Portland Sweat Equity Projects that Pay Off Big

There are a few no-brainer projects if you want to improve the value of your home. These are especially smart things to do if you’ll be putting your home on the market in the near future. They can help you get top dollar for your home, and ideally, they’ll net you more than you spend getting them done.

Buyers don’t usually have a lot of creativity when they see things they don’t like in a home. So if you can address these things before you list, they’ll have a more positive overall impression of your home. (Thanks to our agent Alec Pemberton for sharing his expertise on home renovation for this post!)

Whole-House Projects


Painting is hard work, but it’s inexpensive. It also happens to be one of the things that has the biggest impact on how your home looks. Here are some good reasons to paint:

  • Dingy, peeling paint
  • Loud colors
  • Too many different colors throughout the home

Go with a neutral color. Grays have been popular for a long time, but some more warm-toned colors are making a comeback. This is a great list of neutral paint colors, and here’s another one by designer Emily Henderson.


Next to painting, changing your flooring is the thing that can have the biggest impact on the way your home looks.

If you live in an older home, take a peek under your carpet. Many old homes in Portland have beautiful hardwood (and it’s been protected by being under carpet for all of those years)!

Refinishing this original flooring is the way to go. Oak and fir are the most common types of wood floors in Portland. A water-based flat finish keeps both kinds of wood natural, and it doesn’t yellow over time. It costs less than $1 a square foot.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have hardwood underneath your carpet, it’s rarely worth replacing your flooring.


Light fixtures are a fairly inexpensive way to update your home. Etsy has a lot of cool light fixtures, and some of them are pretty inexpensive. You can also check out Rejuvenation and Schoolhouse right here in Portland (though both are on the more expensive side).

Plus, switching out a light fixture yourself isn’t hard with the help of YouTube or a friend with some experience.


If you don’t have the time or money for a bathroom renovation, don’t worry! In fact, full bathroom renovations are extremely expensive and probably not worth your money if you’re expecting to get back what you put into it. Here are a few things you can do instead.

Tile Shower

If you have a worn-out or dingy surround shower, replace it with tile. Tile that goes up to the ceiling looks classy and expensive.

Here’s a list of steps and supplies you’ll need for this project.

Refinish Old Tubs

If you have an old cast-iron tub, don’t you dare get rid of it! They can be refinished by a tub finishing company for just a couple hundred dollars, and they are much nicer than the cheap tubs on the market today.

New Vanity

A new vanity can bring a bathroom a whole new life. IKEA has some stylish and sturdy, but also inexpensive, options. You can also refinish your existing vanity if it’s in good enough shape. Costco also carries pre-bundled sink and vanity sets that are gorgeous and inexpensive.


You’ll never get back the money you put into a full kitchen renovation. That said, kitchens are really important to buyers. There are a few things you should do to make them look a lot better.

A note if you have a mid-century home with an original kitchen: you may want to leave it alone if you’re thinking of selling. People go nuts for them!

Refresh Old Hardware

If you have an old Portland home with original brass hardware, you’re in luck! This has often been painted over and can easily be restored (put doorknobs, hinges, and mortises in water with baking soda and boil for an hour. The paint will peel right off). This kind of hardware is expensive, and it’s something buyers love.

If you need a replacement piece to match old hardware, check out Hippo Hardware!

Refinish Cabinets

Cabinets can get expensive really fast. Refinishing them with either a new wood stain or paint is a good way to update them (if they’re in pretty good shape). Solid wood cabinets will look especially nice when you’re done.

New Backsplash

If you have a dated backsplash, updating it with something neutral and modern can help a lot. It’s also inexpensive (the materials are around $200, depending on what tile you use). Here’s a tutorial for doing it yourself.

New Countertops

If you want to spend more on your kitchen update, updating your old countertops can be a really solid (pun intended) choice. Quartz is a great choice—you can get quartz in just about any look. If you find the right wholesalers, quartz can be gotten for reasonable prices.

Knock Out a Wall

Knocking out a wall can actually be worth it under the right circumstances. In some homes, it can really improve layout and flow. To do this, you’d have to hire a drafter, have an engineer draw up plans, and then take those plans to the city for approval.



It should be a given, but make sure your yard is cleaned up. It makes a huge difference in how your house looks to buyers, and it’s not very expensive (it’s just hard work)!


If you have a lot of chipping and peeling paint, it can be worth repainting the exterior of your house.

Portland Sweat Equity Projects You Shouldn’t Do

Here are a few things you shouldn’t do when you’re updating your home.

  • Don’t replace big appliances, like your furnace or hot water heater, unless you absolutely have to.
  • Don’t replace the roof if you don’t have the cash to do it. It will cost a lot of money, and you won’t get all of that money back.
  • Don’t change the home’s layout, especially in the kitchen and bathroom! Doing this costs a lot of money, and it makes the permitting process a lot harder.
  • Don’t replace old windows. You won’t get your money back, and people like the way old windows look. At best, the money you spend will be a wash.

And one more important tip: don’t stray from the home’s original style. In fact, if you have small things that could be returned to the home’s original style, they’re worth doing (like replacing a 1980s door in your 1920s bungalow).

We hope this helps give you some great ideas for improving the equity you have in your home. If you’d like a free market evaluation, give us a call today! We’ll be happy to talk about your home’s value with you.