Renovations and their resale value


In our last question, we learned that a down housing market is causing homeowners to invest in updates rather than move. Homeowners are taking on mini renovation projects and adding personal touches to their spaces, determined to stick it out for the long haul.

However, despite hunkering down, homeowners should keep in mind the effects their remodels have on the resale value of their homes.

Why We’re Asking:

Just because homeowners are staying in their current homes at the moment doesn’t mean they won’t move in the future. Our experts said homeowners are enthusiastically personalizing their spaces, embodying the attitude, “If we’re going to keep living here, we better love it.” However, is it possible they are losing sight of the potential resale value of their updates as they add more and more personal flair to their homes?

In case a homeowner sells their house eventually, what should they focus on now to get the best bang for their buck later? Are some projects better than others? How can they marry their own personal style with the tastes of a potential future buyer?

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What renovations have the best resale value?

What remodeling and/or design changes will have the best resale value and give a homeowner the biggest bang for the buck?
Should homeowners watch out for any popular remodeling or design projects that may improve the aesthetic of the home, but not its resale value?
How can homeowners marry their personal preferences with the those of the average potential buyer?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. Having moved 750 familes in 6 years firsthand I can absolutely tell you

    1. Paint – hit up the Benjamin Moore colour of the year guide
    2. Lighting & Window Coverings (always sold as inclusions)
    3. Flooring
    4. Landscaping/Floral
    5. Bathrooms – everyone wants a modern bath; go figure!
    Once all that is done only then do you look to the ‘what else’ list. The above are the bones of the house and things that a new owner will pay more for if they don’t have to do anything upon move in.

  2. Energy improvements. We are now moving away from the standard “kitchen and bath” response to looking at what overall improvements to home’s energy efficiency and performance.

    This means performing a Home Audit to find out where leaks and inbalances are. Improving the way you heat, cool and light your home. Finding ways to reduce the homes energy consumption (including water use) and its overall indoor air quality through technological and design improvements.

    Both buyers and sellers will need to have demonstrated annual energy savings as a means of differentiating their property from those similar and through measurable means that could be the signficant element that sets a home apart than just another granite countertop.

  3. Homeowners should beware of remodel themes that are “so right now trendy” it may feel exciting to see now, but 5 yrs. later someone might look at to buy, and say “Well I will have to get rid of all this “so ten minutes ago stuff” . I know lots of people just want to put their mark on things to make it theirs, and that will be considered in what the buyer will be willing to pay to do so. Timeless themes like Grohe Lady Lux faucet are forever. Instead of wanting to replace them, people say wow, I finally get “real” faucets. Most all of the cheaper “Designer” faucets are not going to hold water at the end of 5 yrs. Vessel Lavs are an area of caution in my opinion. To many energy/water consumers are not going to be desired.
    What People will be looking for is how low the utility bills are, including water. Water re-use systems don’t have a visual designer theme, but need to be designed into the whole package and will have resale value. Waste Heat Recovery systems are passive, simple and not expensive. Some of what I speak of needs training to implement, but that is what separates the visual designers from Plumbing Designers.
    Greg Chick

  4. As a professional home stager, I like to study home buyer preferences when looking at areas which yield to the highest ROI improvements. In fact, a recent study of home buyer preferences conducted by Avid Ratings Co, shed a lot of insight into what today’s new home buyer is looking for. (We can probably assume that these preferences would be applicable to those purchasing pre-owned homes as well.)

    In short, here are the top 10 features buyers want:

    1. Large kitchens with an island.
    2. Energy-efficient appliances and high-efficiency insulation and windows. (These were the most sought-after “green” features from buyers.)
    3. Home office or study
    4. Main-floor master suite
    5. Outdoor living room
    6. Ceiling fans
    7. Master suite soaker tubs and oversize showers with seating areas
    8. Stone and brick exteriors
    9. Community landscaping with walking paths and playgrounds.
    10. Two Car Garages

    I did an entire blog series with more in-depth information on this study, which you can find here:

  5. This is always an interesting conversation and experts’ opinions certainly run the gamut of ideas. When I first meet potential clients, I always ask them the “how long do you plan on being in the home?” question. If the time frame is longer than 7 years, then I say they should make the home their home, and not worry about resale. Less than this and the conversation is very different – we focus on making the home look great but keeping the material costs down. Colors tend to be very neutral and we’ll decorate with color in the wall color and accessories.

