Small Updates, Big Return: 5 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

No matter your budget, there's always an upgrade or two that'll up the resale ante.

Whether your home improvements are for you or potential buyers, consider their impact on your home’s potential resale price before picking up your toolbox (or the phone to call a contractor).

A brand-new kitchen or bathroom will undoubtedly wow potential buyers, but there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you put into those pricey remodels.

To help you navigate the choices that lead to the best return on investment, we asked two industry experts (and one enthusiastic DIYer) to weigh in.

Kitchen renovations

“Renovating the kitchen is always the biggest way to add value to your home,” says Grace Fancher, real estate agent at Kansas City firm Sarah Snodgrass. “People love to cook, and everyone tends to gather in the kitchen. If you add seating, such as an island with barstools, buyers go crazy for that.”

A full remodel is a major investment, but smaller projects make a big difference if you can’t — or don’t want to — go all out. “Nicer appliances really stick out to potential buyers — even if you’re planning to take them with you,” Fancher says.

She also suggests replacing tired finishes with fresh, neutral materials. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but you want it to look up-to-date,” she says. “Everyone loves clean, white subway tiles now, but they’re really a timeless look.”

Replacing dated countertops (quartz is your best bet, according to Fancher) and flooring is also worth the time and money.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Bathroom updates

The smallest rooms in the house can have a big impact on its value, so Fancher suggests adding a second bathroom or upgrading existing ones so your home features at least two full baths.

Joe Monda, co-owner of Seattle-based general contracting firm Promondo, agrees. “People are spending more on upgrading their houses before listing them,” he says. “They really want to maximize the potential house value.”

But if you’re remodeling a bathroom just to put your house on the market, keep it simple. “Most people don’t want to pay for upgrades, so you want it to be a neutral space that doesn’t look straight out of the big DIY warehouse stores — even if it is,” says Fancher.

She adds that an easy solution is spending a little more on details, like high-quality towel bars and upgraded hardware for those big-box store vanities.

Not in a position to remodel? “Re-grouting tile, or even just using one of those grout paint pens, gives any bathroom a fresher look,” says Sharyn Young, a self-proclaimed DIY addict from Minneapolis.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting upgrades

“The brighter a room feels, the bigger it looks,” says Fancher. “And when you’re selling, you want every space to look as big as possible.”

She recommends replacing flush-mount ceiling lights with recessed and/or pendant lighting — a relatively cheap upgrade that looks modern and makes a huge impact.

“LED lighting has changed everything,” says Young. “There are so many readily available, inexpensive options now that are easy to install. I added Ikea under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen of my last house, and I was amazed at how that one simple upgrade made the space feel larger and cleaner.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Fresh paint

Like lighting, a new coat of paint can also make a space feel cleaner and brighter. Stick to neutral shades, such as light gray and beige, and if you don’t have time or budget to do the whole house, start with the living areas you see when you first walk in.

An even quicker fix is refreshing just the trim. “Beat-up, dirty trim can give buyers a subtle impression that the whole house is dingy,” Fancher says. “Repainting gives a sharper look and shows the buyer that you’ve taken care of the house.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Landscape improvements

“A lot of people overlook how important landscaping is, especially when you’re selling in the spring or summer,” says Fancher, adding that you can increase curb appeal by just putting down new, dark-colored mulch, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on planting.

Monda suggests paying special attention to the entry. Repair or replace any damaged stepping stones, concrete paths, and porch plants, then give the front door a fresh coat of paint and add some potted plants. “You want people to be excited to walk in the door,” he says.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

Get more home improvement ideas on Zillow Digs.


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Designer Lookbook: Jackson Thomas Interiors’ Classically Coastal Haven

The Virginia-based design firm calls on color and texture to infuse this waterside gem with coastal charm.

A dated home on the James River in Williamsburg, VA was in need of a face-lift and a coastal touch to echo its waterside setting.

The home, located in Williamsburg’s beautiful Governor’s Land neighborhood, was gutted and updated with timeless materials. Wood floors were refinished in a darker stain, and the walls were painted in a creamy ivory.

