Best affordable renovations when selling your home

What are the best affordable renovations when selling your home?

Features like master ensuites with custom, tempered glass shower enclosures, marble tubs, and heated floors certainly get a home noticed by prospective buyers.

However, while big ticket renos like this are great when you’re planning to stay in the house and enjoy the improvements for a number of years before selling, if the main reason for the renovations is to pursue a return on investment, pricey upgrades can be a losing proposition. An upscale bathroom reno, for example, could cost over $60,000, but the payback when selling is only about 56 per cent, according to the most recent cost vs. value report from Remodeling magazine (that’s a U.S. number, but the same applies in Canada).

My advice to people who are making improvements simply in order to list a home and sell it: Keep the renos simple.

So, where should you put your money and efforts?


Bathrooms are one of the areas that get the most attention from buyers, and there are lots of low-cost ideas that homeowners often overlook.

  • ​Clean like you’ve never cleaned before (or hire it out).
  • A fresh paint job can add sparkle at minimum cost, even if you have to hire a pro.
  • Clean or redo the grout/caulking.
  • ​Update cabinetry hardware with a quick trip to a building supply store. Pull knobs start at less than $2 each and are simple to replace.
  • Install new light fixtures and towel racks (get a pro to do the light fixtures unless you know exactly what you’re doing).
  • Replace chipped tiles and repair chipped enamel.
  • Swap out your old shower heads and shower curtains for new ones. You can find hand-held shower heads for less than $50, and all you need is a bit of Teflon tape and a basic tool or two to install them.

Learn more about renovations and return on investment at the Ottawa Fall Home Show

There are other bathroom renos that are more expensive but may still be worth doing if the bathroom is really showing its age.

  • Replace countertop, faucets and mirrors.
  • Install a new tub or shower. This can be a pricey proposition, so if you’re not going to be there to enjoy it, perhaps you can get away with a professional relining.

If your kitchen looks like a stage set from the Brady Bunch era, you should consider updates when selling.

  • ​Again: Clean, clean and more cleaning. The payback on muscle power cannot be overstated. Well-cared for homes that are clean and in good repair will almost always trump expensive reno jobs in return on investment​. Many buyers often prefer to start with a clean slate and design renovations to their own tastes.
  • Fresh paint in neutral colours offers the best payback dollar for dollar (painting can give a return on investment of up to 165 per cent, according to MoneySense magazine).
  • Installing new cabinet hardware, faucets, sinks and backsplashes can transform your kitchen.
  • Replacing cabinet doors (or even painting cabinets) gives your kitchen an overhaul at very little cost.
  • Trade in your light fixtures for more modern designs and change window treatments for a brighter, fresher room.
  • If the countertop is an absolute detraction, consider replacing it with a lookalike laminate.
  • Replace those tired switch plate covers; these things cost about $1 each.

There are countless other renovations that can help you sell your home, from installing a shiny new front door to sprucing up your deck.

Before you undertake any renos, however, check out the cost and the return on investment. You might be surprised how much better your home can look without breaking the bank.


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