9 home improvements that offer the biggest returns


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Ask a Lender
January 3, 2018


Key Points

Best home improvements to help improve resale value

  1. Replace siding or roof
  2. Update electrical wiring and consider smart systems
  3. Improve energy efficiency
  4. Enhance the attic
  5. Take out a wall
  6. Remodel kitchen and bathroom — within reason
  7. Consider hardwood or dark-stain flooring
  8. Plant a lawn or tree
  9. Add an outdoor patio or fire pit

There are two ways the value of your home can increase: local property appreciation and adding value to your home itself through strategic improvements. You can only control one of these factors, so it’s important to choose the right renovations that can boost your property value.

Home improvements run the gamut of costs — from a simple coat of paint to adding another story altogether. Cheap renovations can help you up your list price if you want to sell your home right away, but larger-scale remodeling can potentially add tens of thousands to your property value.

Consider some of these home improvement projects that provide high returns on investment.

1. Replace siding or roof

It’s an expensive proposition, but ensuring that your roof and siding are in top condition can greatly preserve and improve the value of your home. Prospective buyers want fundamental structural elements of the house to be in good shape, and should a home inspection discover flaws you may be expected to add concessions to the sale. Moreover, well-maintained siding adds to the curb appeal of a home, which has a big impact on sale price.

2. Update electrical wiring and consider smart systems

Bringing older homes with ungrounded, two-prong outlets up to modern standards can be a cost-effective upgrade. Ensure there are sufficient plugs in each room as well. Really old homes may need new wiring altogether. Consult a licensed electrician for major work.

While you’re updating, consider installing smart lighting, blinds, speakers, cameras or locks in your home that can be operated via Bluetooth or wi-fi. A modern, interconnected and responsive system can pay off handsomely relative to its cost.

3. Improve energy efficiency

Making your home more energy efficient not only improves resale value but lowers your utility bills in the meantime. Many public utility companies offer free energy audits that can help you identify where best to put your money. Improving windows, doors and insulation typically offer the most benefit. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, adding fiberglass insulation to your attic delivered the highest return on investment, recouping 107.7 percent of the cost of installation.    

4. Enhance the attic

Speaking of attics, the potential for light makes renovating an attic into a small bedroom or other living space a valuable investment. While many homeowners focus on renovating a basement into a game room or bar area, the benefit of such changes are highly contingent on taste and you are left with a lack of windows. Adding a skylight and comfortable flooring to your attic creates an airy space that a buyer can make their own.

5. Take out a wall

Removing walls or drywall from ceilings adds more light to your home, which is always a positive. Open-plan concepts add a luxury feel that can be easily adapted to suit all tastes. This can also work in bedrooms by removing closet walls and replacing them with inset dressers, giving the illusion of a larger room. Demolition work is on the lower end of the home improvement spending scale, as well. Just be sure you don’t take out a load-bearing wall.

6. Remodel kitchen and bathroom — within reason

Kitchens and bathrooms are a home’s major selling points. They are also among the most expensive remodeling projects to undertake. Don’t blow your budget in these spaces. In 2017, a major kitchen remodel recouped just 65.3 percent of its cost as opposed to 80.2 percent for a minor kitchen remodel, according to Remodeling Magazine. Focus on elements that will keep giving, such as high-quality, neutral-toned countertops, porcelain sinks or an elegant backsplash. Cabinets and appliances can wait, as homebuyers tend to want to switch these out to suit their tastes.

The same logic can be applied to bathrooms. Opt for bright, sleek and light-filled design rather than anything too unique. Keep the general value of your home in mind, as well. Upgrading the bathroom of your suburban subdivision unit with a rainforest shower worthy of a luxury resort may be incongruous with the feel of your home and provide little resale value. If your home has few bathrooms relative to bedrooms, you may get more value by adding an additional bathroom rather than remodeling existing ones.

7. Consider hardwood or dark-stain flooring

Installing hardwood floors throughout your home can be prohibitively expensive, but you can emulate the look at a lower cost. Re-staining a floor darker or replacing an old, outdated carpet with a dark wood laminate gives an impression of elegance without hurting your wallet.

8. Plant a lawn or tree

Landscaping contributes to curb appeal, but it takes time — years even — for flora to look like a natural part of the property and not merely something plopped down just prior to the “For Sale” sign. Mature landscaping that uses native plants requiring little maintenance can make your home far more attractive to prospective buyers.

9. Add an outdoor patio or fire pit

If you have a large outdoor area, adding a patio creates more living space. It is also one of the less invasive and time-consuming home improvement projects. Patio materials range in price, however. Concrete is most affordable but a good-quality natural stone sees less cracking and wear over time, which is especially important if you plan to live in your home a few years before selling.


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