impersonal atmosphere. Warmer tones create more intimacy, and some agents even suggest light pink bulbs, which are flattering to skin tone.

When you’re upgrading your home’s lighting, don’t forget exterior spaces. Illuminating the front door with warm, powerful light can make a great first impression, and lighting outdoor spaces like patios and decks can make them seem more comfortable and welcoming, especially for night showings, or on cloudy days.

4. Seasonal decorations

Staging a home means walking a fine line between creating a welcoming vibe, and maintaining an impersonal neutrality. So while one of the first things that any home staging professional will advise you to do is to remove the majority of your personal belongings from the home, you also want to be careful not to create a sterile, showroom-like atmosphere. One of the best ways to split the difference here is to install seasonally appropriate decorations in your home.

If you’re selling around the holidays, make sure to rotate current decorations in; you don’t want your Halloween jack-o-lanterns moldering on the front steps when you’re coming up on Thanksgiving. And take down wreaths and Christmas lights no later than New Year’s Day. In spring and summer, planting wildflowers and native decorative plants is an extremely inexpensive way to boost your home’s curb appeal without bringing in too much personality.

Ben Mizes

Ben Mizes

Ben Mizes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, a free online service that connects home buyers and sellers with real estate agents. Ben is also an active real estate investor with 22 units in St. Louis and a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri.