By Shannon Roxborough
Conventional wisdom states that upgrades and renovations increase the value of a home. But the reality is that all home improvement projects aren’t created equal—some pay off better than others. Before planning your major projects or giving your contractor the go-ahead on that pricey home makeover, consider thinking small instead of big. Why? The fact is you can’t always count on recouping your investment, especially if you decide to splurge on an upscale kitchen with custom cabinets and high-end appliances or a spa-like bath with luxury finishes.
According to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, an annual national survey comparing the price and resale value of rehab projects, the more you spend on a project, the more you are likely to lose. Spare-no-expense kitchen projects, in particular, only returned as little as 69 percent of the total amount spent on them. Surprisingly, the survey found that simpler, lower-cost projects netted the biggest paybacks: upgrading to a steel entry door recouped almost 102 percent of its cost; replacing wood, vinyl or composite siding with stone veneer paid back 92 percent; and minor kitchen remodels that included cabinet refacing, laminate countertops and new appliances provided a 79 percent return on investment.
The National Association of Realtors says small and exterior-focused home projects are a better value than pricey, more ambitious renovation projects. And the Appraisal Institute, a professional organization of real estate appraisers, believes homeowners should “choose upgrades instead of major remodeling projects to see the greatest potential return on investment.”
That said, here are eight small to mid-range projects that could pay for themselves—and then some—even if you’re not planning to sell anytime soon.
Do Some Painting Projects
Paint offers dramatic results with little investment, especially if you do it yourself instead of hiring a professional.
Consider a Kitchen Update
Small changes in the kitchen not have a large impact, they offer the biggest bang for your buck. Think resurfacing kitchen cabinets or replacing olod hardware. Installing a new sink, faucet, appliances and quality but not over-the-top expensive countertops (natural stone counters like granite have dominated the market for a while, but cheaper, durable materials like laminate are making a comeback) can make the entire space feel brand new.
Upgrade the bathroom
New counters, vanities and fixtures (faucets, sinks and toilet), along with updated wall tile and flooring always provide solid returns.
Redo Your Landscape
When it comes to curb appeal, the front of your house is the first thing people see, so it only makes sense to give some attention to your landscaping. A well-maintained lawn and flowers, shrubs and trees all make a property attractive to potential home buyers down the road.
Build a Deck
More than a place to soak up the sun and have cookouts, decks provide a smooth transition from indoors to out that is appealing to homeowners, guests and future buyers.
Tend to the Basement
For many people, there’s no bigger turn-off than the dreaded damp-basement smell, so a clean, dry underground space can pay dividends. If your basement is prone to moisture, consider using a dehumidifier. If there are leaks or flooding, call in a pro. If you decide to finish your basement with insulation, drywall, laminate flooring or a bathroom, make sure the quality is on par with your upstairs living space.
Replace your garage door
Give your garage a makeover with a door replacement generally pays for itself while making your home more attractive and secure. Even a fresh coat of paint on the doors and entire structure can work wonders.
Replace Your Siding
Vinyl and fiber-cement siding are almost maintenance-free options that improve both the look and energy-efficiency of your home while providing a solid return over time.
The Top 10 Home Improvement Projects with Long-Term ROI
|Entry door replacement (steel)||98.0%|
|Siding replacement (fiber-cement)||83.9%|
|Minor kitchen remodel (midrange)||81.8%|
|Siding replacement (vinyl – midrange)||81.5%|
|Garage door replacement (midrange)||80.7%|
|Deck addition (wood)||80.6%|
|Siding replacement (foam-backed vinyl)||79.5%|
|Attic bedroom remodel||79.3%|
|Window replacement (vinyl – midrange)||78.6%|
|Bathroom remodel (midrange)||77.1%|
Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.