Top 10 Home Updates

These projects will bring the biggest return on investment when you sell your home

1. Show Your Good Side:     .If the exterior of your home is dated, start your remodeling there. Fortunately, siding, paint and other exterior fixes typically bring high rates of return, according to the CVR.

photo: CertainTeed Corporation

“New siding and windows are among the least-costly upgrades a homeowner can make, yet they can have some of the highest returns,” Huerta says.

Nationally, you’ll get the highest return on fiber-cement siding, which looks like wood, but resists termites and fire. Spend $13,000 to replace 1,250 square feet of siding and you’ll see an $11,000 return, or 87 percent of your money back, at resale. Other options include vinyl and wood siding. Siding preference is highly regional, so go with what’s most popular in your area.

Have wood siding? A few gallons of fresh paint can really change your home’s appearance. Get paint color cards to take the guesswork out of choosing a color. Head to a new-home community to see what the universally appealing shades are in your area. If you think your home was painted before 1978, test for lead before sanding or scraping.

Remove old awnings on the porch and windows to spruce up your home with minimal cost and effort. Swap damaged wrought-iron railings for real wood supports for a more inviting entry.

2. Hit the Deck:   .A deck is a double-bottom-line improvement. You can enjoy it now and it will add value to your home for years to come. Building a 16′ x 20′ pressure-treated wood deck with a simple pattern costs about $10,600. At resale, you’ll get about $8,700 of that back, a recoup rate of about 82 percent.

A composite deck will cost more, about $15,000, and return less — about 74 percent or around $11,000 — but you won’t have to seal it, the CVR shows. If you have a deck already, use bold plantings to emphasize features, or to distract the eye from flaws.

3. Tweak Your Kitchen:     .Got an older kitchen with a great layout? Update by refacing cabinets and replacing appliances. Top off your remodeling with laminate countertops and resilient flooring for a total average national cost of $22,000. Your newly refurbished kitchen will bring in around $17,000 at resale, a recoup rate of 80 percent, the CVR says.

“It’s also possible to make appealing, neutral kitchen or bath upgrades without spending a lot of money … if you choose your projects carefully or you can do professional-quality work yourself,” says Huerta.

If your home is worth more than $500,000, go with stone or eco-friendly concrete countertops.

To go green when you update, choose energy efficient appliances and countertops made from recycled materials.

If even a minor kitchen upgrade isn’t in the budget, brighten up your kitchen by giving your old wood cabinets new character. Just sand, paint and add new pulls — it’s a whole lot less expensive than buying new or re-facing cabinets.

4. Window Dressing:     .Today’s vinyl, clad and wood windows are not only beautiful, they’re energy efficient and can cut your heating and cooling bills.

Getting 10 new 3′ x 5′ vinyl replacement windows runs about $11,000. On average nationally, you’ll get back about $8,100 when you sell, a recoup rate of nearly 77 percent, the CVR finds.

If you have an upscale home, buy upscale replacement windows. Nationally, 10 high-end wood windows will cost $17,500, which will earn back $13,500 at resale, or about 77 percent. Compare the cost of different types of windows with the Efficient Windows Collaborative window selection tool.

5. Kitchen Overhaul:      .If your home’s value rises and your kitchen’s finishes don’t, it may be time for a major remodel, rather than small fix-ups. Budget 10 percent to 15 percent of your home’s value for remodeling the kitchen.

A complete kitchen remodel in a midrange home averages $57,000 and returns about $43,000 at resale, about 76 percent, the CVR says. That price buys 30 feet of cabinets, an island, laminate countertops, stainless sink, wall oven, cooktop, vinyl flooring and appliances.

Need eight feet or less of countertop? Local granite dealers who sell (or even give away) remnants and charge for cuts and installation are a bargain option.

6. Strip the Bathroom:     .Since it’s the smallest room in the house, remodeling the bath can carry a relatively small price tag, even when you replace everything.

Putting in a new tub, tiles, vanity, countertop, medicine cabinet, light fixture, floor tile and wallpaper will cost about $16,000. You’ll see $12,000, or about 75 percent, come back to you at resale, according to the CVR.

To get an even higher rate of return, re-glaze your old tub for a like-new finish for $300 to $400. Remove or replace shower doors for an updated look.

When choosing fixtures and finishes, stay neutral on what can’t be easily swapped out. A black-lacquer bath cabinet with a black glass vessel sink may look cool to you, but if you have to sell, such a unique style might not appeal to your new audience: the average homebuyer.

7. Find Cash in the Attic:     .It’s almost always cheaper to repurpose existing space than to add square footage to your home. Spending the national average of about $48,000 to create a bedroom in the attic will net you around $36,000, or about 74 percent at resale, the CVR reports.

That price includes a 15′ x 15′ bedroom, a 5′ x 7′ bath with shower, a 15-ft. dormer, four windows and a closet. Can your existing HVAC system heat and cool another room? If not, budget for a second unit.

How much value an attic bedroom creates varies a lot between regions. You’ll get a whopping 87 percent return on the West Coast, but only 67 percent of your money back at resale on an attic conversion in the Northeast.

8. Basement Bucks:      .Basement remodeling is a big project that pays back both personal and financial dividends. You’ll enjoy watching movies, entertaining at the wet bar and hosting more guests when you add a full bath to your plans.

The average national cost to create a 20′ x 30′ room in the lower level of your home with drywall, a storage area, recessed lighting, laminate flooring, a wet bar and a full bath is about $61,000. You’ll only see about 74 percent, or $44,000, of that back if you have to sell soon, the CVR says.

Always fix flooding problems first. Add French drains, bigger gutters or re-slope the yard to keep water out. Test to make sure the fixes work before investing time or materials in a basement.

Want just the wet bar? You can buy 10 linear feet of cabinets, a laminate countertop, a stainless steel drop-in bar sink and an under-counter refrigerator for about $3,000.

9. Adding Space to Add Value:     .A two-story addition that includes a new bedroom and full bath upstairs and a family room with a fireplace downstairs is a huge investment, costing, on average, $147,000 nationally. You’ll see about $104,000 of that investment returned to you at sale time, or 71 percent, according to the CVR.

Before you start a large project, know the value of your home and the value of the biggest, best home in your immediate neighborhood. Add your current home value and the cost of the addition. If that number is more than what the best home in your neighborhood is worth, you’re unlikely to recoup your money. Instead of remodeling, consider whether you should move to a new home.

10. Dig Up Some Value:     .It’s not on Remodeling magazine’s list, but landscaping — especially plant-it-yourself landscaping — offers a great return on investment.

The average homeowner spends about $3,502 for landscaping and another $1,465 on a designer, according to the American Nursery & Landscape Association. If you’re not sure where to start, local garden centers often offer free design services. You can also peruse your community for ideas and ask the neighbors what works for them.

Focus on making your walkway and doorway a focal point. If your doorway is overwhelmed by greenery, replace overgrown shrubbery with flowering foundation plants, mixing heights and colors for eye-catching drama. A walkway leads buyers’ eyes to your door.

[So, which do you do if you can’t take on all 10?  Pick the one or two that you know will make your house more appealing.  And remember, do not over spend!  Have fun.  -SA]

By Dona DeZube,

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