    In terms of the biggest bang for your buck, minor kitchen remodels and master bathrooms are the big sellers. If a kitchen is mostly functional (cabinets work just fine and the style is not too dated), then maybe new counters and a nice backsplash. Throw in some updated lighting and you’ve made some money.

    Master bathrooms are a different story. My clients often want a spa-like experience. This usually means minimizing the tub (most large jetted tubs take more hot water than standard hot water heaters – super inefficient) and maximizing the shower experience. Again, lighting is crucial in the master bathroom.

    More than anything, a home buyer wants to be able to walk into your home and feel they can move in right away and just live. There’s no hassle or headache.

  6. Two rooms have been cited for years by real estate experts as the highest value for return on investment in remodeling:

    The kitchen.
    The master bath.

    Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to pinpoint the best remodeling projects.

    Think about the types of things you would value in a new kitchen. You want efficient appliances, fresh-looking cabinets, tasteful countertops and backsplashes, and a functional layout. Therefore, it makes sense that refacing cabinets, installing under cabinet lights, and investing in “green” appliances are all high-value projects.

    The Wall Street Journal actually recently reported that mid-range kitchen remodels offer higher return on resale than upscale kitchen remodels in a very interesting article:

    It’s always important to avoid ultra-trendy choices. Chances are, they’ll be outdated well before you’re ready to remodel again; and potential buyers will be turned off by anything that doesn’t match their taste.

    As far as the master bath, most homeowners appreciate storage space, large showers, separate tubs, and nature-inspired materials. Kitchen & Bath Design News notes that overall color hues are trending toward neutral tones in the bathroom as well. When you’re remodeling, just remember to stick to classic designs.

  7. What ReModeling Projects Have the BEST Re-Sale Value? Right now, anything that promotes energy efficiency (changing out lighting fixtures, installing ceiling fans, new windows & doors, adding insulation) and help improve “curb appeal” (new siding, low maintenance landscaping, front door “accessories”-think new address numbers, mailbox, kickplates & even welcome mats, window boxes & shutters). These are all easy to install, relatively inexpensive & can help your home stand apart.

    For those with a larger budget, before embarking on ANY large-scale remodel (room add-on, bathroom/kitchen remodel…) look to your neighborhood and make sure that any work you do will not make your home “the most expensive” on the block. Do a comparative analysis of homes in your area & see what they “have” that you “don’t”. (Here’s where adding a bathroom, a walk-in closet, finishing off a basement can be worth it if most homes in your area have these features)….Adding square footage just to add square footage can price a segment of the market out of the running when you put your home up for sale.

    In general, you can’t go wrong installing hardwood floors (or re-finishing existing hardwood floors), upgrading bathroom fixtures, installing new windows/doors or painting the exterior/new siding.

  8. This is a very interesting question. I want to answer it based on what we see as the most popular improvements clients are making to their home. This would lead us to believe that they are the one’s that people would be seeking when they are looking for a home, which would mean they being more value or resale value.

    Based on this, the most popular renovations are energy efficient home improvements such as window and door replacement. Based on Remodeling Magazines 2010 Cost vs Value report these 2 improvements recoup over 70% of their value depending on the region. However, I don’t think that would qualify them as having the “BEST” resale value.

    The second most popular renovation is deck improvements, screen porches, patios, and outdoor living areas. Most homes, that are going to sell in this market, already have the bathroom and kitchen renovations completed which would mean that this would not necessarily add value. Outdoor living areas add significant living space to a home without a huge cost. These types of improvements will bring the most perceived value and therefore bring the best resale value.

  9. What Remodeling Projects have the Best Resale Value?

    If we look at home values across the U.S., it is easy to understand why the return on our remodeling investments is down over the past several years. Kitchens and baths, once at the top of the charts, are more focused as consumers stretch their dollars. The best returns are realized when the projects are personalized and can accommodate a broad range of needs.

    As the Baby Boomer population is preparing to live in their homes longer, they are seeking aging in place solutions and renovations. Remodel projects will be specifically tailored to meet their needs. In the bath this investment includes a separate bath and shower, comfort height toilets, seating, radiant flooring, and improved lighting and controls. For the kitchen we will find different counter top levels and work surfaces, multiple work triangles, and compact appliances.

    We also see investments being made in outdoor kitchens. Consumers are entertaining casually at home and extending their outdoor living space to include fireplaces, lounging, cooking and entertainment areas.

  10. Rooms that draw a lot of attention when a home is for sale are the master bathroom and kitchen, so consider upgrades in these rooms first. The costs of remodeling these rooms can typically be recaptured at 100% when a home sells.

