Home is where your heart is, but sometimes you’d heart your home to have a little more flair. But if you’ve ever considered a remodel, you might’ve gasped at the expense — not to mention the hassle inherent in a major upgrade.

But that doesn’t mean you have to live with that ugly shag carpet a minute longer. Here are 5 simple and affordable cosmetic home improvements that can add livability now and value when you sell your house.

1. Create a home office

As people increasingly turn to telecommuting to save time and money, a home office can be an appealing feature. You might want to bust down walls to make a separate room, but there are more cost-effective ways to create your own space. After all, some of the most famous tech companies in the world were started in garages. While a contractor can make it into a real room for a price, you can also make do with office furniture, some cozy throw rugs, good lighting, and a space heater or fan.

2. Add extra space to your bathroom

One of the most useful additions to your house might be a bathroom. Just imagine, no more pounding on the door as the kids are getting ready to go to school. But that can be one of the spendier remodeling options at about $50,000 to $80,000. And surprisingly, it only recoups about 60% in resale value, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost Vs. Value Report.

Instead, you can make your existing bathroom seem more spacious by adding a double vanity so 2 people can brush their teeth at once. You may have to have some plumbing work done, but it’s still far less than the cost of an extra bathroom! Increase your storage with a mirrored cabinet over the sink and shelves behind the toilet, and you might be surprised at how much more practical your space is.

3. Upgrade your kitchen

Maybe you’ve dreamed of swapping out all your appliances … and flooring and counters to boot. But there’s an easier and faster (and of course, cheaper!) way to make your kitchen look less dated. For starters, consider changing the drawer and cabinet knobs and pulls to a more modern or artsy look. Seriously, you won’t believe how fantastic your kitchen could look with updated hardware. Painting your cabinets can also make them shine like new. And while you’re at it, trade out your tired track lighting for of-the-moment pendants and bask in the glow of a refreshed kitchen that only cost a few dollars.

4. Create an outdoor living area

Sounds spendy, right? But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, outdoor kitchens and movie-theater quality tech might be all the rage, but you can create an “extra room” pretty simply with some hardy furniture that will stand up to rain. Add some charm with colorful pillows, string lights, and pots of bright flowers, and you’ll be ready for alfresco guests in your oasis all summer long. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might even install a fire pit. You don’t have to run a gas line or haul firewood, either. Simply choose a propane model and pick an area with level ground at least 10 feet away from plants. Just be sure to check laws in your city or county to ensure yours is up to code.

5. Add a fireplace

Outside fires are lovely, but nothing says “cozy” like an indoor fireplace. You can achieve the same ambiance much easier with a freestanding gas or electric fireplace. Masonry not required, no need for firewood to chop and store. For even more appeal, find one with a mantle or shelf so you have a place to display treasured photos (and hang your Christmas stockings, if that’s your thing).

Depending on the nature of your project, it’s also not a bad idea to think about your homeowners coverage. New materials might come into play and you’ll want to make sure coverage accounts for their value. If they’re ever damaged, having enough coverage could help replace them without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

With the right amount of know-how, even home-improvement projects can be surprisingly painless. 

DIY hacks | Home and garden


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.