Not Tracking Home Improvement Costs? Here’s Why You Should Start, ASAP


Written by:

Embarking on a home renovation to transform your living space is an exciting endeavor. Home improvements are also an investment that can significantly increase the value of your property, so it’s important to track expenses to be prepared for capital gains tax when you sell your home. Tracking home improvement costs can also help homeowners stick to a budget and ensure a greater return on investment.

Let’s take a closer look at how to track home improvement costs, which upgrades qualify for tax purposes, and options for financing a home renovation.

Why Track Home Improvement Costs?

Amid all the work and logistics that goes into renovations, tracking home improvement costs might not feel like a high priority. However, having documented home improvement costs can help reduce potential capital gains tax when it’s time to sell your home.

The IRS allows qualifying home improvement costs to be added to the original purchase price of the property, known as the cost basis, when calculating capital gains on a home sale. The basis is subtracted from the home sale price to determine if you’ve realized a gain and subsequently owe tax. But by adding home improvement expenses to your cost basis, the profit from the sale that’s subject to taxes decreases — lowering or even potentially exempting you from property gains tax.

Besides home improvements, other factors that affect property value, like location and the current housing market, could make a property sale subject to capital gains tax.

Here’s an example of how capital gains tax on a home sale works: A married couple that purchased a home for $200,000 in 2001 and sold it for $750,000 in 2024 would have a $550,000 realized gain. Assuming that the sellers made this home their main residence for two of the last five years, they’d be able to exclude $500,000 of the gain from taxes. The remaining $50,000 would be taxed at 0%, 15%, or 20% based on the sellers’ income and how long they owned the property.

However, the sellers spent $70,000 on home improvements during their 23 years of homeownership, so the capital gains calculation would be revised to: $750,000 – ($200,000 + $70,000) = $480,000. Tracking home improvement costs in this example exempted the sellers from needing to pay capital gains taxes.

Note that single filers may exclude only the first $250,000 of realized gains from the sale of their home. Eligibility for the exclusion also requires living in the home for at least two years out of the last five years leading up to the date of sale. Those who own vacation homes should note that the IRS has very specific rules about what constitutes a main residence.

Qualifying vs Nonqualifying Improvements

The IRS sets guidelines that determine what home improvements can be added to your cost basis for calculating capital gains tax. Thus, not every dollar spent on sprucing up your home’s curb appeal or living space needs to be tracked for tax purposes. Generally, tracking costs is a good idea for any home improvements that increase your home’s value and fall outside general repair and upkeep to maintain the property’s condition.

Qualifying Improvements

According to the IRS, improvements that add value to the home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses can qualify. This includes the following categories and home improvements:

  • Home additions: Bedroom, bathroom, deck, garage, porch, or patio
  • Home systems: HVAC systems, central humidifier, central vacuum, air/water filtration systems, wiring, security systems, law and sprinkler systems.
  • Lawn & grounds: Landscaping, driveway improvements, fencing, walkways, retaining walls, and pools
  • Exterior: Storm windows, roofing, doors, siding
  • Interior: Built-in appliances, kitchen upgrades, flooring, wall-to-wall carpeting, fireplaces
  • Insulation: Attic, walls, floors, pipes, and ductwork
  • Plumbing: Septic system, water heater, soft water system, filtration system

It’s also important to track any tax credits or subsidies received for energy-related home improvements, such as solar panels or a heat pump system, since these incentives must be subtracted from the cost basis.

Nonqualifying Expenses

Owning a home requires routine maintenance and occasional repairs — think fixing a leaky pipe or mowing the lawn. And the longer you own your home, the greater the chance you reapproach past home improvements with a fresh design or modern technologies. The IRS considers regular maintenance and any home improvement that’s been later replaced as nonqualifying costs.

For instance, a homeowner could have installed wall-to-wall carpet and later swapped it out for hardwood floors. In this case, the hardwood floors would qualify, but not the carpeting.

How to Track Your Costs

Developing a system for tracking home improvement costs depends in part on where you are in the process. Here’s how to get track home improvement costs before, during, and after a renovation project.

Before You Renovate

The average cost to renovate a house can vary from $20,000 to $80,000 based on the size of the home and type of improvements. Given this range in cost expectations, it’s helpful to create an itemized budget that estimates the cost for each improvement. It’s hardly uncommon for renovations to take more time and money than expected, so consider budgeting an extra 10-20% for the unexpected.

