7 Home Renovations that Really 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 and cooling system? Which renovations will help you sell your home, and which changes yield the biggest return on investment?

Your home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, so when considering improvements it’s important to invest wisely. Before jumping in and laying down exclusive Italian tile in your 800 square foot great room, you should assess which upgrades will add more value to your home should you decide to put your house on the market.

Here are seven ways that the latest real estate studies say will give you the biggest bang for your buck:

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 during a house tour or a 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” — 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 painting or staining them, updating lighting fixtures, installing water resistant tile or laminate flooring, and adding energy efficient stainless steel appliances to give your kitchen a more modern look. Your square footage and footprint may stay the same, but you'll feel like you have a brand new, bigger space. A cosmetic overhaul can also make your kitchen appeal more to potential buyers regardless of its size.

2. Front door and entrance

Studies have shown that improving the entrance to your home very minimally can go a long way to boost your home's appeal to potential home buyers. On HGTV shows, they love to call this "curb appeal." Replacing your ho-hum front door with a custom built fine wood door, or shelling out a few dollars to switch out your handle hardware to something in brass or iron, can make a better first impression on visitors.

If you're looking to do larger home improvements, consider adding stone veneer to part of your stucco exterior for a more polished welcome. This look is especially desirable in Phoenix master planned communities or in family-friendly suburbs like Gilbert and Glendale. Other easy changes that you can do to the outside of your home include refreshing exterior paint, replacing or repainting your garage door and installing low-maintenance plants or xeriscaping.

3. Basic bathroom improvements

Like the kitchen, the bathroom is also a room where quality goes a long way. You don’t have to make over 100 percent of your space, but consider upgrading one or two essential items such as mirrors or sink fixtures so that your bathroom remodel has a fresh look.

If your house lacks bathrooms, adding a powder room (which has a lower price tag than a full bath) will pay off at resale. You might also consider reconfiguring doors to a bathroom that currently opens to a hallway so that it can be accessed instead through an adjoining bedroom. This creates a fashionable and desirable en suite bedroom for you or your guests.

4. French patio doors

Whether you add French doors in a bedroom, kitchen or living room, it can be very appealing to be able to step outside and access your back yard — especially if you have a pool or patio. Adding more rooms with indoor-outdoor access also gives your home a more modern feel, since outdoor living is currently trending. If you have a ground level home with an accessible yard, adding a patio door can be a relatively inexpensive upgrade. Often, you can replace large windows with a single or double French door; you will also need to pour a small concrete pad on the exterior side of the house if you don’t currently have one outside the door.

5. Improvements to systems

Anything you do to improve or repair the basic elements of your home such as electrical, plumbing, roofing or heating/cooling systems can add instant value. 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 of without hesitation. No one wants to purchase a house with leaking pipes or a condo with a heater that doesn’t work correctly, so these items are essential when you’re looking to sell.

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 so that it’s usable for storage by adding a sub-floor and drop down ladder stairway is another very inexpensive way to expand a home’s storage capacity. Finally, adding floor-to-ceiling shelving to the walls of your garage can increase storage space while maintaining the room you need for your vehicles.

7. Converting an office to a 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, such as the family room, garage or master bedroom. It’s just important to keep in mind that a deluxe built-in wine cellar or a garage with a glitter epoxy floor and custom wood workbenches might not yield the highest ROI when it comes time to sell your house. Listen to your real estate agent or broker when they tell you that a little home improvement in the right places can go a long way!

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The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.