How to make smart home investments and avoid fixes that can fall flat.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spent $130 billion remodeling their homes last year, 3.1% more than in 2012 and the most since 2007. Whether you’re sprucing up your home to sell or planning a reno for personal reasons, keep in mind the long-term return on your renovation investment. Here are seven do’s and don’ts for fixes that can pay off.


  1. DO: Install an energy-efficient steel door. Selling your home is all about making a good first impression. And first impressions start at the front door.
    DON’T: Install a fiberglass front door. The higher cost won’t mean a higher sale price.
  2. DO: Add a spare room. Converting unused basement or attic space into an extra bedroom opens your home to exponentially more buyers.
    DON’T: Add an extra bathroom. Plumbing, wiring and tiling make these small spaces extremely expensive add-ons. (However, if your home has only one bathroom, adding a powder room can be a major selling feature.)
  3. DO: Paint. The cheapest and easiest way to refresh a room is with a new coat of paint. If you do it yourself, the only cost will be for paint and brushes.
    DON’T: Wallpaper. Anyone who’s had to remove old wallpaper knows what a dreadful task it can be.
  4. DO: Replace cabinet hardware. Changing the handles in the kitchen and bathroom is a cheap and easy way to add some flair.
    DON’T: Remodel your home office. Many buyers will look at built-in shelving and desks as something they’ll have to spend money on converting back to a bedroom.
  5. DO: Landscape your property. A mix of hardy perennials and some vibrant low-cost annuals will give your home that all-important curb appeal.
    DON’T: Install an in-ground pool. Many buyers will balk at the ongoing maintenance and be fearful of long-term repair and replacement costs.
  6. DO: Make minor repairs. Scour your house from top to bottom for chipped paint, missing or cracked outlet covers to replace and so on. These low-cost DIY tasks will reap untold rewards.
    DON’T: Add a sunroom. They’re expensive to install and, when dated, buyers will be leery of the cost of replacing aging windows.
  7. DO: Upgrade your appliances. Energy-efficient ones may qualify for a rebate (check out a state by state directory of available rebates), and you’ll cut back on your utility bills for as long as you’re in the house.
    DON’T: Add a backup generator. While the peace of mind may help you weather any storm, buyers will not pay a premium for this addition.