Your itemized budget can be leveraged for tracking home improvement costs once the project starts. Simply plug in the completion date, cost, and description for each improvement, and keep receipts, to itemize the expense as it’s incurred.

Keep Detailed Records

Tracking home improvement costs goes beyond crunching the numbers. The IRS requires documentation to adjust the cost basis on a property. As improvements are made, catalog contractor and store receipts and take pictures before and after the work is done to document the improvements for your records. Store these records digitally in a secure and accessible location; the IRS recommends keeping records for three years after the tax return for the year in which you sell your home.

Catch Up After the Fact

Tracking home improvement costs after the work has been completed is doable, but it requires more effort. If your renovations required any building permits, your municipality should have records on file.

For other projects, start by searching your email for receipts and records can help find a paper trail and track down documentation. Reach out to contractors you worked with for copies of missing receipts or invoices. If you paid with a check or credit card, you can browse through your previous statements or contact the bank for assistance.

Consult a Tax Pro

Taxes are complicated. If you have any doubts about what improvements qualify, consult a tax professional for assistance. Homeowners who used their property as a home office or rented it for any duration could especially benefit from a tax pro. Any property depreciation that was claimed in previous tax years may need to be recaptured if the home sale price exceeds the cost basis.

Home Improvement Financing Options

Renovations and upgrades to your home can be expensive. Many homeowners use a combination of savings and financing to pay for home improvements.

  • HELOC: A Home Equity Line Of Credit lets homeowners tap into their existing equity to fund a variety of expenses, such as home improvements. With a HELOC, you can take out what you need as you need it, rather than the full amount you’re approved for, which is often 75%-85% of your home’s value. You only pay interest on the amount you draw.
  • Cash-out refinance: Some owners take out a new home loan that allows them to pay off their old mortgage but also provides them with a lump sum of cash that they can use for home repairs (or other expenses). How much cash you might be able to take will depend on the amount of equity you have in your home.
  • Personal loan: An unsecured personal loan could be a good option for quick funding that doesn’t require using your home as collateral. The interest rate and whether you qualify are largely based on your credit score.
  • Credit card: Financing a home improvement with a credit card can help earn cash back or rewards on your investment. However, these perks should be weighed against the risk of higher interest rates. If using a 0% interest credit card, crunch the numbers to ensure you can pay off the balance before the introductory offer expires.

The Takeaway

Tracking home improvement costs from the start can help stick to your project budget and lead to significant tax savings when it comes time to sell your property. A HELOC is one way to fund home improvements, and may be especially useful to borrowers who aren’t sure how much money they will need for home projects. If you’re unsure whether a home improvement qualifies under the IRS rules around capital gains tax on home sales, consult a tax professional.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891  Opens A New Window.(Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945).

All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state.

You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at

SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), ( Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY.

In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

More from MediaFeed:

Spring Cleaning Already? Here’s 36 Places to Sell Your Pre-Loved Treasures

Spring Cleaning Already? Here’s 36 Places to Sell Your Pre-Loved Treasures

Offloading your used items can do you good on a couple of fronts. You can declutter your home, help fight waste (since you’re not just throwing things out), and you can make money by selling your still-useful stuff.

Whether you are getting rid of clothing, shoes, bags, furniture, housewares, books, electronics, or anything else, you can probably find a platform to help you get the job done. Some ways to sell are online, others aren’t, but all can do their part to connect your items with buyers. And get some additional cash flowing your way.

marrakeshh / iStock

If you have items you no longer want or need, and you’re looking to make some extra money, why not kill two birds with one stone? You might do this on a regular basis to keep your place (especially your closets) streamlined, or it could help you out at a moment when you are living paycheck to paycheck.

The following resale apps, sites, and stores may be able to help. Some of these services are free to list and sell, some take a percentage of profits, some pay cash outright, and others consign (meaning they sell your stuff and pay you once it sells).

1. Craigslist

One of the original online marketplaces, Craigslist ( , is where you can sell used things. You can list all sorts of things, from tools to toys to DVDs to antiques (and much more) for free.

Facebook Marketplace makes it easy to sell items in your local area. It’s free to create a listing that can be seen by anyone on and off Facebook. You can also choose to post your listings to any “Buy and Sell” Groups you’re a member of.

However, a word of caution: Facebook Marketplace and other similar platforms can be used for banking scams. Read up on common ploys and proceed with caution when selling this way.

