While visiting a friend of mine last week, I was sitting in the living room waiting for him to get home from work when the doorbell rang. As I was chatting with the woman on the front steps, a voice chimed in.

“Hi Carol. This is my friend, Jason. Come on in and get started. I’ll be home soon.”

It was my buddy. He was talking to both of us (and watching us) through the doorbell.

Later in the week (again, waiting for him to get home), my friend turned on the air conditioning at the house (it was 35 degrees outside!) just to mess with me.

Both of these trinkets were controlled by his phone. We have arrived at an age of technology that most of us never even dreamed possible.

I mention the thermostat because it is just one of the many upgrades you can make to your home with a very reasonable budget. All of the improvements we’ll talk about today are under $1,000 dollars. The point being: You don’t need to break the bank to make a big difference in the value and comfort of your home.

As always, these updates have value whether you are selling your home or just want to do a few improvements for your own enjoyment. You will appreciate them while you are there and the potential buyers (and your real estate agent) will love them as well.

The programmable thermostat is at the top of our list today. You don’t necessarily need to fully geek out and get one that you can control with your phone (or your mind!). Any of these worth their salt will have multiple timeframes where you can control the temperature. Set it to drop when you leave for work in the morning and when you go to bed at night. The financial savings have been proven time and time again. For me, I love the sound of the furnace kicking on first thing in the morning. It is a small enticement to get out of bed, since I know the house will be warm when I crawl out from under the blanket. (Now if only I could bring myself to program the coffeemaker!)

Speaking of things being warm in the morning, another great project is to tile the bathroom floor. Of course you can tackle a larger room if you want, but the bathroom is a great place to start. It is also a fantastic place to incorporate heated tiles. You don’t need to have radiant flooring to do this, either. Talk to an expert at your local home improvement store for the nitty gritty. There’s nothing quite as nice as stepping out of the shower onto a warm floor.

While we’re in the bathroom, this is as good a time as any to replace the toilet. This is especially true if you are re-tiling the floor anyway. An updated commode is going to use less water, likely provide variable flush settings and just plain look nicer. One of my favorite niceties in the house I built was getting “adult height” toilets. I’m not sure what the mindset was a few decades ago, but I appreciate the height of these new ones. Your shorter friends might have dangling feet while they are in there, but I’d still go for it. You will appreciate the ease of use.

Moving outside of the water closet, it might be time to replace the blinds at least in the main living areas of the home. We all went through our phase of having those ultra-cheap aluminum or plastic blinds. These were perfect for that first studio apartment. The trouble is, they look as cheap as they perform. You are an adult now, so treat yourself to a quality set of blinds. If your windows are standard-sized, you’ll have no problem finding a myriad of styles and colors you can buy right off the shelf. This small improvement has the power to transform a room. Combine it with some new curtains and your mom will be so proud!

As far as home improvement projects go, the kitchen is always the scariest place to play. This room has the potential to burst even the most aggressive budgets. For our purposes, consider replacing just the fixtures.

“Upgraded kitchen and bathroom fixtures can make a huge difference in potential buyers’ initial opinion of a home,” notes Badger Realty agent David Cianciolo. “New faucets all around and even simply replacing drawer and cabinet door handles can make a room stand out,” he continued.

Last but not least, as we move outside the home, replacing the front door and adding a walkway will have huge, obvious impacts on curb appeal. While the door might be a job for a professional, the walkway is something you can tackle in a couple of weekends. Since we’re covered in snow right now, you can save this one for spring. These two updates will make you smile every time you come home and are certainly more likely to draw in those buyers if and when you are ready.

Home improvement projects don’t have to be immense in scale or budget in order to have a big impact. Consider a few of these this winter since most of them can be done regardless of the weather outside. I’ll see you at the lumberyard!

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