What Are the Best Home Improvements to Boost Value?

Maybe you’re thinking of remodeling your kitchen. Or maybe you’re planning to put your house on the market in the spring. You want to spruce up your place but need to be wise with your cash. How do you determine which home improvements will maximize the return on your investment?

According to a recent Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling.com, most home improvement projects will add some value to your home. But not all remodeling will increase your home’s value enough to recoup the entire cost of the improvement. And in some cases, your upgrade may not increase the value of your home, but it will add satisfaction to you and your family while you live in your house.

To help provide perspective on which home improvements will add the most value, we’ve categorized them into four types:

  • Improvements to make if you plan to stay in your home
  • Best value home improvements for sellers
  • Invisible improvements
  • Improvements to avoid if you plan to sell your home
  • Improvements to Make If You Plan to Stay in Your Home
  • In general, projects that add square footage are best viewed as an investment in your family’s enjoyment of your home. You’ll do a little better with the return on your investment if you remodel unused areas like your attic or basement into living spaces—or replace something like a garage door, which will add convenience for you and return 98% of its $3,470 average cost.

If you’re planning to stay in your home a few more years and need the extra space to keep family members from tripping over each other, by all means add the space! Your family will have plenty of time to appreciate the addition and, once you’re ready to sell, the boost in square footage will also boost your asking price.

Best Value Home Improvements for Sellers

As we pointed out, large-scale projects don’t usually translate into large increases in your home’s value. So, when you’re ready to sell, home improvements that make an impact for less money are the way to go.

For the last several years, simply replacing your front door with a new steel entry door has had the best return on investment (ROI). According to the Cost vs. Value report, this is the one project that will almost pay for itself, returning nearly 91% of its $1,471 cost.

Other projects that improve your home’s curb appeal are also good bets:

  • Replace vinyl siding with manufactured stone veneer accents—Cost: $8,221, ROI: 97%
  • Replace vinyl siding—Cost: $15,072, ROI:77%
  • Wood deck addition—Cost: $10,950, ROI: 83%
  • Inside, a minor kitchen remodel will earn back 81% of its $21,198 cost.(5) That includes replacing outdated appliances, re-facing the cabinets and adding new hardware, updating the laminate countertop and sink, as well as replacing the flooring.

Invisible Home Improvements

You can drop a huge chunk of cash on home maintenance projects like replacing your heating and cooling unit, hot water heater or even your septic system. Unfortunately, even when these features are brand-new, most buyers aren’t willing to pay more for them. Buyers expect functional features like these to simply function, and they don’t feel like they should pay for wear and tear that occurred in the home while you owned it.

On the other hand, if any of these invisible parts of your home aren’t in working order, it will detract big time from your home’s value. Even if you plan to sell soon, you can’t avoid these problems since they will certainly turn up in a home inspection. Go ahead and tackle them, just realize you’re maintaining your home’s value—not adding to it.

However, one update most homeowners would consider a maintenance project actually falls into a gray area of home improvement: a roof replacement. A new roof certainly isn’t a showpiece like a top-to-bottom kitchen renovation, but according to Remodeling.com, it can boost your home’s value. On average, homeowners nationwide can expect to recoup nearly 68% of the $20,939 price tag of a midrange roof replacement project.

Improvements to Avoid If You Plan to Sell Your Home

The return on investment (ROI) on some projects is so low, you’ll be left holding the bag for about half the cost. That makes these improvements especially poor choices for homeowners who are planning to sell their house:

  • Backyard patio addition – Cost: $54,130, ROI: 48%
  • An upscale master suite addition – Cost: $256,229, ROI: 48%
  • An upscale major kitchen remodel – Cost: $125,721, ROI: 54%
  • These improvements aren’t bad choices; they just aren’t the best home improvements for adding value to your house before selling it. If you’ll be living in your home a while and would enjoy a sunroom, home office or extra bathroom, go for it! But think twice before you take on any of these projects and remodels solely for the purpose of increasing the sales value of your home.

Research Before You Renovate

The tricky part to all of this is that we’re looking at national averages. Individual markets place different values on different home improvements. In San Francisco for example, nearly every project had close to a 100% or more return on investment.

The best way to gage what you can expect in terms of resale value on home improvements—especially if you’re planning to sell soon—is to talk to a real estate agent who is an expert in your market. They’re sure to know the local trends, and they can show you how other homes with the features you want to add are selling. That way, you can make an educated decision before you start ordering lumber and knocking out walls for a massive remodel.