Home Upgrades That Pay Off


The ultimate reason to take on any home upgrade or remodeling project is the enjoyment received from living in an updated home. Whether your fixing to stay or upgrading to sell, start with upgrades that are most likely to recoup your investment.  Cost vs Value of your upgrades will of course depend on a few factors, such as geographic location, the housing market and if you paid above or below the average cost to complete the project.  We have compiled some of the best upgrades or home improvements that are sure to pay off:


1. Painting

Why it pays off: Paint provides dramatic results with little investment. Can’t decide on a color? Gerri Willis, the anchor of Open House on CNN and the author of Home Rich, says that pale yellow homes tend to sell faster and for more money. Barbara Richardson, the director of color marketing for Glidden and a noted color-trend forecaster, explains, “Yellow is optimistic and inspirational. It gives people joy and the sense that brighter times are ahead.”

2. Adding Siding

Why it pays off: According to the 2007 Cost vs. Value Report, a study conducted by Remodeling magazine, fiber-cement siding (which is made of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers) is estimated to recoup about 88 percent of a home owner’s initial investment. While vinyl can crack, split, and warp and aluminum tends to dent and fade, easy-care fiber cement holds up well against the elements and is resistant to fire, rotting, and termites.

3. Building a Deck

Why it pays off: A deck will provide you with more than a place to flip burgers and soak up the sun. “Buyers see a deck as offering a seamless transition from inside to out,” says Jerry Levine, president of the Levine Group, an architectural and construction firm in Silver Spring, Maryland. Experts suggest using natural, rustic wood. In 2007 wooden decks (as opposed to concrete or composite ones) reaped an impressive return on investment: Home owners could expect to recoup 85 percent or more of their costs.

4. Updating the Kitchen

Why it pays off: You really can’t go wrong with remodeling your kitchen, which can net up to 83 percent of cost. “People know that renovating can be a nightmare, and potential buyers will appreciate that you did the dirty work for them,” says Vern Yip, a designer and the host of HGTV’sDeserving Design. “But stick with high-quality fixtures, like stainless-steel appliances and granite counters, and don’t pair them with a cheaper material, like laminate.” A word of caution: If your house is a tiny two-bedroom bungalow, don’t bother splurging on, say, a high-end stove. “You’ll never get your money back by installing fancy appliances in a smaller home,” says Leslie Sellers, vice president of the Appraisal Institute, an association of real estate–appraisal professionals in Chicago. And if an appliance overhaul isn’t in the cards, “you can easily make cosmetic updates on a kitchen that’s in decent shape,” says Steven D. Bullock, a designer in New York City and a certified member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

5. Replacing the Windows

Why it pays off: If you’re experiencing cool and blustery weather…in your living room, it’s time to buy new panes, pronto. Not only are you losing precious heat but your utility bill could also be skyrocketing. “Energy-efficient windows eliminate drafts, so your home feels warmer,” says Sellers. Last year (2015) home owners who purchased 10 three-by-five-foot insulated vinyl or aluminum-clad windows got an 81 percent return on their investment.

6. Modifying a Bathroom

Why it pays off: Bathroom upgrades, like updated counter-tops and new fixtures, provide solid returns―anywhere from 68 to 78 percent. But “avoid anything too trendy,” says designer Vern Yip. “Choose classic features, like off-white subway tiles, that will appeal to people with both traditional and contemporary tastes.” There’s no need to splurge on fancy fixtures, either. “A tub is a tub. A Jacuzzi will never make or break a sale,” says designer Steven D. Bullock.

7. Landscaping

Why it pays off: The front of your house is the first thing people see, so it makes sense that any improvements―from planting petunias to surrounding your home with a hedge―will be worth your while. “Don’t be afraid to spend money on perennials, which come back year after year,” says Yip. As for big-ticket investments, like trees, they aren’t just nice to look at; they also stave off erosion, block storm-water runoff, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and filter groundwater pollutants. They might make your home sell for more money, too. The Arbor Day Foundation estimates a six- to eight-foot Colorado blue spruce or live oak (both are commonly found all around the United States) may grow one to two feet a year. And properties with gorgeous, established trees are even more attractive to potential home buyers down the road. When determining which areas of your yard to attend to first, try approaching the house from the curb to the front door. “Buyers make their decisions in exactly eight seconds,” says Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, a Manhattan real estate firm. “After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.”

8. Installing Central Air-Conditioning

Why it pays off: Adding central air to an average 2,400-square-foot house could boost your home’s value by 10 to 20 percent, says appraiser Leslie Sellers. And central air-conditioning is energy-efficient too. Centralized units have an average energy-efficiency rating (EER) of 11.5, compared with an 8.5 EER in single-window models, making them less expensive to run. What’s more, central air won’t block the view the way a window unit does.

9. Fixing up the Basement

Why it pays off: “There’s nothing worse than that unmistakable damp-basement smell,” says Corcoran. “A dry basement is far more important than worrying about the right lighting or furnishings.” If your basement is prone to flooding, leaks, or excess moisture, call in a pro. If you do want to finish your basement by adding drywall, insulation, laminate flooring, or even a bathroom, “be sure it’s proportional in quality to other areas of your home,” says Lonny Rutherford, a chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers, in Washington, D.C. According to Sellers, “basement remodels can gain back up to 100 percent, depending on the quality of the materials.”

10. Fiberglass Insulation Attic Upgrade

Why it pays off:  That’s right: Install fiberglass insulation into the walls of a 35-by-30-foot attic, and when you sell, you could rake in $116.90 for every $100 invested. Based on the average spent last year (2015) by home owners, that’s a recoup of 116.9% of your investment. “This is great news for homeowners, who know that insulation improves the comfort and energy efficiency of their home, but may not know that it adds value as well,” said Curt Rich, President and CEO of the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association on KCEN.


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