Before diving headfirst into a major home improvement project, every homeowner should know if the money, time and energy are worth it — especially if they plan to sell their home in the future. From kitchen upgrades to bathroom renovations, some projects may have a dramatic impact on your home’s curb appeal and perhaps even increase its value. Others? Not so much.
Avoid overspending on renovations that won’t give you any return on your investment. Instead, consider pursuing these home remodeling ideas and curb appeal boosters. Depending on your home and the real estate market in your area, these projects might give you the best return on your investment.
A kitchen or bathroom remodel can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the budget, consider simply upgrading the faucets in those rooms instead.
Kitchen and bathroom trends change quickly. According to Zillow (which asked agents to identify projects that could help increase your home’s value), a touchless faucet with hygiene- and safety-enhancing technology is a good option.
A street-facing garage door is one of the first things a potential buyer sees when visiting your home. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that a new, on-trend garage door appeals to buyers. The report states that owners can recover 95% of the value of the project, and 16% of realtors suggest you should complete this project before you try to sell your home.
Replacing your roof is not a small investment — it can cost more than $10,000, depending on the material — but it’s one of the highest-yielding renovations for homeowners. The NARI/NAR study found that installing a new roof can give you a 107% return on your investment, making it one of the best home remodeling projects.
Windows don’t just allow light and fresh air into your home — they can also boost your home’s curb appeal. Zillow states that installing new mid-range windows can return 115% of their cost if done properly.
When deciding on what types of windows to install, avoid fancy and impractical options. For example, choose windows with low-emittance (low-e) coatings that will control heat transfer. Although these windows cost 10%-15% more than regular windows, they can reduce energy loss by 30%-50%, according to the Department of Energy.
Lighting can totally enhance your home’s atmosphere. In fact, installing new lights with dimmer switches, warm LED bulbs and smart controller capabilities is a great way to impress prospective buyers.
Zillow found that homes with smart lights in their listing description sold 7.3 days faster than expected, suggesting this home improvement is quite valuable.
Refinishing hardwood flooring is the type of improvement that requires a lot of cash but is likely to return — sometimes with a little extra — at sale time. The NARI/NAR report found that you can recoup 100% of the cost of refinishing your hardwood floors, making this one of the best home improvement options.
Consider installing a steel or fiberglass door. Both types of doors have a cost recovery of 75% and 74%, respectively, according to the NARI/NAR study.
But while a new, top-of-the-line front door looks great, painting your existing door may be the only improvement you need to make. Glossy exterior paint is eye-catching but choose the color carefully, as certain hues sell better than others. Zillow reports a black front door can increase a home’s sale price by 2.9%.
The 2021 Cost vs. Value report found that a minor, mid-range kitchen remodel can recoup 72.2% of the cost. There are plenty of things you can do to your kitchen to improve it. For example:
Redo your countertops. You may be able to afford a new laminate, quartz, granite, marble or butcher block countertop that will completely remake your kitchen.
Upgrade your appliances. Decide if you should replace any appliances that aren’t making the grade — a new energy-efficient fridge, cooktop or oven range might make a huge difference.
Paint your walls. Give your kitchen a fresh coat on the walls, trim and ceiling.
Consider a backsplash. A classic or modern tile backsplash never goes out of style. According to Trulia, a neutral tone can enhance your kitchen, making it appear brighter and bigger.
Depending on which upgrades you opt for, you can hire a countertop installer, tile contractor, interior painter, appliance installer and more. If you’re interested in doing a full kitchen remodel, talk to a kitchen designer and/or general contractor first.
It’s easy to opt for a complete, upscale bathroom remodel. But the results from the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report indicate this isn’t necessarily the way to go.
An upscale bath remodel only yields a 57% ROI. On the other hand, a mid-range bath remodel recoups 64% of the cost. Think about pursuing the following upgrades:
Replacing the fixtures
Installing ceramic tile
Installing a new, standard toilet
Adding a vanity counter with a sink
Putting up vinyl wallpaper
Turn your dark, gloomy basement or attic into an airy and welcoming, livable space. Depending on your basement or attic’s condition, this could be an expensive endeavor, costing $46,900 and $80,000, respectively, according to the NARI/NAR report. And the cost recovery isn’t that high at only 64% for a basement conversion and 56% for an attic conversion.
But if your attic and basement don’t require a full remodel, consider these small and more affordable upgrades:
Choose new windows to increase natural light.
Install new light fixtures.
Repaint the walls.
Mount a TV and/or surround system to create a home theater.
We often spend so much time focusing on how to improve the inside of our homes that we forget about the exterior features. For example, have you ever thought about adding a fire pit to your yard?
This backyard project may help you get more when it’s time to sell. Zillow reports that home listings with a fire pit sold for 2.8% more than other similar homes.
Popcorn ceilings did not age well. They were popular in the 1950s and began to fall out of favor in the 1980s. Today, these textured ceilings are seen more as a detriment than a cool retro look — which is why redoing the ceiling is a wise choice for the modern homeowner.
It costs approximately $500-$1,600 to remove a popcorn ceiling, and HomeLight reports that getting rid of a popcorn ceiling may “add $25,000-$35,000 in value for a large estate executive home.” For a 1,400-square-foot-home that costs about $200,000, the added value could be around $2,500.
Pro tip: Removing a popcorn ceiling can be messy and even dangerous. Consider getting it inspected for asbestos before you start this project.
Your front yard can make or break a first impression for potential buyers. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping families cooped up inside last year, buyers may be especially keen to find usable outdoor spaces. Zillow found that homes with strong landscaping sold for 2.7% more than expected.
Let’s return to the idea of creating a more usable outdoor area for quality time. If you have space outside, consider installing a wooden deck. It’s a smart investment, and it provides a place for relaxation, eating and bonding. The Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report estimates homeowners may recoup 72.1% of the cost to build a deck.
Decks are most commonly made with pressure-treated wood, but they can also be made from cedar, redwood and more.
If you have space to add a family room to your house, consider doing it. This project has an 83% return on investment, according to HGTV. Your room could occupy the spot where a sunroom or patio once was and give your family more space to relax and bond.
With a 72.8% average return, according to HGTV, turning extra space into a 12’x12’ home office can be worth the investment. On average, the cost of this project is $13,143, with a resale value of $9,569.
If you have an open floor plan, think about putting up a few walls and doors. A Zillow report states that home builders are predicting that open-concept floor plans will fade from popularity, and more people are valuing privacy — largely thanks to the pandemic. Now that people are spending more time at home, they realize they don’t have enough spaces or rooms for working and relaxing.
A smart sprinkler system is the number one feature that can result in a faster-than-expected home sale, according to Zillow.
To be clear, adding a smart sprinkler system doesn’t necessarily guarantee a higher sale price or a faster sale. But, it’s worth noting that Zillow found that home listings with a “smart sprinkler system” sell 15.1 days faster than expected.
If you don’t have an HVAC system (or if yours is outdated or broken), consider replacing it. The percent of value recovered from this project is 85%, according to the NARI/NAR report. 20% of realtors suggest that sellers invest in this project before putting their homes on the market.
Related: The best HVAC maintenance tips.
Please note: All figures in this article are subject to change. This article is for informational purposes only. Always consult an expert before investing in a home remodeling or renovation project.