by Donna De Palma
Looking to maximize the resale value of your home before putting your house on the market? Not thinking about selling, but considering the impact of a home upgrade on resale value? Not all remodeling projects are created equal. Here are the top five upgrades that pay back when you decide to sell:
1. Curb appeal
Spruce up your home’s exterior to get the most bang for your buck. Landscaping and minor exterior improvements pay back 100% of the money you invest. If you’re going for a complete makeover, you’ll spend $3,500 for new sod, flowers and shrubs, a new walkway, enhanced porch and front door upgrade. If you’re just refreshing what you already have, plan on $1,500 for cosmetic improvements like paint, garden upgrades and porch touch-ups.
Easy fixes like freshening up trim paint and replacing old awnings go a long way in restoring your home’s curbside appeal. If the paint on your front door is peeling or your front steps are in need of repair, prospective buyers question how much effort you’ve put into maintaining your home.
Decorative planters on a front porch bring color front and center. Replace overgrown shrubs by your entrance with flowering plants in varying sizes and colors. Select blooms in one color and group them together for the most impact.
Plantings can be used to emphasize a home’s best features or to hide some of its flaws. Placed alongside a natural wood door or near columns by the entry to your home, flower pots or planters bring attention to that all-important entrance. Your home’s entry is also more inviting with outdoor furnishings that complement your style.
If your porch seems a little too basic, add columns to introduce an architectural element. Visit a nearby historic house parts store to repurpose old columns or start from scratch detailing new columns with a clever mix of moldings in different widths for more detail.
2. Major exterior improvements
Vinyl siding, house painting and updating your front entry can pay back on average 95% of your cost. Plan to pay $7,000-$8,000 to replace vinyl siding on an average home. Painting your entire house can set you back between $2000-$4000 for a 2,100 sq. ft. home.
When selecting exterior colors, eliminate the guesswork by going one step further than color swatches or paint color cards. Paint a small section on your house with your top three color choices, then paint trim color on a small section of trim close by. Finally, paint larger swatches of your door color choices right on your front door. For a splash of color, go bold with a door color but stay within the overall color scheme of your home.
Look at colors in different light and at different times of day before painting your entire house. Hot pink or bright chartreuse may not add to the resale value of your home like a soft palette that has universal appeal would and one that suits the style of your home. To estimate supply costs, remember this rule of thumb: one gallon of paint covers on average a 400 sq. ft. surface.
Replace or repair old and worn shutters. A pair of custom-made wood shutters can cost up to $500. Raised-panel vinyl shutters start at $70.00. Add on another $100 for hardware plus installation costs, if you hire a pro. Wood or vinyl, new shutters will give your home a brand new look.
Replace an old front door with a new, mid-range steel door with clear dual-pane half-glass panel and a new lockset for $1,100. Your garage door can be replaced for $1,500.
Surprisingly, adding a 16’ X 20’ wood deck costs about $11,000. Decks only recoup about 90% of cost so add a deck only if it’s something you can’t live without. Instead, add an interesting gate to a courtyard or a decorative fence to enclose a front yard. Replace a porch railing or introduce outdoor lighting to make your exterior pop.
The front entry is taking on new importance these days. Outdoor furniture–rugs, table, decorative outdoor lighting, even a loveseat–make a porch an inviting, outdoor space. Play up your home’s first impression with lush outdoor furnishings that draw attention to your home and garden.
Window and door replacements are still a good investment particularly in our climate. With an average return of 89% on investment, replacing ten 3’ X 5’ windows with new double-hung wood or vinyl windows runs $10,000-$11,000.
3. Minor kitchen upgrades
Kitchens are one of the first things home buyers look at when they consider purchasing a home. It’s important not to go overboard with a kitchen remodel though. A high-end kitchen remodel can price your home out of the local market and put a big dent in your wallet.
Basic kitchen upgrades–up to $15,000–return on average 98.5% of your cost. Anything beyond that cost and the return takes a sharp drop, down to 66%.
You don’t have to re-do your kitchen from the ground up if it’s already functioning well. A budget of $15,000 will allow you to re-face cabinets, replace an outdated oven, cooktop, sink, lighting fixtures and countertops with modestly-priced alternatives. You can also install new flooring (other than hardwoods) within budget.
Genuine hardwood flooring costs about $2.50-$3.00 per sq. ft. and another $3.00 per sq. ft. for a pro to install. That’s about $1,100 for a 12’ X 15’ room not including subflooring costs. Refinishing an existing hardwood is more cost effective: only $400-$500.
Instead of hardwoods, DIY a “floating floor” of wood or laminate for $1.25 – $2.00 per sq. ft. No nails needed and the pieces snap together.
Brighten up your kitchen by sanding and painting existing cabinets. Install new hardware. Select mid-priced appliances, an updated sink and faucet, glitzy or trendy light fixtures for a little bling, Corian or quartz countertops and a new vinyl or wood veneer floor and you’re within budget.
A granite countertop, stainless sink and faucet will run between $5,000-$8,000. Synthetic stone materials look as good as granite for a fraction of the cost and wear better. Skip the backsplash for a whopping $2,000. A backsplash can date your kitchen and the chances the next owner will approve of your color and design selections are pretty slim. Design and product selection are key to keeping your minor kitchen upgrade from becoming a major renovation.
4. Major bath remodel
The latest trend in creating an at-home retreat is all about the bath. A spa-like bath remodel returns on average 93% of your investment. Plan on $26,000 on average to replace your tub and toilet and to add designer sinks and faucets, a linen closet, lighting, ceramic tile floor and exhaust fan. Also included within this price tag is relocating your tub and expanding the space in a 5’ X 7’ bathroom.
Replacing old floors with tile or stone pays back. Cut corners by making an old vanity look new again with new countertop. Hang a designer mirror or two on your wall for a more contemporary look.
Many buyers looking at three-bedroom homes want two full baths. It’s sometimes a better idea to bump out the powder room into a full bath rather than remodel an already ample master bath that can be refreshed with cosmetic upgrades.
Just add a shower to a powder room and suddenly it’s a full bath. Rainfall showerheads will cost you about $200, handhelds with gadgets, $500. Since bathrooms are especially prone to looking outdated, pick neutral colors and finishes.
5. Attic bedroom
Is the space in your home feeling a bit overcrowded? Want a place to retreat to at the end of a busy day? How about an attic bedroom? Adding additional square footage to your house has big impact when it’s time to sell. Beware though: attic remodels are one of the most expensive remodeling projects you can undertake. Tucked away in the rafters, an attic bedroom costs about $39,000 to complete but returns 93.5% of its value when you sell your home.
Included at this price is a 15’ X 15’ bedroom, 5’ X 7’ bath with shower, 15 ft. dormer, four windows and a closet. Add-ons may include insulation, vapor barrier for moisture, a possible addition to your HVAC to accommodate another room and an attic fan. Depending on the finishes you select and your existing space, cost can vary from $30,000 to $39,000.
Will your renovations pay off and give you the best return on your investment? Just because a project is expensive, doesn’t mean it will pay you back. Don’t exceed the ceiling for your neighborhood or you won’t get your money back. Do your homework before planning and budgeting for a home upgrade to ensure it pays you back when that ‘For Sale’ sign goes up in the front yard.
What’s popular now may not be in style in five years. Consider how long you plan to be in your home before beginning a renovation. Wise choices mean a better return on your investment.
US News Money
CBS Money Watch