When I first bought my house, it was with the intention that it was just a starter home, and I'd save for a good down payment on a nicer place.
I've lived here 13 years, and even though I'm not Ms. Fashionable, and I kinda suck at decorating (it's too expensive to buy so much cutesy stuff that never quite appeals to me anyway), I've overseen some positive upgrades to the place, if not done them myself. I hope they'll add resale value.
When I bought the house, it looked deceptively tiny from the street. There were huge bushes and trees all over the place, and my bedroom was almost completely hidden by trees. My father brought over his chainsaw and we got to work clearing out the property of most of the overgrown, scraggly vegetation that was too close to the house anyway. (I'm terrified of chainsaws. Blame Tobe Hooper and every seasonal haunted house in the area for that.)
Privet was running amuck and didn't even have the courtesy to grow into something with a full shape. In fact, over a decade later, I'm STILL fighting to eradicate the privet. It keeps popping up in random places even though we cut it all down and sprayed it. It's just that tenacious.
The attic now has a floor that runs almost the entire length of the house. Great for storage of all that stuff you can't commit to trashing just yet, though you really should. Yeah, guilty. Someday. Still, you can safely walk around up there and it's no longer sweltering hot, thanks to the ridge vents I had installed with the new roof a few years back. 30-year architectural shingles, even. That's quite an upgrade over the previous roof. It looks so much nicer than before.
The bathroom remodel was just a few years ago. New tub / shower surround, flooring, and most importantly, SHEETROCK. No more cardboard tile. I'm still trying to find the right tub caulk though. Seems like it all cracks and grows mildew, despite the guarantees that it won't. I'm open to suggestions. Dap, Loctite, and "professional" caulk were all failures.
The kitchen... Well, it needs a good paint job. I tried a buttery yellow, and didn't like the results. I think a warm beige or bright white would be better, though I'll have to work really hard to paint the knotty pine planking. As soon as I become strong enough to move the washer, dryer, & refrigerator all by myself, I'll be all over that. I hate the kitchen. It needs remodeling, but it's not wise for me to sink lots of money into that, knowing I want to sell it. Prettying it up as is will have to do.
Back to the outside. I've been working hard on landscaping. There was just one overgrown flower bed in the beginning, so I bordered it with retaining wall blocks. Ooh, that looked good! I created a second bed a few years ago and mulched it thoroughly, but it just looked untidy, so I built a retaining wall around that one too last year. The problem was that the mulch would slide out, and I could never get close enough with the mower to cut a nice sharp border. Grass always fuzzed over the border.
I needed the matching blocks but time was running out so I did not "properly" lay those blocks. I didn't dig out their base and then place them atop crushed rock and sand and dirt and fairy dust. No, I just went ahead and laid the blocks, knowing that before long, the grass underneath would rot and they would eventually be sitting on dirt anyhow. Lol. And I was right about that, though I do need to dig and level a couple of blocks. The rest look just fine.
Really, expensive upgrades in my neighborhood are just a waste of money. I just want a buyer to know that I've taken care of the place and improved it quite a lot since I bought it. They need to know it's a good value, and hopefully worth more than I paid for it. At the very least, I need to get my money back on it.
This summer, I went ahead and dug a new flower bed under the living room window. It was bare and always grew tall weeds against the house, and mowing it was tricky. Now there's a gentle curve across those joined flower beds, and mowing is easier because I dug trenches in front of both beds, perfect for riding the mower wheels into for clean cuts. I also trenches under the two big trees and poured fresh mulch, as I do every year. The mulch was originally for cutting down on weedeating, but it was always scattered into the yard if the person mowing wasn't careful. And as much blood and sweat and money as I've put into the mulching, I don't appreciate having all that ruined by careless sweeps of the mower. It just about makes me cry from frustration. (I'm not the guilty one on that.) So the trenches are helpful for weed control, mowing, and mulch retention.
Oh, the mistake with the new bed? I dug the trench, properly removed the sod, and had to hurry to build up the bed for planting, because the trailer holding my bulk load of mulch was on loan for the weekend only. (My brother located and hauled the mulch to my house on the trailer he uses in his construction business, for free, so I didn't want to inconvenience him after he had helped me out so much already.). I poured in purchased garden soil, topsoil, and then the mulch, before I ever bought those blocks. Ha ha ha. I would recommend that you lay the blocks first and then fill it in with your soils and amendments. Much easier.
I found that getting down and just shoving the layers backwards all at once kept them intact and allowed me to lay the blocks pretty well. This time I leveled dirt as I went. Almost a properly done job! No, I'm still not messing with gravel and stuff. I refuse. Thus using a patio. And if I ever lay a patio, I'm probably going to use paver base pieces anyway. Being the solo girl landscaper, it's just easier for me to get those near-instant results I need to keep my motivation high.
I tired pretty quickly of trying to mow close enough to the trees, and getting concussion-whacked in the forehead by thick low limbs. Better just to stay away from the tree bases, if you ask me. The yard is now MUCH easier to mow.
I helped build a porch roof in the backyard, and as of this summer, it has a sturdy new metal roof decked with Advantech instead of plain old plywood. Sometimes plywood is appropriate, and sometimes, it isn't. Lol. Anyway, the porch is wired and will have a new ceiling fan sometime in the near future. There was just a concrete pad out back when I moved in. Porches are nice. :)
I also had a fence put around the backyard. You know what they say -- good fences make good neighbors. Lol I had some issues with people cutting through my property pretty often, and leaving trash scattered about. It got old fast. There was also some theft, and I thought the locked fence would be a useful deterrent. I was right. My annoyances were lessened.
With any project, if you make a mistake, you can persevere for a solution and learn new skills in the process. I just prefer to get it right the first time. I must admit that I'm always apprehensive about starting new home projects, but then I remember what I learned when I finally got my nerve up, and most projects weren't disasters. :)