You may want to tackle some home improvement projects to make your home more livable for you and your family, but it doesn’t hurt to know whether you’ll be able to recoup the cost of the upgrade should you decide to sell. Of course, whether you will be able to depends on the upgrade itself.
Just ask residential real estate investor and creator of the real estate investment-focused site Investiture Mark Ferguson. His friend recently confessed to shelling out $100,000 to renovate the kitchen in her $325,000 home. “There was no way she was going to get close to her investment back,” he explains, remorsefully.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t renovate your kitchen (It’s on our list below!), but it does mean you should carefully consider which home improvement projects to take on and how much to spend. If you ever decide to sell, you may not recoup the entire cost of your project. But, if chosen wisely, your upgrade may help your home sell faster and for closer to your asking price.
Just be sure to do your research up front. Make sure that your prospective home improvement projects are in line with what’s being done in your neighborhood. If they’re not, you run the risk that your home will sit on the market. This can be a huge drain on your finances.
To give you a sense of which home improvement projects are most likely to pay you back, we used Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report as a guide. Then, we spoke to the experts to get their take on each one. Here’s the rundown on which projects to tackle and a few to avoid.
Design with Manufactured Stone Veneer
When it comes to selling a home, curb appeal can make a big impact. For an upgraded look that’s cost effective, strip out vinyl siding from the bottom third of your house and replace it with manufactured stone veneer. Per Remodeling Magazine’s report this upgrade ranked first on the list of renovations that pay you back.
The exterior isn’t the only area of your home that can benefit from this type of upgrade. “I often use it to create a stone wall in the house or for fireplace mantles,” says Glenna Stone of Glenna Stone Interior Design. “It’s a nice way to create a certain look at a fairly reasonable price.”
Average cost: $9,357
Added home resale value: $8,943
Cost recouped: 95.6%
Put in a New Garage Door
A new garage door is an easy and inexpensive way to elevate the look of your home, especially if your current door is old, tired and worn.
Modern garage doors come with a lot of options. “A lot of them look like wood but are made from [more durable] steel or metal,” explains Stone. “There are also hybrids on the market—where the outer is fiberglass and the inner is steel. That combination brings your cost way down.” Install your new door on galvanized steel tracks. Most come with a 10-year limited warranty.
Average cost: $3,695
Added home resale value: $3,491
Cost recouped: 94.5%
Replace the Front Door
Your home’s front door can make or break your home’s entryway. “When you’re selling your home, it’s one of the first things people see,” notes Stone. If you’re planning to replace your door, select something that matches the overall architecture of your home, she advises.
Not sure how to select a door with the greatest visual appeal? Stone recommends the DoorWays app by Therma-Tru Corp. “You can stand outside your home, use your phone’s camera, and drop doors into the photo of your house, so you can see what it would look like,” she says.
Once you have a general sense of what you want your new door to look like, opt for one made from fiberglass or steel. Compared to wood doors, they are more energy-efficient, are more secure, last longer, and require less maintenance.
Average cost: $1,881
Added home resale value: $1,294
Cost recouped: 68.8%
Upgrade the Kitchen’s Look
The kitchen is probably the most heavily used areas of the home, which is why, for many home buyers, an outdated kitchen could be a deal-breaker, says Larry Greene of Case Design/Remodeling. This is especially true “for older houses where kitchens are often small and closed in. Transitioning to a more open concept will give your entire living area an updated feel.”
You don’t need to gut the room and start from scratch to get the biggest bang for your buck. Unless you’re a serious foodie or professional chef who never plans to move, you probably don’t want to build a kitchen that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars more than anything else in your neighborhood.
Instead, focus on a minor remodel, which can include new countertops, cabinet fronts and hardware, and an upgraded, energy-efficient cooktop and wall oven. You can also throw out the kitchen sink—just replace it with a mid-price model and a new faucet. You’ll save on the substantial costs of a major overhaul, which has a much lower overall return.
Average cost: $23,452
Added home resale value: $18,206
Cost recouped: 77.6%
Add a Wooden Deck
Creating a new space outside the house can change the way you and your loved ones spend time together. Think backyard barbecues, summertime birthday celebrations and even a relaxed outdoor dinner with the kids.
When it comes time to sell, a new deck could make all the difference, especially if decks aren’t common in your area, explains Ferguson. But, there’s no need to go overboard. If you’re building an extremely intricate or ornate deck, it’s unlikely that you’ll get all your money back, unless you own a higher-end home. Simple, decent-sized decks will probably give you the best value for your money.
It’s also worth noting that decks made from composite materials are more expensive and tend to recoup less of a homeowner’s outlay.
Average cost: $14,360
Added home resale value: $10,355
Cost recouped: 72.1%
Replace the Roof
It goes without saying, but a leaky roof can lead to damage to the interior structure of your home and its belongings. Very few buyers are interested in a home with an old or damaged roof. At an average replacement cost of $20,000, who can blame them?
“When you have a bad roof, most buyers will not be able to get a loan on the home. It will look bad and it will decrease the price you can sell the home for,” says Ferguson. Most buyers expect the roof to be in good shape, he explains. If it’s not, the buyer may wonder what else could be wrong with the house. And no one wants to risk their hard-earned dollars on a money pit home.
Average cost: $24,700
Added home resale value: $16,287
Cost recouped: 65.9%
Remodel the Bathroom
Gutting a bathroom can be a huge cost, but a mid-range remodel can help transform your space and give it a spa-like feel. You can save money by redoing your existing tub or shower, instead of replacing it altogether. Another way to save is to go with a more inexpensive tile in high traffic areas like the floor and use specialty tile sparingly, perhaps only as an accent. New paint and fixtures can brighten up your existing bathroom without breaking the bank.
Average cost: $21,377
Added home resale value: $13,688
Cost recouped: 64.0%
Vinyl Window Replacement
Not only will new windows improve the look of your home, they’ll also help you save money. Replacing your windows can be one of the most cost effective home improvement projects you do. Without that pesky draft, your indoor heating and cooling systems will run more efficiently, lowering your energy costs. New windows can also provide UV protection, protecting your interior and furniture from rays that can cause fading.
Average cost: $17,641
Added home resale value: $12,761
Cost recouped: 72.3%
Home Upgrades to Avoid
“Additions rarely pay off, unless you live in an area with an incredibly high dollar per square foot, like San Francisco,” says Ferguson. Renovation’s data backs up that claim. Most room additions—be it a bathroom, a family room, a master suite, or even a new second story—fall toward the bottom of the list.
Also, avoid renovations that are highly specialized to your tastes. Greene says this includes a pool, sunroom or home office. “Those renovations will often be seen [by buyers] as an additional maintenance hassle,” he warns.
Finally, don’t forget the nitty-gritty. Before starting any renovation project, give your homeowners insurance agent or carrier a quick call. If you’re adding value to your home, you may want to increase your coverage. If you’re hiring contractors or doing the work yourself, you’ll want to understand if and how the work may affect your existing coverage.