    Some minor changes for a small budget can be as simple as upgrading faucets, shower valves, sinks and toilets to give the room a valuable facelift. A target budget for upgrades with mid-priced fixtures is an estimated $2,500.

    For larger budgets, a bathroom remodel should include these plumbing upgrades:

     Tub/shower enclosures and customer shower doors
     Single-handle shower controls
     White upgraded toilets
     Under-the-counter mounted china sinks with custom counter tops.

    Homeowners expecting to do an extensive bathroom remodel (with more upgrades than plumbing) should be prepared to spend about $12,000.

    While homeowners should keep their upgrades fairly neutral to appeal to any potential buyer, paint is easy to change. And color choices can create a room that showcases the personal preferences of the current resident. Express your individual taste with splashes of color to accomplish your project goals.

  11. I just have to add the first change that gives everyone the biggest bang for the buck, moving or not, is de-cluttering. It’s a remodel of your posessions and before you can even get to anything else this needs to happen …becuase painters can’t paint, plumber plumb, electricians install with things in their way. We are WAY too much of a consumer society and if people would spend one weekend a year intensely going through their home to see what they’ve collected, are no longer using, etc it would make a huge difference – happier, healthier home and less of a paint point come sale time!

  12. If you want to spend your money wisely and make your renovation dollars work the best for you – having a home renovation strategy could potentially save you thousands. And determining how much to spend on those home improvement projects – or at least which ones will provide you with the greatest ROI will require a little research on your part.

    To really take a sneak peak into the renovation market I highly recommend checking out Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value report. It’s a fabulous resource where homeowners can compare national and regional averages for about 33 home remodeling and renovation projects in about 80 cities.

    It provides you with a description of the average projects in your area of the country – which allows you to gauge where your project falls within your neck of the woods – and what kind of ROI you could expect. (

    Having said all that, here are five that top the list…at least here in Southern California:

    1. Minor Kitchen Remodels (75%-85% ROI) The heart of the home!
    2. Attic Bedrooms (72% ROI) Re-purposing existing space.
    3. Deck Addition (73-95% ROI) Extends the living space for those “Staycations”
    4. Basement remodels (70% ROI) Developing unused space without adding on.
    5. Energy Efficient Front Door and Window replacements (73-102% ROI)
    6. Garage Door replacements (73% ROI) Improves your Curb Appeal.
    7. Siding Replacement (80% ROI) Boosts more curb appeal

    Hop onto their website and zero in on your area of the country.

  13. I have always found this question interesting because a homeowner’s or seller’s view is often different from a potential new owner or buyer’s perspective. Having actually lived in a home, people can carefully define what they are looking for and specifically address their own ROL (Return on Lifestyle) issues and desires.

    A potential new owner or buyer is more concerned about the obvious looks of the home, especially as it pertains to “red flag” issues like the kitchen and master bath. This is where most new owners envision themselves in a home. If a potential buyers can’t “see” themselves living in the “two hearts” of the home, they are less likely to buy it. Kitchens and master baths, in particular, are also the areas that spell two types of hazards or “red flags” for potential buyers because renovation of these areas requires a substantial investment and lots of every day hassle if they have to renovate after purchasing.

    Statistics vary slightly based on the study but surveys by both real estate agents and builders agree that over 70% of today’s buyers are looking for a ready-to-move-in home. For many, an out-of-date kitchen or master bath is the deciding factor between one home or another. So even if the “buyer” and the “seller” were actually the same person, they are going to look at a property in different ways!

    Just to comment on price of these types of remodeling projects, why do people think that they should hire the cheapest labor to install the cheapest materials? Would they want to buy a house if they knew the seller had based their remodel decisions on cheap? Probably not because “cheap” is discernable by today’s savvy buyer. They recognize that cheap all in one cabinet and faucet from a big box store. “Cheap” rarely involves a well thought out design build and that means that opportunities for simple enhancements for storage, functionality, aesthetics, energy saving or other details are missed and often errors are made in the overall concept.

    “Cheap” also means a lack of artistry in the overall execution. Again, today’s buyers are often well educated about the options available on today’s market and know what to expect in the level of finish in a certain price point. “Cheap” also means that corners are cut. Was a proper permit pulled for that work and did the work pass all proper inspections? Are the materials and workmanship under warranty? Give a potential buyer and their representative a REASON to dig deeper and they will and digging deeper usually results in one thing: more money for expert opinions and repairs and less money for the seller.

