How can home improvements actually save me money?

Working on set of blueprints calculating cost.
If you’re considering home improvements, look for projects that are cost-effective -- and you’ll save even more money by doing the work yourself.

­To improve or not to improve -- that is the question. In this economic slowdown, you might be questioning all the things you've wanted to do in your home but never got around to. Home improvement could be one of the projects you're putting on hold because of your tightened budget. But before you make that decision, you should know that not all improvements are created equal. Some are big money-drains that won't be advantageous to you or anyone who purchases the house from you. These so-called "improvements" can actually decrease your home's value. To avoid money-sucking repairs, make sure to consider only the improvements that will help your home's value.

­So -- what are these moneysaving improvements? Good question. Not everyone agrees on the particulars. You should research what kinds of improvements will provide you with a good return when you sell the house. Look for projects that are cost-effective, giving you more money back than you put in. Investigate how much a particular project will cost and compare it with the typical return of such a project. Of course, you'll save even more money if you can take care of the improvements yourself. If you have the skills and knowledge, you'll eliminate the cost of labor.


Click to the next page to find out some specific project ideas that make for cost-effective home improvements.

Cost-Effective Home Improvements

Though virtually all home improvements cost money, some can flush your money right down the toilet. Others, however, can make their cost back in a raised selling price -- sometimes several times over.

Looks are a big deal when you're trying to sell your home. Probably the simplest way to improve your home's value is to improve its lighting. Make sure all the lights work well and aren't dimming. If you're looking to help the environment, too, you should replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights because they use less energy and stay bright much longer than incandescent light bulbs. Homeowners typically pay somewhere around $100 for replacement light bulbs, and this investment could make a return of more than 700 percent [source: Weston]!


If you have a little more to spend, it's a good idea to look into kitchen and bath remodeling. You could update the kitchen with more modern features, such as new countertops, appliances and cabinets. In the bathroom, you might look to replace toilet seats, grout, drawer handles and cabinet pulls. Depending on what you do, you might spend an average of $2,000, but your sale price could increase $4,000 [source: Weston].

There are other home improvements that might be more expensive but still save you money in the end. You'll probably need professional help to install new electric and plumbing lines. But by fixing the plumbing or electricity, you could see an average return of 196 percent [source: Weston].

If you want to see the glass as half full, you should definitely consider replacing your windows. Potential buyers look for windows that effectively keep out the cold and warm weather. You can see an average return of 90 percent on your investment if you replace your windows. Not only does this help you when you go to sell your house, but replacing old windows also helps you cut back on energy costs while you're still living in your home [source: CNN].

No matter the improvement, if you're looking for returns, stick to classic designs. You might love that bold granite countertop and plum paint, but classic black or gray granite countertops and light, neutral paints will suit the most potential buyers. To learn even more about cost-effective home improvements, visit the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Barrett, Keith. "Cost Effective Home Improvements." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Castaneda, Erin. "Energy-saving home improvements save money." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Clemence, Sara. "Best investments for your home." MSNBC. (Accessed 3/17/09)
  • CNN. "25 Rules to Grow Rich By." (Accessed 3/17/09)
  • Ferris, Joshua. "Top 7 Cost Effective Home Improvement Tips." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Home Tips. "10 Ways to Trim Home Improvement Costs." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • PR Newswire. "Ready, Set, Remodel." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Roney, Maya. "How to make your home worth more." MSNBC. (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Schwartz, Shelly. "Have you over-improved your home?" MSN Real Estate. (Accessed 3/17/09)
  • Sound Money Tips. "Tip on Getting the Best Return on Home Improvements." (Accessed 3/16/09)
  • Weston, Liz Pulliam. "Remodeling risks often outweigh returns." MSNBC. (Accessed 3/17/09)