6 Upgrades Worth the Investment to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Here’s how you can increase the value of your home on any budget.
Worth it Waikiki Bathroom
Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Jackson Design


There are all sorts of fixes, patches, cleanups, add-ons and build-outs you can do to substantially increase the value of your property. We talked to Evan Fujimoto, president of award-winning local architecture and construction company Graham Builders, about getting the most bang for your buck, whatever your budget.



Highlight a feature of your home, such as the front entrance. A fancy new front door can cost a couple of thousand dollars, but simple doors can go for a few hundred. “You could give your front door a new paint job, put on some new locks, new hinges. Even replacing your house numbers; some people have old rusted numbers tacked on,” says Fujimoto. “It’s a very simple thing to do and you can have a nice first impression.”



“I’d go through the house and change the lights, swap them to LEDs,” which come in more tones now. “A lot of times, older homes have outdated lights,” Fujimoto says. Bright new lights lend energy to the house. Other improvements include new curtains, replacing faucets or toilets, and landscaping work to add a garden or plant greenery. If the area around your front door is plain, Fujimoto suggests installing a stone tile floor for the entranceway.



Fujimoto recommends making cosmetic improvements around the house. Replace and upgrade door locks. Change worn brass doorknobs in older homes to more secure handles. Install new sliding glass doors. In the bathroom, replace glass shower doors if there’s severe mildew, spotted mirrors, towel bars, toilet paper holders that have rust, seat covers and the toilets themselves. “At this price, it’s not about making additions to the house, but you should always be doing repairs and upgrades.”



This is the price at which you can start looking at fully renovating a bathroom, which Fujimoto says typically costs between $10,000 and $20,000. This is also a good budget to fix any outstanding problems. “If you have a leaky roof, any really badly soiled carpet, get that taken care of,” says Fujimoto. If you’re looking to focus on just one project, this is what it costs to paint or wallpaper the entire house.



“Now you’re talking about a large-scale kitchen renovation—not necessarily building new walls, but removing and replacing things in the same configuration,” Fujimoto says. New cabinets, countertops, appliances, lighting and flooring for a small- to mid-size home can mostly fit within a budget of $50,000. Replacing copper piping is also in this price range, depending on how much needs to be replumbed.



At $100,000, homeowners can look at getting a pool. But Fujimoto reminds that “very few people put just a pool in. There are usually other things, like a pool deck, a sauna, water features and landscaping,” which can often propel prices higher. To increase home value, Fujimoto recommends fixing many little elements instead of making a single big fix. For example, if you have two mediocre bathrooms, try to fix them both instead of making one bathroom excellent and ignoring the other one. 



Honolulu architect Geoffrey Lewis says two things that sell a house are the master suite and the common area, so that’s where your money will be best spent.