Three Home Improvements That Actually Add Value—and Three to Skip

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With homeownership currently on the rise, home improvements are top of mind for many Americans. Research shows that spending related to home improvement projects increased by 3% to nearly $420 billion in 2020, a trend spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued into 2022. Popular projects include kitchen and bathroom upgrades, home offices, and even custom additions.

While most home improvements may seem like a good idea, the reality is that some are more worthwhile than others—and knowing which ones to prioritize can help you add value to your home. Below, we highlight the home upgrades that are likely to yield a return on investment, and those you should consider skipping.

Home Improvements That Can Increase Your Home’s Value

Savvy homeowners have long been aware that some home upgrades can make a big difference when it comes to reselling a home, while simultaneously making their space more comfortable and functional. These include structural upgrades and design changes that help maximize space. Here are some of our top picks for improvements that can increase your home’s value.

Refinishing Your Basement

Few home projects are as impactful as refinishing a basement, especially if the upgraded space can serve as a bedroom, office, or even a rental apartment. This is one of the easiest ways to extend your living space and make your home appealing to would-be buyers.

Remodeling Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Bathroom and kitchen upgrades also top the list, though it’s worth noting that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to redesigning these spaces. While new appliances and countertops are always sought after, expensive additions such as custom lighting rarely pay off. We recommend sticking with more modest renovations to recoup the costs. According to Remodeling Magazine’s “2021 Cost vs. Value Report,” a mid-range remodel averaging around $26,000 will recoup approximately 72% of the costs at resale (compared to just 54% for more significant upgrades). 

Upgrading Your Floors

Floors are another important factor when it comes to your home’s value, and new floors can help to boost buyer interest as well as your asking price. As with kitchen and bathroom remodeling, less is often more when it comes to flooring so choosing tasteful wooden flooring is often your best bet. Pricey carpeting or custom flooring may not align with everyone’s tastes, so we recommend steering away from them to maximize your return.

Home Improvements That Generally Don’t Pay Off 

Although many home improvements will add value to your home, an equal number could end up costing more than they’re worth. 

Swimming Pools

A luxurious addition to any backyard, swimming pools can be a great option for entertaining and spending time with family. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive to maintain and they can cost up to $60,000 to install. The required maintenance costs and time commitment can also scare off potential buyers, making it harder to sell your home when you’re ready to do so.

Extensive Landscaping 

Like swimming pools, landscaping can make your property more appealing, and it can even add value to your home. This only holds true, however, as long as landscaping isn’t expensive to maintain and doesn’t require a lot of upkeep throughout the year.

Expensive Lighting and Fixtures 

New fixtures are always a nice addition and a simple way to make your home feel more modern. The same holds true for updated lighting, which can also make your space more energy-efficient. Yet high-end fixtures rarely increase your home’s value and, as with flooring, custom-built pieces may not appeal to buyers. Opting for mid-range modern options is often the right choice and it can help you achieve a higher return on investment.

The Best Way to Finance Home Improvements

Once you’ve determined the home improvements that make the most sense for your property, it’s time to look for financing options that align with your needs and goals.

With fixed rates and no fees of any kind as long as you pay on time, a Discover® personal loan can be a great option to finance your home improvements. You can borrow anywhere from $2,500 to $35,000 and since the loan is unsecured, you won’t have to borrow against the value of your home. Use Discover’s Personal Loans Calculator to estimate your monthly payments or check your rate before you apply with no impact to your credit score. What's more, you’ll get a same-day decision in most cases, and funds can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance. Best of all, a personal loan from Discover will enable you to get started on your exterior project sooner.

Home improvement projects can be a wonderful way to increase your home’s value and position yourself for a successful sale in the future. While some upgrades are more beneficial than others, making thoughtful upgrades can create a more enjoyable space and make financial sense. By prioritizing key areas of your home and focusing on the quality of the materials you use, you’ll be able to boost the value of your property for years to come.

Explore More with Discover Personal Loans: Money Moments: How to Plan for Home Improvements and Life Events

*Discover makes loans without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, or familial status.

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  1. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “Despite Devastating Effects on the Broader Economy, Pandemic Has Been a Boom for US Home Improvement,”

  2. Remodeling. “2021 Cost vs. Value Report,”

  3. Action Builders. “7 Common Home Renovations That Don’t Pay Off,”