  14. When remodeling your home it is important to pick the room that is the most important room of the house and in most cases it is the kitchen. The kitchen is the gathering space for everyone and everything. It is the heart of the home. If your kitchen has bad mojo it is sure to push any potential buyer away or take away from your bottom line.

    In remodeling the kitchen you want to consider your overall budget. If the budget is small you will want to consider replacing just the backsplash. The backsplash is missed a lot in remodeling and not given much importance which is a BIG mistake. The backsplash is the vertical service and visually seen, by the eye and here is where you can make your impact. Tiles come in all price ranges and in any look or color.

    If your budget is bigger then you want to look at replacing the appliances to stainless steel. Stainless is a material that blends well with all finishes and stands the test of time. Appliance’s are like purchasing a car…they come in all price ranges. Just changing them to stainless is enough sometimes to make the sell.

    As the budget goes up then possibly think about changing the countertops. I would think twice about using a busy granite. I think you would be dating yourself because its been done over and over again. There are so many great materials on the market today and in so many price ranges.

    If money is no object hire a professional KITCHEN designer and do it right, you will not regret it.

  15. To personalize a home while maintaining the resale value, consider painting the interior with a neutral color and using fixtures, window coverings, artwork and furnishing as show pieces. Improving a home’s energy efficiency adds value especially if grant money helps cover the cost.

  16. The number one project is building or rebuilding a deck. This adds out door living space and is the cheapest remodeling project. This is especially true if you use quality materials like Ipe or Cedar.l Remodeling a kitchen or bath is also a prized remodeling project. You can do an inexpensive remodeling of the kitchen by adding granite tile counter tops and painting your cabinets with gloss enamel and adding new hqrdware and replacing the appliances. Also adding prefinished hardwood floors adds a nice touch. Bathrooms are always looked upon with favor. This can be as simple as retiling or regrouting tile and adding new fixtures and a new floor.

  17. FIBER CEMENT SIDING REPLACEMENT was ranked number one for the highest ROI for projects that cost more than $1,200 in a recent Cost vs. Value Report conducted by Hanley Wood. The report indicated that on a national average, 83 percent of the cost to install fiber cement siding is captured or recouped when the home is sole. In addition to fiber cement siding’s high ranking, VINYL SIDING REPLACEMENTS were also ranked with a 79 percent ROI – an obvious indication that curb appeal-enhancing cladding remains top of mind with homeowners. Both products also happen to help homeowners green the exterior of their home.

  18. The best renovations for resale are, without question, kitchens and bathrooms. Next on the list is basement build outs and bonus rooms turned into useful space (these are typically above the garage).

    Quick fixes that are often overlooked but make a big difference in how up to date a home appears are:


    Hardware (door hardware isn’t cheap but a change from worn out bright brass to brushed nickel or bronze will transform)

    Lighting Fixtures (particularly dining, entry, and bath)

    Ceiling fans from metal accented to disappear with the ceiling white (unless the ceiling isn’t white!)

    Adding crown moulding, it frames spaces and upscales the whole look, even in contemporary

    Investments that pay off in the longer haul but often aren’t as easy to notice (you can definitely leverage as selling point but often aesthetics aren’t as high):

    Replacing windows due to draftiness, broken seals (a must), or style

    Replacing old slab doors with panel (about $100/door)

    Curb Appeal is critical for resale. Skip the expensive landscaping and instead go for clean lines, strategic bursts of color and inexpensive seasonal plantings with a few evergreens thrown in.

    Pressure washing walkways and house siding is way too often overlooked and can totally transform concrete, siding and more.

  19. The key elements to deciding about the investment value of a remodel or addition are:

    1) How important is the investment value?
    2) Will these change bring your home up to average or make it above average in features?
    3) Are your designs and materials tastes appropriate for the house and neighborhood?
    4) How much are you going to pay to have the work done?

  20. There are many things that improve resale. Here are a few:

    – Upgrading to hardwood floors from carpet or tile
    – Moulding
    – Closet organizers
    – A beautiful front door
    – Removing a wall between a small kitchen and formal dining room
    – A finished basement
    – Solid wood interior doors with matching door hardware throughout the home
    – Gas fireplaces
    – Built-ins!!
    -One of the most important: well-proportioned furniture that creates a welcoming flow throughout the home. Buyers often can’t see past over-sized and cluttered furnishings and too many of my clients call me after they have purchased their furniture that is the wrong scale for their space.

