Some renos start paying off right away: Outfitting your house with Energy Star appliances (washer, dryer, water heater) can cut your energy use by 35 percent—and slash your bills significantly. Other upgrades might not save you money in the near future but will help you fetch a higher price when you eventually sell. “Anything that gives your house more curb appeal can really boost its value—and help you enjoy your home more while you’re living there,” says Sarah Feezor, a real estate agent with Dream Town Realty in Chicago. Buyers searching online might scroll past a listing with peeling paint or a dilapidated porch before looking at interior photos. In fact, the latest Cost vs. Value Report by Hanley Wood, a residential data provider, found that curb-appeal projects, including changes to siding, doors, and windows, had an average payback of 75 percent, compared with 64 percent for interior upgrades. Inside, kitchen and bathroom renos get the most return on investment. Even so, you’ll want your spending to be compatible with the house’s total worth—a $90,000 kitchen remodel doesn’t make much sense for a $200,000 property. “One of the worst things people can do is overimprove their homes,” says Feezor. “If the upgrade means you’re now the best house on the block, you’re never going to get as much of your money back when you sell.” Checking out comparable listings in your area can help you keep pace with—but not exceed—the local market.