5 high-impact home upgrades under $1,000

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | July 2, 2015

Home sale prices are on the upswing. Sellers, you may not feel motivated to spend a lot of money on home upgrades when finding a buyer seems like a sure thing, but you still want to get top dollar. One or two home improvements with wow-factor can make the kind of impression for which buyers sometimes try to outbid each other.

If you're buying, finding a house could prove costly until inventory improves and the market stabilizes. Especially for first time home buyers, your budget may be strained come closing day, but you'll still want to make the home yours with a few changes here and there. You know you could benefit from making one or two home upgrades the seller didn't want to pay for but which can stamp your personal sense of style on the new home.

Even with $1,000 or less to spend, you can make a big impact using one of the following suggestions, even if you're not buying or selling a home any time soon.

  • Front door. If you're selling your home, nothing says come on in and have a look at the rest of the place like a spiffy new entry door. Replacing a rotted wood or rusted steel door with a new steel entry door can be one of the very best investments you can make in your home according to Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report. But you need not spend more than $1,000 for a new door to make an impression. Even fiberglass doors can be economical if you shop around, plus they don't rot or corrode like wood and steel. Upscale styles include decorative glass and sidelights.
  • Kitchen. You don't have to spend thousands to spruce up the kitchen, even if it's a bit outdated. Cabinets, backsplash, and countertops provide the main focal points in most kitchens. To get more bang for your buck, don't change the layout. Paint the cabinets if they are still serviceable, change the hardware, add crown molding to the cabinet tops or molding strips to the door fronts. You may even have enough left in the budget for an eye-catching subway tile or mosaic backsplash. Don't be afraid to replace old laminate countertops with new laminate. It's incredibly durable, and with finishes that simulate stone you'll have a fresh look for a fraction of the cost.
  • Bathroom. No longer dismissed and hidden away, the once lowly bathroom today aspires to a state of zen where you can go to get away from it all. Anything less spa-like may trouble finicky homeowners. As in the kitchen, working with the layout you have now and replacing fixtures worn beyond refurbishing can redeem the worst aspects of most icky bathrooms. Pre-fab vanities are economical, but an old piece of furniture such as a dresser, low chest, or cabinet -- especially refinished or painted using clay and mineral-based or chalk paint -- can provide a unique base for an upscale vessel sink.
  • Master bedroom. The bed dominates this space and creates the number one focal point. "Blah" doesn't cut it here. Choose bedding that's vibrant, sophisticated, or feminine, depending on your taste. White can be just as impressive as a burst of boho color if you add layers of textured fabrics and trim. Do not overlook the wall behind your bed. Fine bed linens can cost you a pretty penny, but if you decide to splurge on them, you can make a DIY tufted headboard for under $30 with plywood, batting, fabric, a staple gun, and some fancy buttons applied with a glue gun. Add LED light strings to the back of any headboard to create mood lighting. On the wall above the bed, group small framed prints or mismatched mirrors found at flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales, and refinish the frames similarly to tie them together.
  • Living room. Wallpaper once struck fear in the hearts of most self-respecting homeowners, but that was before the latest innovation -- peel-and-stick removable vinyl wall coverings. Their popularity caught on with the growing number of renters during the recession, and you can find mass-market versions in stores like Target. However, for those who want a design they can be pretty sure they won't see in the house next door, shop Etsy.com, where artisans sell handmade, original designs. Paper a wide swath behind the sofa or do an entire accent wall. For something even easier to change than removable wall designs, invest in an LED lighting system such as Phillips hue that allows you to turn your rooms virtually any color to match your mood with a tap on your smart phone or device. You can also preset the system to alter the ambiance automatically for your activities any time of day or night.

Photo credit to Nam Phan

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.