While the walls were kept neutral throughout the home, color and personality pop in the fabrics and decor, thanks to the efforts of Jackson Thomas Interiors‘ owner and lead designer Christine Estep, and senior designer Stefanie Powell.


Drawing design inspiration from interior designer Barclay Butera’s coastal homes, the homeowner requested rooms filled with soothing shades of blue and white, organic textures, and brass. The homeowner also had several family antiques she wanted to incorporate.

“We focused on doing more of the blue and white shades in the great room, because they really pulled in the traditional feel that the homeowner was looking for, while also tying into the water,” says Estep.

The designers layered textures like wicker, seagrass, brass, and dark woods to warm up the cool, coastal color palette.

The living room’s fireplace facade was covered in a porcelain custom-blend tile with the appearance of a basket weave — a nod to the natural woven fibers used throughout the home.

Good enough to eat

In the kitchen, existing cabinets were updated with a coat of crisp white paint and accessorized with brass bamboo hardware. Berwyn from Cambria quartz countertops with cool gray veining were paired with a sea-glass backsplash.

For contrast, a butcher-block countertop was installed on the island, and oversized brass lanterns add drama and visual interest. Behind the cooktop, an antique tray was transformed into a piece of artwork, framed by sea-glass tile.

In the neighboring dinette, a banquette upholstered in turquoise and blue fabrics ties back to the sea-glass backsplash in the kitchen, paired with a more traditional wooden table and chairs.

Ready for guests

A grass-cloth wallpaper embellished with gold knots provides an elegant backdrop in the powder room. The cozy bathroom is furnished with a small vanity, topped with a copper sink that features a whimsical frog sculpture detail, along with a brushed-bronze faucet and mirror.

In the dining room, Estep covered the walls in grass cloth and introduced a deep orange to the blue-and-white color scheme to create a more formal atmosphere. Artwork collected by the homeowner adds an elegant and personal touch.

“For the dining room, the light fixture was a big launching point, because the homeowner liked brass, and it had a very nautical feel — like a ship’s wheel,” Estep adds.

Absolutely dreamy

In the master bedroom, all the furniture and accessories, from the window treatments to the pillows and furniture, were custom-made.

A vibrant peacock blue is paired with a subtle blue-and-ivory paisley fabric used to upholster the headboard and cornice boards. Behind the headboard, an accent wall covered in grass cloth adds subtle texture.

The biggest and most dramatic renovation project was the master bathroom, which was completely gutted and designed so the homeowners could age in place. Wainscoting painted in a cheery white is juxtaposed with a pearlized wallpaper by Fabrica.

Slip-resistant tiles were installed, along with heated flooring throughout the bath and shower. Cambria quartz tops the vanity and surrounds the tub. In the shower, a mix of marble and pearlized tiles are paired with aged brass fixtures, giving the master bath a luxe look.

Get the look at home

  • Use stone scraps. A small cut of granite or marble is an affordable and easy way to dress up and customize a ready-made vanity. “You can find a piece for next to nothing and have it cut to fit,” says Powell. The designers found a small remnant that they had cut to 30 inches wide for the powder room vanity.
  • Create cohesion with wall color. “In an open-concept home, we always suggest picking one color for common areas — the foyer, great room, corridors — to keep the space light and airy,” Powell explains. “In this home, we chose a shade that was a touch down from the trim color. It really expanded the homeowner’s space quite a bit.”
  • Layer texture and colors for personality. “You can make a monochromatic color scheme exciting by changing up your patterns and textures,” says Estep. “It can really make a space look unique.”

See more home design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by Sara Harris Photography.


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6 Millennial Pink Homes Proving This Color Is Here to Stay

Simultaneously trendy and timeless, this lovely shade of pink has long been a real estate staple and is now taking social media by storm.

If you’ve never heard of Millennial Pink, don’t worry — you aren’t that out of the loop. Though the term was coined last year, it’s been popping up for years, and Pantone’s selection of Rose Quartz as one of its 2016 colors of the year was just a preview of the pink craze to come (yes, there’s a hashtag). Stars from Rihanna to Harry Styles have embraced light pink hues, though it’s more about the vibe than a distinct color, and its popularity goes beyond the 20-something crowd.