    Most of all, homeowners should ask a professional designer for an opinion when they purchase their home. This way, they can create a total plan for their entire home and then tackle each project, one at a time for a cohesive look.

  21. Clearing the clutter and making a home look spacious will help resale value. Items can be stored/sold/donated/tossed to make a home look larger and more inviting to a potential buyer. When we bought our current home, we looked at over 200 properties. It was hard to even “see” the homes that were filled to the brim and had piles and stuff everywhere.

  22. You might think that the Internet Electrician would limit his comments to anything electrical or lighting related, but I’m going to answer this from the right side of my brain.
    I have spent a lot of time in the last 2 years looking for homes, both for my wife and me, and for several members of my family and friends. From talking to realtors, and from seeing the reaction of various house shoppers, including myself, I think the initial reaction is the most important, and thus small scale, inexpensive exterior projects will return you the most resale value for your investment.
    Siding repairs and replacements, repairing exterior stucco or plaster and a fresh coat of paint, new exterior door, and clean up the front yard for that all important first impression.
    It is said that about 80% of the top 10 projects that will recoup the cost involve the exterior of the home, and only require an investment in the $10-$15K range.
    If replacing the exterior siding material, ensure that foam backed product with a good insulation value is used not only to keep with the green theme, but it only makes sense to save some wasted energy.
    Moving to the inside of the home, attic bedroom or bonus room additions, a spa-like master bathroom, and a large living area that incorporates the kitchen are appealing to most. Baby-boomers are generally looking only at 1-story bungalows as well. Nobody wants to waste valuable energy climbing stairs when those calories could be burnt off on the golf course! A fresh coat of paint inside still is, and always has been the #1 thing to do as far as a bang for the buck.
    In the back yard, remodelling or building a deck, providing sunrooms or screen rooms, and generally making the outdoor living space comfortable, especially in warmer climates. The addition of a pool or spa is the worst as far as a return on investment, but if you can find a home that has a pool, the amount you will pay above a comparable home without is only a fraction of the cost of installation if you want to add one later.

  23. green renovations that make good for good resale include updating hvac systems with equipment that improve the energy savings of the space. also, just a general rule – dont remodel with too much of an individual flare….for example, most people dont like bright green as a tile for the bathroom….or pink in the kitchen. keep your designs simple and modern for resale. it makes economic and green sense. in fact, if you are going to invest in green renovations – dont get preachy with the materials or design. allow the potential buyer to appreciate the space or home as a home first, and then the green stuff second. if you have used non-toxic paints and non-toxic carpets….energy efficient windows and money saving air-conditioners….that will be icing on the cake.

    Some green buildings can get a higher value per square foot….but that higher cost will still need to be within someone else budget. the more important fact to know is that if a buyer has the option of a green home versus a non-green home at the same price…..they almost always pick the green option first and faster. thats good business!

  24. Low Budget: Best thing a home-owner can do is to remove patterns and go with solid neutral colors. Anyone who has watched first time home buyers on HGTV will tell you that loud wallpaper and bright colors are difficult for the unaccustomed to get around. Paint is cheap.

    Mid Budget: Change your appliances and fixtures. Old lighting, rusty toilets and 1972 avocado dishwashers are easy to install and will certainly begin to update your house. Also, if you can use them until you sell a property and if you want, you can take them with you when you go.

    Higher budget: There is nothing like having a new cooks kitchen or posh Master Bathroom. However, they are pricey. I just renovated my own bathroom and even with 80% of the materials being donated and completing 100% of the labor myself, it still came in over $2000.

    With any renovation the trick is to choose something that the average person would like. Dont go overboard on a tile detail or a colored counter top that happens to match the colors of your Alma Mater. Think calm, neutral colors and asked around. Goto a few open houses in your area. See what works and what doesnt. Its easier to replicate what someone else has done, rather than reinvent the wheel.

  25. Remodeling projects are expensive and nearly always end up taking more time and causing more personal life disrutpion than any homeowner expects. And some projects that homeowners think will set their abodes apart and make them a “must have” when it comes time to sell, actually ned up being the first thing the new owners want to see gone.

    So if you’re going to invest in projects designed to improve your home’s value, it makes sense to know what remodeling projects will give you the most return for your money – and which ones could actually detract from your home’s attractiveness.


    THE KITCHEN – Whether it’s a major overhaul or a simple makeover, putting a fresh face on your kitchen is your best investment. A major update could cost more than $20,000, but you can expect at least an 85 percent return.