Pornpak Khunatorn/istockphoto

While you may think that Amazon is where you can buy new things, there are also a lot of opportunities to list used items, especially books. Current pricing can be $39.99 a month plus selling fees, so you will likely want to be confident you can sell more than that before enrolling.

kasinv / istockphoto

The original selling platform, eBay can still be a good way to sell your stuff, especially if you want to reach buyers from around the world who are looking to save money daily. Or it can be a huge help if you’re looking to unload an unusual item (there is almost nothing you can’t sell on eBay). But you may want to keep an eye out for selling fees, which may include a listing fee, a percentage of the sales prices, and possibly other fees.

One example of fees: For most categories, you will pay 35 cents per listing and, when an item sells, you will owe 13.255 of the total sales amount up to $7,500. If the item’s price is higher than that, you’ll pay an additional 2.35% on the overage.

Prykhodov / istockphoto

Developed as a locally-driven platform, OfferUp is another good bet for selling used things. It allows you to sell to someone local, or ship an item to a buyer who lives anywhere in the US. Most items are free to post. When you sell a shipped item on the site, you may be charged a fee that is 12.9% of the sale price, with a minimum of $1.99.


Primarily a site for selling used clothing, Poshmark also lets you list home decor, jewelry, and beauty products. For sales you make under $15, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95. If you make a sale that’s worth $15 or more, it takes 20%.

Etsy may be best known as a platform for artists to sell their handmade goods and launch a low-cost side hustle. But the site also allows you to list some used goods.  However, you can only resell in the “Vintage” and “Craft Supplies” categories. There is a listing fee of 20 cents per item, and, when you sell an item, there’s a transaction fee of 6.5% of the price, plus the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping.

An online consignment and thrift store, thredUP sells thousands of major brands. You can send your gently used clothing directly to the service. If they accept (and sell) your clothing, you can choose from cash or credit.

A $2.99 Clean Out Kit fee and a service charge of $14.99 or higher may be assessed when you send in your clothes.

Like eBay, you can sell just about anything on eBid, either for auction or at a fixed price. eBid is organized into three tiers of selling, with different membership costs and selling fees. eBid may or may not wind up costing you less than other selling platforms, depending on how much you will sell and at what price.

Another platform for selling stuff locally is Bookoo, which doesn’t charge any listing or selling fees. Bookoo may not be as well known as other sites, but it is available in nearly every state throughout the U.S.

If you have a lot of gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories to sell, you may want to check out Vinted (, a peer-to-peer online marketplace that focuses on vintage and second-hand fashion. And, for sellers, it’s free. Buyers pay a “protection fee,” typically 5% of the purchase price plus 70 cents.

If you have luxury items you want to sell, you may want to try Vestiaire Collective, a resale website where you can buy and sell high-end clothing, handbags, and accessories. When you sell an item, you can usually keep up to 85% of your money from the sale, minus a payment processing fee (usually 3%).

vestiaire collective

TheRealReal is a luxury consignment site where you can drop off or ship designer clothing, accessories, and jewelry, as well as fine art and upscale home decor. They sell your items for you in exchange for a percentage of the profit.

If you have a designer bag that you no longer want, you might consider selling it on Rebag, a site that’s focused on buying, selling, and trading luxury handbags. The site will let you know how much your bag is worth. If you like the offer, you can send them your bag with no shipping charges. Once it’s received and approved, you’ll get your payment.

Another site for selling luxury handbags is Bag Borrow or Steal. You can sell directly to the site (and get paid right away), or you can consign and receive 70% of the sales price after it’s sold.

If you aren’t sentimental about keeping your wedding dress, bridal party gown, or accessories, then you can list it on, with a $25 listing fee and an 80% payout of the sale price when someone buys it.

PreOwned Wedding Dresses

If your goal is to unload a large amount of stuff all at once, hosting a garage sale can be a good way to go. You could even get some neighbors together and hold a community garage sale to attract more people.

Just be sure to double-check community guidelines first to see if a permit is required.

Margarita Khamidulina/istockphoto

Community flea markets can be a great way to sell unwanted things. The owner and operator of the flea market will likely charge you a fee for a booth. If you live in a big city, you may have to register early to get a spot.


