If you’ve lived in the same home for a while, you’re not alone.
Homeowners are staying put longer than they did in the past. The typical homeowner now spends about 13 years in their home, up from roughly 10 years a decade ago, according to a Redfin study. Homeownership tenure is especially long in California — Los Angeles homeowners hold onto their homes for a median of 18.1 years, up from 13.6 years in 2012.
Redfin economists attribute the increase in tenure to a larger number of older homeowners aging in place, a national home supply shortage and more affordable housing payments for those who’ve recently refinanced to a lower mortgage rate.
However, if you’ve owned your home for a while but haven’t updated it, now may be a great time to make some home improvements.
After all, there’s a good chance you’ve recently gained a significant amount of equity — the average mortgage borrower saw their home equity increase by nearly $57,000 between the third quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021 alone, according to property data firm CoreLogic. That’s equity you can tap through a cash-out refinance or home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Making a few upgrades to your house can modernize your space and make it more appealing to buyers if you’re looking to sell soon.
Here are five ways to make an older home feel fresh.
1. Paint old or damaged walls
“Paint can make the most significant difference in any room,” says Caroline Harmon, a trend specialist at Lowe’s. A new paint job is particularly valuable if your walls have chipped or are showing smudges or other flaws.
Choosing the right color palette is important. “Earthy colors and tinted neutrals are soothing and easy to mix throughout your home,” Harmon says.
Another safe bet: “Off-white can give an illusion of more space,” says Emma Glubiak, lifestyle expert at home improvement website The Spruce.
To attract a larger pool of homebuyers, it’s wise to avoid colors that trigger a love-it or hate-it reaction — even if the color is trending on Instagram. For instance, mint green is popular in kitchens right now, but many real estate agents in a recent Zillow survey said buyers would pay less for a home with a mint green kitchen.
2. Give your kitchen a facelift
“Oftentimes, a kitchen doesn’t need to be gutted, it just needs a few changes to feel fresh,” says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot.
She suggests replacing old kitchen cabinet knobs and drawer pulls with modern hardware, installing a touchless faucet and installing (or updating) a backsplash. Just make sure the backsplash ties in with the countertops, Fishburne says.
3. Replace dated light fixtures
Lighting has a big impact. “Not only does it brighten your space, but it can define the look and feel of any room,” says Harmon. “Lighting is often referred to as the ‘jewelry of a room’ as it really does add the finishing touch.”
Light fixture designs go in and out of style, so consider replacing outdated sconces, pendants and chandeliers if they look old-fashioned, Fishburne says. Also, if a room is dim, it can be a good idea to replace soft-white bulbs with daylight bulbs.
She also encourages homeowners to look at their exterior lighting. In some cases, a light fixture’s finish just has to be updated with a fresh coat of paint, rather than replacing the whole fixture. For example, “shiny brass is not popular anymore,” says Fishburne.
4. Boost that curb appeal
Curb appeal — how your house looks from the outside — can significantly improve how buyers perceive your home. In fact, on average properties with high curb appeal sell for 7% more than houses with a less-welcoming exterior, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics that rated curb appeal based on aspects like trimmed shrubs and well-tended lawns.
As a result, take stock of your landscaping. “Sometimes with older homes, people who aren’t gardeners have let shrubs and plants and trees overgrow, and they just need a good trimming,” Fishburne says.
If you do have a green thumb, creating a flowerbed, or planting trees and shrubs that add volume, can make your front yard more inviting. And if you’re looking for landscaping ideas tailored to your home, consult a landscape architect — most charge $70 to $150 an hour, according to HomeAdvisor.
5. Say goodbye to carpet
Surveys show that carpet — a common feature in older homes — is out of style.
Ripping up old carpet should be pretty easy, but replacing or repairing what's underneath can be trickier. According to a March 2021 poll by the National Association of Home Builders, the majority of homebuyers said they prefer hardwood flooring, with 32% saying hardwood flooring in the main living area is a “must-have.” Therefore, if your home has carpeting, especially carpeting that’s noticeably worn, think about installing hardwood.
In addition, restoring original hardwood floors can go a long way. “Bring in a pro well-versed in working in old homes to bring your floors back to their former glory,” advises Mallory Micetich, home care expert at Angi, the home services site formerly known as Angie's List.
On a budget? Consider laminate, which is typically less expensive than real wood and is easier to maintain.