Millennial Pink has put rosy-colored homes on the map as well. While painting a house pink is nothing new — several historic, stucco and adobe homes sport the hue — it’s certainly on trend.

Check out these six homes for some Millennial Pink inspiration, and see what all the fuss is about.

Key West, FL

914 Grinnell St, Key West, FL
For sale: $1.43 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Tropical color schemes are a trademark of Key West design and architecture, as embodied by this delightful revival-style duplex. Bright blue shutters pop against a pale pink exterior with white trim, while the interior bursts with cheerful, vibrant blues, yellows, greens, and – of course – more pink.

Find more homes for sale in Key West.

Montpelier, VT

24-26 Loomis St, Montpelier, VT
For sale: $1.8 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

A former mayor’s home, this restored Victorian is Millennial Pink inside and out. With a whimsical two-tone pink façade and a few light pink rooms in the interior, the bright paint choice is architecturally on point. “We often see a color similar on Victorian homes throughout Vermont,” explains listing agent David Parsons, “and I believe it has a historical precedence.” Because of an increase in the number of pigments available and a reduction in the cost of paint, brightly colored homes became de rigueur in Victorian New England.

Find more homes for sale in Montpelier.

Charleston, SC

18 State St, Charleston, SC 29401
For sale: $1.995 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

This historic home full of Southern charm proves that Millennial Pink is nothing new. Built around 1815, the current owners bought the pink house in 2004 and simply repainted it the same color since it worked so well. “There are many pink houses in Charleston, including one on Rainbow Row which is a block away,” explains listing agent Adam Edwards. “Pink is a longtime popular color because it helps keep the interiors cooler in the hot summer months.” Black shutters and white trim give the house an elegant, refined look.

Find more homes for sale in Charleston.

Seattle, WA

920 Federal Ave E, Seattle, WA
For sale: $1.598 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

For a prime example of a bold Millennial Pink, check out this 4-bedroom, 3,080-square-foot gem close to all the action in Seattle. The exterior is painted a solid shade of warm, earthy pink called “New Pilgrim Red” and is complemented with off-white woodwork in “Navajo White.” “We had seen that on another Colonial Revival house years ago when we were just about to repaint,” owners Clint and Elizabeth Miller recall. “It looked dramatic to us and suggested a New England sort of look.”

Find more homes for sale in Seattle.

Albuquerque, NM

1323 Narcisco Ct NE, Albuquerque, NM
For sale: $430,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Stucco exteriors are common in the Southwest because they’re durable and – most importantly, for a desert climate – energy efficient. This pink-hued home shows that stucco doesn’t have to be drab. Here, the pink provides a dose of personality while maintaining a neutral, earthy vibe that meshes with the landscape.

Find more homes for sale in Albuquerque.

New Orleans, LA

326 Warrington Dr, New Orleans, LA
For sale: $249,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

New Orleans is no stranger to colorful homes. In fact, this cute, single-story house is subdued in comparison to many in the Big Easy. But that’s part of its appeal — and of the appeal of Millennial Pink in general. It manages to straddle the divide between playful and refined, youthful and classic.

Find more homes for sale in New Orleans.


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DIY Backyard Fire Pit: Build It in Just 7 Easy Steps

The perfect backdrop for summer fun is closer than you think, thanks to our step-by-step instructions.

Turn your backyard into a cozy camp spot by making your own fire pit. This outdoor DIY project is easy to complete, and you’ll be making s’mores and cuddling up by the fire in no time.

Get ready

Before you start building your backyard fire pit, you’ll need to gather some supplies: bricks for the fire pit wall, gravel, twine or string, a tape measure, a stake, a large shovel and a trowel, a tamp, and a level.

When purchasing bricks for the fire pit wall, go for something sturdy like retaining wall bricks or concrete pavers. Some home improvement stores even carry bricks specifically designed for fire pits. Use a layer of firebricks, which have a higher heat resistance, on the inner layer of the fire pit as an extra safety measure.