Buffalo Exchange is a vintage and used clothing store with locations throughout the U.S. If one of their stores is convenient to you, you can make an appointment to meet with a buyer. If they like your stuff, they will pay 25% of their selling price in cash or 50% in store credit. (Using that store credit could prove to be a good way to save money on clothes.)

Crossroads Trading is a second-hand clothing store with brick-and-mortar locations throughout the U.S. If you visit a store, you may be able to receive cash for your clothing on the spot. For higher-end pieces, you can opt to consign. Crossroads also offers mail-in service.

You can bring your gently used brand-name clothing and accessories to a Plato’s Closet near you. They’ll review your items and, if accepted, you’ll get paid on the spot.

A women’s resale store, you can bring in stylish, gently used clothes, shoes, handbags, and accessories to one of Style Encore’s retail locations. If they ( like your items, you will get paid right away in cash.

If you have gently used children’s clothing and shoes, toys, and/or baby gear lying around, you may want to cart it over to Once Upon a Child, which has locations throughout the U.S. An employee will check out your goods and, if they think they sell them, will give you cash in return.

If you live near Play it Again Sports, you may want to consider bringing in all the no-longer-used sports equipment in your garage. You’ll clear out the space, and may get a nice amount of cash in return.

Live in a musical household? Music Go Round is a resale music shop where you can bring in used instruments and sound equipment (like amps, MIDI equipment, and mixers) and get paid cash in return.

Unlike Goodwill or Salvation Army which accept donations, thrift stores — specifically ones that sell high-end or vintage clothing — might be willing to buy your clothes and other items. Look up local stores, and ask them what they buy and how much they typically pay.

George Djuric/istockphoto

Your local used book stores may be looking to purchase your books from you. You can call ahead, let them know what you have, and see if they are interested. You might wind up selling your old things for cash.

Photo Italia LLC/istockphoto

If you’re looking to sell textbooks, you may want to check out BookScouter. The platform simplifies the process by searching sites that buy used textbooks, then displaying the prices from those sites, so you can compare and decide where to sell your books.

GoTextbooks also allows you to sell your college textbooks and hopefully recoup some of the money you spent on them. When you let the site ( know about what you have for sale, they will give you an instant quote. You can then ship your books for free and receive your money.

If you mainly have electronics to sell, you may want to check out DeCluttr, which buys used tech, cell phones, DVDs, and video games. The site will give you an instant valuation. If you like the price, you can ship your item for free. If it meets expectations, you receive payment a few days later.

You may be able to turn your old cell phone into some quick cash at Gazelle. The site will give you an instant quote. If you like the numbers, you can ship the phone to them for free, and get paid via Amazon Gift Card, PayPal, or check.

You may be able to make some quick money selling your old stuff to a local pawn shop. Typically, pawn shops are only interested in things of value, such as jewelry, collectible coins, and electronics. It can be a good idea to bring in proof of purchase so that the owner knows you aren’t trying to sell stolen goods.

Massimo Giachetti/istockphoto

If you’re in any local or niche Facebook groups, you may want to post items that might appeal to members of the group. You simply need to snap a picture, describe your item, set your asking price, and see what offers you get.

Tero Vesalainen/istockphoto

Nextdoor is a network of local community websites and can be a good place to post items. You click on the “Sell or give away an item” option when posting and can set your terms. While the number of people who are in a particular area’s community will vary, Nextdoor does have approximately 37 million active users, so you just might find a buyer.

If you have a fair number of followers on Instagram, you might consider listing items you’re looking to sell there. As with Facebook groups, you simply need to snap a photo, write a brief description, and name your price. Or, you can go the more professional route and integrate Instagram’s shopping tools.


Do you have friends who might be interested in checking out what you have for sale? You may want to consider inviting them over for a “raid my closet” event, or a “raid my garage” party. You can offer food and drinks, and make it a fun celebration to declutter your home.


Selling your things can have several benefits:

  • You can declutter or downsize by selling unwanted items.
  • You can help the environment by passing the item along versus throwing it in the garbage.
  • You can help someone who is looking for a gently used item that you have and wants to get a good deal on it.
  • You can bring in extra income.

However, as mentioned before, there are also downsides of selling your stuff. There is the possibility of being scammed in some direct sales, and there are also income tax implications to doing those kinds of transactions as well. Educate yourself on these situations.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Anna Gorbacheva/istockphoto

JLco – Julia Amaral/istockphoto

Featured Image Credit: kitzcorner/istockphoto.