    THE BATH – An outdated bathroom can quickly spoil a sale, and it won’t be a pleasant space for you, either. Current trends of large showers instead of space-hogging garden tubs may serve you well, as will attention to classic features rather than unusual color schemes. A major update could cost less than $20,000, but yield an 84 percent return.

    DECKS – A new deck can cost a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on size and materials used. Before you build, look at other homes in your area and build accordingly. If the deck is in good shape, your return could be more than 80 percent.

    SIDING – If your home’s facade is siding and it’s not in good shape, replacing or repairing the siding can bring instant freshness. You’ll likely spend at least $10,000, but you should get at least 80 percent back.

    WINDOW REPLACEMENT – The energy efficiency of new windows is a clear benefit to switching out older windows, but in some cases, it’s a safety feature, too. Costs depend on the number of windows you’re replacing, of course, and the type. Expect a return on your investment of at least 80 percent.


    POOL – Unless your home is the only home on the block without a swimming pool, you’ll rarely get back even half of the money you pay to build one, and you can scare prospective buyers off because many don’t want the responsibility or liability of a pool. In-ground pools are expensive and can range from less than $20,000 to more than $60,000, depending on how expansive your design and materials.

    HOME OFFICE REMODEL – If you work at home, you’ll want a pleasant home office, but don’t get too carried away with it. Remodeling could set you back more than $20,000 and you’ll be lucky to get half that money back. It’s better to have a room that can clearly be used as a bedroom, playroom or other space without a lot of redecorating. Expect a return of 57 percent.

    SUN ROOM OR FOUR SEASON ROOM ADDITION – These rooms can set you back more than $50,000 and they’re often beautiful bonus rooms. If you’ll enjoy the room and use it, it’s worth the investment. The return on investment is generally less than 60 percent, though.

    MASTER SUITE – Who doesn’t want an expansive private retreat even within their own home? Master suites are expensive, though – some can run into six figures – and the return is generally in the 60 percent range.

    THE GARAGE – Adding that third bay to your garage may make sense when your kids start driving, but it can be expensive – especially if it’s attached to your house. You may get as much as 60 percent of your investment back, but you may scare off buyers who don’t anticipate needing that much garage space.

  26. Here are three rules with which you cannot go wrong:

    1. Always use quality materials, design and workmanship. Good quality and design always pay off.
    2. Avoid fads.
    3. Avoid outlandish anything.

    What remodeling and/or design changes will have the best resale value and give a homeowner the biggest bang for the buck? Again here are three general rules:

    1. Quality, proven energy savers with long life expectancies will pay off. Things like energy saving windows, more insulation, quality energy saving appliances, etc. Avoid unproven, overly complicated and/or over priced technology.

    2. A beautifully designed kitchen with top quality everything is always a plus. Avoid over doing it. Not everyone wants a kitchen the size of a barn.

    3. Quality wood flooring. Avoid the cheap imitations. Real wood is almost as cheap and will last forever.

    Three free to cheap changes that pay off:

    1. Get rid of the clutter. This is my design mantra. It is better to have less if more means a lot of crap. Just clearing the room and walls of second rate junk will do wonders.

    2. A thorough cleaning. You will be surprised how much better everything will look with a major cleaning–steam cleaning, scrubbing, etc.

    3. Paint–the cheapest, easiest DIY project with the biggest return for the buck.

    Here are 3 wastes of money–of course sometimes you just buy things for fun and not profit:

    1. Chandeliers
    2. Expensive, overly decorative doors
    3. Murals, stenciling, and other permanent art. Even though as an artist I have done it all, in the long run you should only buy framed art and sculptures that you can move with you.

    How can homeowners marry their personal preferences with the those of the average
    potential buyer? Again, the best tips from years of experience:

    1. Go see model homes in new neighborhoods and condos. The builders pay designers like me big money to create display rooms that sell the home.
    2. Get good books on architecture and design.
    3. There will always be some people who like any style of design that you can come up with. However, the more unique, expensive, quirky, out of the box, etc. the design, the smaller your audience.

  27. There are some simple things that homeowners can do to add resale value to their home. Particularly in this economy, I would stick with things that add more bang for your buck:

    1. Update the electrical system. Make sure you home is energy efficient, and if it’s an older home be sure to include central air and heat. I’m currently working on an update of a family home that has a terrible electrical system. While the current residents never opted for air conditioning, it’s money well spent for the resale value of the home.