Also, before you begin building, be sure to consult your local fire code to find out whether fire pits are allowed in your city, and, if so, how far away the fire pit has to be from a structure.

Now that you have all your supplies and you’ve checked your local fire code, you’re ready to build!

1. Create a circle.

Pick out a spot in your yard for your fire pit (ensuring that it is located a safe distance from any structures, bushes, or trees), and insert a stake in the ground where the center of the pit will be.

Tie one end of the string or twine to the stake and measure how wide you want your circle to be. Typically, a fire pit has a diameter of about 4 to 5 feet. Cut the string, and tie the other end to the handle of a trowel. With the string or twine taut, drag the sharp end of the trowel around in a circle, creating a line in the grass.

2. Shovel out the grass.

Using a large shovel, dig out the grass inside the circle.

For safety purposes, the hole for a fire pit should be about 6 to 12 inches deep. Be sure to call 811 before you start digging to ensure there are no utility lines buried under the spot you’ve chosen.

3. Tamp down the dirt.

If you don’t have a tamp, you can just use the bottom of your shovel.

4. Make sure the circle is level.

Get down on the ground with your level to ensure that the surface is ready for the bricks to be laid. Keep making small adjustments until it’s completely level.

5. Add gravel.

Put a pretty thick layer of gravel in the fire pit (at least a couple of inches). Spread the gravel around evenly.

6. Arrange the bricks.

After you’ve spread the gravel around, arrange your bricks in a circle and stack them in layers until the fire pit wall is at least 12 inches tall.

For extra safety, you have the option to put an inner layer of firebricks. Though you don’t need to use mortar if the bricks are heavy enough to make a sturdy stack, you can use an outdoor, fire-resistant mortar between the bricks for extra stability.

7. Relax and enjoy!

Gather a couple of Adirondack chairs, some firewood, a few friends, and campfire treats to get full use out of your new fire pit.

See more fire pit design inspiration on Zillow Digs.


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5 Movie Homes in Real Life

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Movie fans, looking to lurk around some of your favorite film locations? You’re not alone. Stalking cinema hot spots is an obsession for many, and we’re no exception. Below are five iconic movie homes in real life.

Gone Girl’s Missouri New Build

Image Credit: Alexandrea Morrow

Much of 2014’s nail-biting thriller “Gone Girl” (based on the best-selling novel of the same name) took place in this massive Missouri new build. The home used in the film is truly located in Missouri—a Hollywood rarity. The five-bedroom, six-bathroom home stretches over 4,413 square feet and was last estimated at $559,528.

Cher Horowitz’s Mega Mansion

Image Credit: Blogspot

This Los Angeles home has been featured in several Hollywood productions, but in one of its most well-known appearances, it served as the setting for Cher Horowitz’s lux pad in the cult darling “Clueless.” With that famous staircase (perfect for kissing your step brother), seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, this private palace is a cinema gem in Encino. The home, currently off-market, has an estimated value of $4,649,217.

Pulp Fiction’s Seedy Drug Den

Image Credit:

Quentin Tarantino fans likely remember Lance’s low-lying ranch home in “Pulp Fiction.” Most infamous for the scene in which Lance resuscitates Uma Thurman—er, I mean Mia Wallace—after her drug overdose, this Los Angeles home has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and was most recently valued at $700,318.

The Tenenbaums’ Harlem Home

Image Credit: Pinterest

Wes Anderson fans can rejoice at the sight of this Harlem townhouse, the location of the Tenenbaums’ family home in his 2001 gem “The Royal Tenenbaums.” With four bathrooms and no listed bedroom count, Anderson and co. apparently rented the home for six months during production. The home is currently valued at $4,286,169.

A Home to Crash a Wedding In

Image Credit: Strawberry Milk

This gorgeous waterfront Maryland property, featured in the 2005 comedy hit “Wedding Crashers,” is actually an inn, so while you can’t live in the home Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn debauched in, you can pay to stay. The Greek Revival, built in 1816, overlooks the Chesapeake Bay and was originally used as a private residence.

*All estimates are based on Zillow at the time of publication.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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