Amy Hamilton-Chadwick 1 Jul 2024
A woman drilling a board

How can you get the most value for every dollar you spend on your house? These five renovation projects deliver outsized returns for your investment – especially if you’re prepared to do some of the work yourself.


Fresh paint is one of the highest impact upgrades you can make on a low budget. Inside, the right shade can transform your rooms. On the exterior, a fresh coat can improve street appeal and help protect your house from the elements.

Paying the professionals will still give you value for money. But if you can learn to paint, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars – this is what YouTube tutorials are made for.  

Cost: Less than $2,000 in paint and painting equipment for the interior of a three-bedroom home. Likely to be less, perhaps around $1,000, for the exterior.

Woman with paint roller looking at room to be painted

DIY painting is an affordable way to update a space

Exterior improvements

Boosting the street appeal of your home can increase its value and draw in prospective buyers – all on a low budget.

Try to look at your house with fresh eyes. Which items are seen first? It might be the letterbox, paths, fencing or gardens. Improving the look of these items will go a long way to improving the value of your home.

Weeding and tidying up the garden will have an immediate impact and essentially costs nothing. A new letterbox is relatively inexpensive, and clearing pathways is free. Can you hide the bins behind a screen or use planting to improve the look of the exterior? This is an area of your house where a little bit of effort can make a world of difference.

Cost: Starting from zero for weeding and tidying, up to a few thousand dollars for a new letterbox, screens, and plants.

wheelbarrow full of earth next to newly planted garden bed

Weeding and clearing garden beds can add value to your home

Kitchen facelift

Kitchens sell houses, but new kitchens are expensive. You can keep costs down by giving your kitchen a facelift that doesn’t require a plumber or electrician, or any new appliances.

You can start by replacing your cabinet doors and handles. Or to keep costs even lower, you can sand back your cabinet doors and repaint them. It will refresh your kitchen on a relatively small budget.  

Next, consider updating your benchtop. A new benchtop will look fabulous, but alternatively you could also get your existing benchtop resurfaced for a fraction of the price.

To really complete the makeover, what about a tiled splashback? A stylish tile can invigorate a small space, and you might be surprised at how easy it is to tile a splashback yourself.

This also applies to bathrooms. A new vanity and shower, freshly tiled wall, and tapware will refurbish a bathroom on a low budget – though you will need a plumber for new fittings.

Cost: Starting from less than $1,000 to repaint cabinets and replace handles in a small kitchen, up to $5,000 for all-new cabinet fronts, a new splashback and resurfaced benchtop.

modern kitchen with wooden cupboards and tiled splashback

Updating cabinet fronts and retiling a splashback can freshen up a kitchen quickly

Upgrade lighting and switches

Light fittings are often overlooked – we forget how much impact they can have on a home.

A beautiful pendant light that complements a room will add drama and style to any space and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. The big hardware retailers sell some gorgeous lighting options at affordable prices.

You can also upgrade old downlights to new LEDs, which will cut down your power bill as well giving the room a more modern appearance. You may be able to swap in new lights yourself, depending on the existing fittings; the job will be costlier if you need to call an electrician.

While you’re at it, what about new light switches and power point covers? Yellowing old switches are common in older homes, but you won’t necessarily notice how dated they look when you see them every day. New switches can modernise the feel of your interior.  

Cost: From less than $100 for individual pendant lights and LED downlights; from $10 to $30 for each switch or power point.

small kitchen space with statement pendant lights

Statement lights can be suprisingly affordable

New window treatments

Ready-to-hang curtains and roller blinds are an affordable way to revive a room, particularly if you install new ones after repainting. Curtains can give a sense of opulence and may also improve the insulation in a room, making it cheaper to heat. Roller blinds can give a streamlined look and have the potential to make a small room feel bigger, because they take up so little space.

Ready-made curtains are not too tricky to hang if you have some basic tools: drill, screwdriver, level, stepladder.

Cost: Around $100 to $400 for individual roller blinds, and ready-made curtains starting from around $150; prices depend on size and fabric. Curtain tracks or rods typically less than $200 each.

small living room with curtains framing a window

New curtains can lift a room