    2. Focus on the kitchen. Any real estate agent will tell you that kitchens sell houses, and you need to be sure that yours is up to par. This is something that adds to the resale value of your home and to the benefit of your every day life as well. Go with stainless steel for new appliances, and be sure they are energy efficient to lower your electric bills. You don’t have to pay a fortune on your kitchen. I’m a big fan of IKEA kitchens, they look gorgeous and are very affordable.

    3. Don’t skip on flooring. I L-O-V-E hardwood floors. They’re absolutely beautiful, and wonderful for people with allergies and asthma, and even pets. Invest in hardwood if you can. Wall-to-wall carpeting may not be for everyone and might make potential buyers skip your space, especially if you go with that rose-colored carpet (ack! I promise you, I’ve seen homeowners choose the most hideous colors for wall-to-wall carpet).

    4. Bring on the paint! Paint can make a huge difference at home, and it’s an affordable way to make a change. I’m partial to many of today’s modern colors like gray and bright white. Check out eco-friendly paint options with no VOCs to update your home and create a safe environment for you and your family.

    Finally, have fun! A home remodel can be so stressful, but in the end if you’ve created a space that you love and will enjoy then it will be completely worth it.

  28. Before you take the plunge and begin upgrading your home visit some open houses in your neighborhood to see what others have done or not done to their similar homes. Take some notes about what works and what you felt didn’t. Many may even be the same floor plan.

    What is your budget?

    With a $3,000.00-$5,000.00 budget I would focus on a large space; either your family room or living room. Probably the most dramatic change you can make is with your flooring. Consider an engineered hardwood that has a rich appealing finish. Also consider changing your base molding to a taller 3” more sophisticated looking base. Paint the room a warm taupe or soft color that accents your furnishings. This could by a buttery color, or sage. Work with a design professional for a few hours on furniture layout and universally appealing colors. A better furniture layout can make a room feel much larger. Paint your ceiling a white, or a lighter color than the walls to add height. Usually a white trim color feels crisp and clean. Add 5” can lights with white trims to accentuate your new furniture layout and accent walls, bookcases or art work.

    • Clean
    • De-clutter your home
    • Freshen up the front of your home by pruning, weeding and polishing up your house numbers

    $10,000 to 20,000.00 the bath wins!

    Everyone starts and finishes their day in the bathroom and it’s typically the room that turns off buyers. Worn out, tired baths feel dirty to buyers and many of you know an old bath just can’t be cleaned enough to sparkle. This is a room to remodel correctly; consider professionals. If you’re not highly skilled at tile work or rough in plumbing and electrical work it will show and you won’t get the bang for your buck you expected.

    Don’t fall into the trap of installing a granite counter on an old 1960’s vanity. If it’s old and tired painting a vanity or even re-facing it won’t help when the buyer can’t easily open drawers and sees water stains. The buyer also feels guilty about those fancy updates they wouldn’t want to tear out to fix the underlying problems. This also leads a buyer to suspect other things in your home are cosmetically hiding issues. You can update an existing vanity if it’s in great condition with new doors, hardware; plumbing and countertop.

    In both cases, do the work really well. If you’re doing your own painting spend some time learning how to do the prep right, cut in right and use enough coats of paint. You want to spend your money wisely and have a professional looking project when you done. Hire good professionals when you need them and get assistance from a reputable contractor to establish realistic budgets from the beginning and speak with previous clients.

  29. 3-5k for a larger room overhaul? come on!

    this is the biggest problem with TV, the media and our industry as a whole …the consumer has the most rediculous and unrealistic expectations as to what things cost. See above at whoever commented at donated + diy and it was still 2k. If we used standard figures like a basic room reno top to bottom would cost you 10k, a wow one 20k and then we all delivered rooms for les, even if slightly, consumers could get a handle on realistic expectations. Like hello TV some women just sewed 8 sets of drapes for you and the cost was FREE?!!

    Someone just said to me i have a 3 bed empty condo and a 6k budget …like hello. that’s never happening unless you’re craiglisting. fresh coat of paint alone will be 3k and you’ll be lucky if you can get 3-4 beds and bedframes, nights and dressers for another 3.

    • I understand your concern that clients may not realize what things cost, especially when you consider the labor involved as well as the materials. Some of what’s out there is misleading but I take the position that it’s inspired more homeowners to remodel and given me more opportunities to show clients the value in doing it correctly.

      I spend time educating my clients on the real costs and permiting involved. I can show previous projects we’ve done; materials, labor. We don’t sign a contract with a client without all aspects specified in detail, and costs based on the actual completed design. This takes more time but the client understand clearly what is going to be involved as well as the timeline.

