The Best And Worst Upgrades You Can Make To Your Home's Exterior

Many home decor enthusiasts have endless ideas for how to spruce up and revamp the interior of their space, from artfully arranged accessories to carefully chosen paint colors. They know exactly what their overall vision for the home is, and what they want it to look and feel like, even though it may take time and elbow grease (and, of course, money in most cases) in order to achieve it. The exterior, however, can be a bit trickier. A lot of exterior upgrades can end up being quite costly, and though you might assume pouring thousands into certain upgrades will be reflected in the price of your home, should you decide to sell one day, that's often not the case. There are certain upgrades that cost a serious chunk of change, but don't actually end up adding value to your home. This isn't a big deal if it's something you've chosen to do simply to enjoy the home more, but if you're making upgrades with the goal of selling for a higher price, tread carefully.

There are certain upgrades that make a big visual impact or add a whole new element to your space, but actually could end up deterring people from buying your home. There are also upgrades that seem subtle and that you may perceive as not making a big difference, but end up actually giving a total facelift to your home's exterior, per Bob Vila. Here are a few of the best (and worst) upgrades.

Best: A new (or enhanced) garage door

While the garage door likely isn't the reason you fell in love with your house, there's no denying that it makes a major impact on the exterior of your home. For many homes, it's one of the first things you see, and is a very prominent feature. To that end, deciding to upgrade your garage door in some way could add some serious curb appeal. If you want to keep things simple, adding a coat of paint to modernize your door is a great start, according to HGTV. It doesn't cost more than a can of paint and a few hours of labour, and it can be easily done yourself. 

To level that idea up, consider adding some type of iron hardware. It seems like a very minor addition, but it can transform your standard garage door into something that looks custom and far more luxurious. As an added bonus, this is another upgrade that you can DIY; there are many kits on the market with magnetic fasteners that you just affix to your metal garage door. Even if you decide to spend some money and replace the doors, your investment isn't too crazy (the average double door replacement is around $1,500), and it offers a high return on investment (via Scarboro Garage Doors).

Worst: A swimming pool

We know, we know — the idea of having all your friends and family over on a gorgeous summer day, splashing around in the swimming pool and serving up drinks and snacks sounds absolutely idyllic. If you're all about that pool life, go ahead and splurge on this exterior upgrade. However, if you're thinking that future buyers will be flocking to your home because of your beautiful in-ground pool, you unfortunately are likely sorely mistaken, says House Beautiful. Due to the complexity and effort involved in putting an in-ground pool in your backyard, the price tag on this upgrade is pretty high. And while it will obviously depend on the size of the pool, the materials, and labor costs, the average cost of installing an in-ground pool is around $20,000, which is certainly not an insignificant chunk of change. 

Unlike many other backyard upgrades that may impress future buyers, however, there are many homeowners who simply aren't interested in a backyard with a pool because of the potential liability involved, as well as the costly and time-consuming maintenance required, as noted by The Balance. So, even if your pool cost tens of thousands to install, that doesn't translate to the overall price of the home; your realtor may allow a slight bump to reflect the upgrade, but you just won't get back the same amount that you invested. Unless you're building a forever home for swimming enthusiasts, this isn't the wisest exterior upgrade.

Best: Plants, plants, plants!

When many people think of a home's exterior, they think of all the things on the outside of the structure itself — however, the things around the house also have a huge impact on curb appeal. No matter how gorgeous your front door and fresh new garage is, dead grass and dried-out bushes in your front yard will make your home look neglected and untidy. The solution is simple: Indulge that green thumb and head down to your local greenhouse or garden center to add some plants to your outdoor space, advises Good Housekeeping

The actual logistics of what type of plants, and where they go, depends on your specific yard and preferences. Perhaps you want to add a bit of privacy and shade and go big with a few trees, if you have the room to accommodate them. Maybe you live in a cold-weather climate and want the option to shield your plants from frost, so you'd prefer flowers potted in planters that can be brought inside if necessary. Maybe you absolutely love color, and want to add in a variety of flower beds bursting with different blossoms in every shade of the rainbow. Or, maybe greenery is more your thing, and you want to incorporate a few different shrubs to accentuate different parts of your property. The options are limitless, and you can really get creative with this particular upgrade, as you can do it yourself.

Worst: An elaborate patio area

You might think that spending tens of thousands of dollars to create an outdoor oasis would have buyers rushing to snatch up your property — but according to the data, that just isn't the case, per HGTV. Thanks to the cost of materials and labor, transforming an expanse of grass in the backyard to a carefully-designed patio area can be quite an expense, and it's not always one that pays off. 

First of all, every homeowner likes to use their space differently, so the patio design that works for you may not be the ideal solution for whoever may own your house after you. Sure, something like adding a simple deck when you have none may be a great choice, but costly privacy walls, custom-built outdoor kitchens, and similar luxurious upgrades likely won't translate into a higher overall price tag for your home. This is another one of those upgrades that you should really only do for your own enjoyment, to allow you to use the space in the way you'd like to. 

If you're trying to spruce up your patio for resale, stick to the basics like ensuring the wood is properly stained or painted and looks well-maintained. All the fancy extras are just bonuses that the average buyer likely won't really care about.

Best: Elevated exterior lighting

Most home decor enthusiasts know that lighting can have an absolutely massive impact on a space. Simply adding a few table lamps or switching out the builder-grade light fixtures that came with the house can transform a home's interior — and exterior lighting is no different (via Lumen4). Perhaps you never even really considered the exterior lighting on your home, beyond the practical things like ensuring your porch is well lit and you have motion-activated lights in certain key areas. 

Turn your attention to the exterior lighting options on your property and prepare to be amazed. A lounging area in the backyard can be leveled up with some string lights that add warmth and coziness, according to Good Housekeeping. Adding a few lanterns or solar-powered lights can help accentuate certain features of your front or back yard, like flower beds you worked so hard to tend, or a walkway that connects different areas of your outdoor space. 

Finally, lighting can help show off certain features of your home. If you have any unique architectural details that you want to ensure are noticeable to boost your home's curb appeal, adding a few strategically placed lights can do just that. While safety and practicality are two key features of lighting, aesthetics also play a role, and the three factors all combine to make lighting an area where your investment and small changes can make a huge difference.

Worst: Customized 'extras'

When it comes to a home's exterior, most buyers simply want to see a decent amount of square footage that they can customize to their own needs and requirements. If you're considering adding a costly "bonus" feature to your exterior space, you may want to think twice about whether it's something that will actually add value, or if it's just something that you want for your own enjoyment, as noted by HGTV

There's absolutely nothing wrong with making improvements based on what you want — just know that they won't automatically add to the overall price tag of your home. Though you may enjoy a daily soak, not everyone enjoys a hot tub, and may not like that you've custom-built a large space in your backyard to house your prized tub. Or, perhaps you've put in countless hours to construct a tree house or play house for your children, which will end up becoming a nuisance to a childless homeowner who just wants the extra green space. Even much larger additions, such as a tennis court, can be fairly hit or miss — they often cost a huge chunk of change, and may not be valued the same by others as they are by you.