A fresh coat of paint is among the low-cost improvements that can make a big difference in your home’s appearance. Photo courtesy Getty Images. Credit: Getty Images

Whether you’re looking to sell your home or just want to make it more livable, spring is typically the ideal time of year to get a head start on home improvement projects before peak renovation season starts.

For those who would like to improve their homes but are hesitant because it will cost too much money, don’t be discouraged. Homeowners can get payback and joy from several smaller, lower-dollar improvement projects, according to the most recent National Association of Realtors “Remodeling Impact Report,” which takes a deep dive into the costs, return on investment and homeowners’ satisfaction levels once a project is completed.

Here are five indoor projects from the association’s remodeling report that cost under $13,000 (on average) and provide the highest return on investment and the greatest homeowner satisfaction (recorded as a “joy score”): 

1: Refinished or new hardwood floors

Joy score: 10/10  | Average cost: $3,400 (refinish)/ $5,500 (replace) | Cost recovery: 147% (refinish)/118% (replace)

Refinishing and installing new hardwood flooring the top spots for interior improvement projects that bring the highest return for your dollar. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Refinishing hardwood floors earned the top spot for interior improvement projects that bring the highest return for your dollar. Remodeling experts estimated the average cost of refinishing hardwood floors at $3,400, and Realtors estimated the value recovered from the cost of the project at $5,000, or a 147% return, when a home sells. According to the report, 22% of Realtors recommended refinishing your floors before selling. 

Installing new wood flooring garnered the second-highest score for interior projects, with a $5,500 estimated cost and a $6,500 cost recovery, netting a 118% return. About 13% of Realtors recommended new flooring before selling your home.

The most important result, according to homeowners, was having floors that were durable and relatively easy to clean and maintain. Of those surveyed, 100% said they had a greater desire to be home after refinishing their floors. 

2: Insulation upgrade

Joy score: 10/10 | Average cost: $2,500 | Cost recovery: 100%

A man installs roof insulation. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

With energy costs rising, one way to cut costs is to upgrade your home’s insulation. According to the report, 63% of Realtors said promoting energy efficiency in listings was “very” or “somewhat” valuable. Homebuyers ranked the importance of heating/cooling and insulation at 7 out of 10.

At an average cost of $2,500, an insulation upgrade is relatively inexpensive compared to other home improvement projects. The project’s cost recovery breaks even at $2,500.

An insulation upgrade can be a Do-It-Yourself project depending on the type of insulation materials you select. Fiberglass and mineral wool, for example, can be a DIY project. Spray foam and other insulation types, however, require a professional. 

3: Closet renovation

Joy score: 10/10 | Average cost: $6,000 | Cost recovery: 83%

The average cost of a closet upgrade is about $6,000, but the return on investment is substantial, at $5,000 or 83%, according to the National Association of Realtors “Remodeling Impact Report.” Photo courtesy Getty Images. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A closet upgrade can improve livability, organization and storage. The average cost of this project is $6,000, but the return on investment is substantial, at $5,000 or 83%. According to the report, almost half of consumers said the most important result for them was greater functionality and livability. More than three-fourths (79%) said they had a greater desire to be home after completing the project.  

4: New/upgraded laundry area

Joy score: 9.5/10 | Average cost: $4K-$12K

More than half (60%) of homeowners said they remodeled their laundry area for better functionality and livability. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
Credit: Getty Images

Consumers said they focused on laundry room upgrades to improve livability or because they had just moved into their home and wanted to customize it. More than half (60%) said the most important result was better functionality and livability.

Like a closet renovation, laundry room remodeling costs are wide-ranging. Depending on room size, type of cabinets, countertop materials and selected appliances, laundry improvements can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $12,000. Just painting walls or cabinets and adding lighting, however, can greatly improve a laundry area. Depending on your budget, you can add stock or custom cabinets, a sink, a countertop for workspace, good lighting and durable flooring.

5: A fresh coat of paint

Joy score: 10/10 | Average cost: $990-$1,320

New paint can have a big impact when you sell: 38% of Realtors recommended painting at least one room, and 48% recommended painting the entire interior of a home. Photo courtesy Getty Images. Credit: Getty Images

Painting an interior room can freshen the space and its worn-out walls. Hiring a professional to paint a room can cost between $990 to $1,320, depending on the type of room, its square footage and the type of finish. For those who prefer to do it themselves, this can be a fairly easy DIY project. New paint also can have a big impact when you sell: 38% of Realtors recommended painting at least one room, and 48% recommended painting the entire interior of a home.  


Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is a professional trade organization representing 5,000 Realtors and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.

The term Realtor is a registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and who subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.