      The 3-5,000.00 budget can be doable for many. This would depend on the size of the room, the type of lighting used and if they were to undertake the painting.

      I work in homes that range in size from 17,000 square feet to 1,800. I was basing my figures on a modest / average size room in a 2,000 square foot home. If a client has a larger budget for a project like this we can do more or utilize more high end materials.

  30. I hate that people don’t just live in their homes for themselves and for the moment.
    The last years have brought about this whole mentality of buying a home with an eye on potential re-sale, and not for putting down roots.
    You should live in your house with the things you love.
    Also buyers are babies and act like morons. How hard is it to see that a fresh coat of paint, a good cleaning, and possible updates are not really the responsibility of the seller.
    If you love a house, and it is in sound condition, and the price is right, then that should be it.
    Marketing has caused this upturn in preparing a house for a buyer rather than making improvements and fixing up things for yourself, and enjoying them while you are living in your house.
    Having said all of this, presenting a home for sale in it’s best possible light should be a reasonable proposition. Your home should be sparkling clean, fresh, and uncluttered at the very least. There are many good suggestions here in the comments.
    The tough real estate market of the past years has made it hard to sell a home, so I understand why so many sellers feel pressured into renovating before they can move on. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
    Of course certain renovations can be profitable. But it seems like we are hamsters on a wheel. We spend money to make money to spend money.
    xo xo

  31. For the homeowner working with a small budget, painting is one of the least expensive options to totally transform a room. The great thing about paint is that it’s easy and cost effective to change when the time comes to sell if your choice of colour was too bold for most buyers.

    However, if you’re working with a larger budget and want to upgrade your kitchen, bathrooms or outdoor living space, you’ll see a bigger return on investment than you will from painting alone.

    The first thing a homeowner needs to consider is their long term goal – i.e. how long they intend to stay in their current home. If their plan is to move in a few years, they would be wise to choose upgrades that will appeal to a broader pool of buyers. Granite and hardwood are two items that buyers are looking for, but try to stick to choices that will stand the test of time and not become dated quickly.

    Choosing more classic, neutral finishes for your counter tops, floors, backsplashes and cupboards doesn’t mean that a homeowner has to live in a bland, boring house. You can kick up the style factor by decorating your home to fit your personality through the use of paint, furniture and accessories. It’s the best of both worlds. You’ll have the style you want while you live there, along with finishes that were carefully chosen for resale.

  32. A December survey from Better Homes and Gardens shows that 79% of home buyers are looking for walk-in closets in their next home.

    Other top features include; Energy efficient heating and cooling, decks or patios and upgraded features and fixtures such as granite counter tops, wood flooring and lighting fixtures. Any of these features are smart design changes for selling a home.

    My favorite show, House Hunters on TLC, supports this survey! Each time someone tours a home, the first thing they look for are updates like granite counter tops, lighting and efficient storage spaces including walk-in closets, pantries, laundry storage and linen spaces. A lot of times their decision to purchase the home hangs heavily on these features.

    Just make sure that if you’re updated your home with storage, that you select adjustable storage like freedomRail so that the next home owner has the freedom to adjust shelves, drawers and hanging space as their needs change.

  33. It’s fairly well known that kitchens and master baths offer the best return on value and if you’re on a small budget, painting is one of the easiest do- it- yourself jobs to tackle. And if you’re someone who enjoys faux finishing and resurfacing cabinets, you’ll save there as well. If not, hiring out the job is still an affordable choice. Add some great looking hardware and splashes of color and you can have a great updated look.

    If you’ve got the budget for a full remodel you can’t miss with hardwood floors, granite kitchen tops, lots of storage and energy appliances. As for master baths, larger showers with seating, natural stone and quality faucets that will stand the test of time are good bets. Great lighting is also important and changing to a tank less water heater will also save on energy efficiency and space.

    Color is such a personal choice and sets the tone for the look and feel of the room. And it should reflect your personality making YOU want to be there! But it won’t necessarily be what a potential buyer will want so if your intention is to sell in the near future, neutrals with splashes of colors you enjoy throughout can help keep your sense of style alive without scaring someone away.

    Renovating my kitchen was the best money for me. I love being in it and friends and family are always drawn to the kitchen where really the heart of the home lives. And I’ve noticed that when at other friends houses, no matter how small a kitchen is, people will still gravitate regardless if it’s a little tight – go figure!

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