Best home improvements

Home Renovations that Pay Off

When it comes to sprucing up your home, either for resale or your own personal enjoyment, it can be challenging to decide where to focus your efforts. Should you modernize your kitchen with the latest granite countertop and bamboo wood flooring or put your budget toward improving your heating or cooling systems?

Your home is a big investment, and when making improvement decisions it’s important to invest wisely. Before jumping in and laying down exclusive Italian tile in the back of your yard, it’s critical to assess which upgrades actually add more value to your home should you decide to put your house on the market. Here’s what the latest real estate studies say:

1. Minor kitchen remodel

Kitchens are always at the top of the list for valued improvements, because this is the room that is most visible—in terms of quality—during a house tour or even a casual gathering. However, it’s not always a good idea to drop $75,000 into a complete kitchen makeover, because you may never recoup that investment. Real estate prices are set in part by the “comps” or “comparable properties” in your neighborhood, so no matter how “high end” your kitchen becomes, your total house price may not reflect the dollars you put into your remodel.

Instead of a total overhaul, consider minor renovations: redoing cabinets, by sanding and painting or staining them, updating lighting fixtures with recessed lighting and/or vinyl flooring to wood or laminate, and adding a few stainless steel appliances to give your kitchen a more modern look.

2. Front door and entrance

Studies have shown that improving the entrance to your home very minimally can go a long way to projecting an immediate positive image to buyers. Replacing your ho-hum front door with a custom built fine wood door, or even just shelling out a few dollars to switch out your “average” handle hardware to something in brass or iron, can make a better first impression on visitors.

3. Basic bathroom improvements

Like the kitchen, the bathroom is also a room, where quality goes a long way. You don’t have to redo an entire bathroom, but consider upgrading one or two big bang items, such as adding a fancy vessel sink, removing linoleum flooring, and adding colorful paint, to give it a fresh look.

If your house is particularly shy of bathrooms, adding a powder room, which has a lower price tag than a full bath, will pay off at resale, studies show. You might also consider reconfiguring doors to a bathroom, so that a bathroom that currently opens to a hallway is closed off and accessed instead through an adjoining bedroom, which then creates a fashionable and desirable en-suite bedroom.

4. Adding French patio doors to yard

Whether it’s in a bedroom, kitchen or living room, it’s very appealing to be able to step outside and access the outdoors. Adding more rooms with indoor-outdoor access gives your home a more modern feel as well. If you have a ground level home with accessible yard, this can be a relatively inexpensive upgrade. Often you can replace large windows with a single or double French door; you’ll also need to pour a small concrete pad on the exterior side of the house.

5. Improve interior systems

Anything you do to improve or repair basic systems to your house, such as electrical, plumbing, roofing or heating and cooling systems, add instant value to your home. If a part of your home’s general infrastructure is in need of repair or an upgrade, this is a bottom line improvement that should be taken care without hesitation. No one wants to purchase a house with leaking pipes or a heater that doesn’t work correctly, so these items are really essential.

6. Upgrade storage spaces

Older homes often don’t have enough storage. Even if space is tight, changing out a traditional closet, so that it’s fitted with modern shelving units, designed to better utilize space, is a relatively inexpensive fix that has lasting value and appeal at the time of resale. Finishing an attic by adding a sub-floor and drop down ladder stairway so that it’s usable for storage is another very inexpensive and appealing way to expand a home’s storage capacity.

7. Convert office to bedroom

When it comes to putting your house on the market, the only rooms that will be counted as bedrooms in your property listing are the rooms that have dedicated clothes closets within the room. If you’ve been using a room as an office or den, and it doesn’t have a closet, you’ll get a lot more value out of the room by adding an interior closet, and converting it to a bedroom. This relatively small expense will pay off at the time of resale.

If you’re not planning to sell your home any time soon, it’s fine to focus on those areas of the house where improvements will bring you or your family the most enjoyment. It’s just important to keep in mind that the upscale garage renovation with deluxe built in wine cellar and custom wood workbench might not yield the highest ROI when it comes time to put your house on the market.