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5 Home Improvements That Add Value

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As you prepare to sell your home, you may want to complete a bunch of home improvements in hopes of increasing your home’s list price. However, not all improvement projects are worth the time and investment. For example, while you may feel the addition of an upscale master suite will create a real estate bidding war, it’s essential to remove personal opinions from your home improvement equation.

Resources — such as Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value data on home improvements that add value — can provide vital information to ensure your home improvement projects deliver a significant return on investment. The Remodeling Magazine report compares 22 projects across more than 100 U.S. markets to detail the average job cost and the overall project value at sale. You must keep in mind job cost versus the cost recouped can vary significantly across the country (they can vary by region and by city).

To help you wade through the confusion so you can devote your time and resources to the right projects, we’ve created this top five list of how to increase home value.

The top 5 most valuable home improvements

1. Add curb appeal with stone veneer

House with stone veneer

Javani LLC / Shutterstock

Think about the first impression potential homebuyers see as they visit your home. Bumping up your curb appeal with a stone veneer helps your home stand out from others on the market. The name can be deceiving as the stone veneer is not a nature-made stone. Stone veneer is manufactured “faux” stone. According to Cultured Stone, a premier stone veneer manufacturer with over 50 years in the industry, manufactured stone veneer often costs a third to half what natural stone does for the same project. When the manufactured stone is installed correctly, sellers can expect an impressive return on investment at an overall national average of 95%.

The overall projected cost nationwide of adding a stone veneer to your home improvements list is $9,357, with a cost recouped at $8,943. This translates to a 95.6% return on investment.

Experts don’t recommend that you attempt a DIY stone veneer project, as improper installation can lead to water damage within the home and potential for mold growth.

For inspiration, Pinterest has stone veneer examples for all home types, sizes, and styles.

2. Upgrade your garage door

Modern garage door

David Papazian / Shutterstock

Not all garage doors are created equally. While garage doors may be considered utilitarian, an upgraded garage door is an excellent example of home improvements that add value. What does the exterior of your home convey to potential buyers? Is it a “cookie-cutter” replica of all the other homes in your neighborhood? Upgrading your garage door adds character to help your home stand out from the competition.

The approximate cost of replacing a 16×7-foot garage door and tracks with a new eye-catching door featuring top panel glass windows, galvanized steel hardware, and a lifetime warranty is an estimated $3,695 with a resale value of $3,491. The result? A national average of 94.5% cost recouped.

While it may be tempting to save by choosing to DIY some home improvements, you should leave the garage door installation to the pros. If you opt to attempt to remove the existing garage doors and install your new and improved set of doors, research if the warranty is voided on new garage door DIY installs.

Garage doors can add personality to your home, from craftsman and farmhouse styles to minimalist looks.

3. Do a minor kitchen remodel

Kitchen interior in a luxury home

MasterPhoto / Shutterstock

The kitchen is the heart of the home. When choosing home improvements, many homeowners gravitate toward kitchen enhancements. However, there are levels of investing in a kitchen remodel, and, unfortunately, some may not be worth the expenditure. Major projects — such as adding a gourmet kitchen with custom cabinetry, commercial-grade appliances, and new flooring — only deliver a 53.9% average return on investment. In contrast, an estimated return on investment for a minor kitchen remodel across the U.S. is 77.6%.

Smaller, more manageable kitchen remodels will provide a bigger payoff. Cosmetic upgrades like painting the walls, molding, trim, and ceiling are economical improvements. Opt for kitchen cabinet resurfacing and new hardware instead of a costly full tear down. Replacing old appliances with energy-efficient models is another selling point that will go a long way with potential home buyers.

Take to the internet for remodeling inspiration and tips.

4. Replace your siding

Hardie board siding

Marina Poushevan / Shutterstock

Old, dilapidated siding can leave a bad first impression. The good news is both vinyl and fiber-cement siding replacement provide a solid cost versus value. Based on Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value study, a fiber-cement siding replacement will cost more than vinyl, but the return on investment will be slightly greater. Leave the siding removal and replacement to the pros, especially for two and three-story homes.

High-density fiber-cement products, also known as Hardie board siding, are sustainable, noncombustible, mold and mildew resistant, and provide an average of 77.6% cost versus value return on investment. Fiber-cement siding is five times thicker than vinyl siding. In comparison, vinyl siding, comprised of lightweight plastic, delivers a 74.7% average return on investment. While vinyl siding is easy to install, comes at an economical price point, and is low maintenance, it’s important to note the plastic materials in vinyl siding emit harmful chemicals.

The average job cost for a Hardie board installment is $17,008. Vinyl siding replacement costs about $14,359, on average.

Once you’ve settled on a fiber-cement or vinyl replacement, your next task will be choosing the siding color and style.

5. Replace your windows

Yuriy Golub / Shutterstock

Home efficiency is an important factor for new and existing homeowners. If the seals on your windows have seen better days, energy costs can skyrocket. New vinyl windows deliver added benefits like improved energy efficiency, noise reduction, and UV light protection to prevent carpet and wall paint fading. While you may want to do a DIY window replacement to save on home renovation costs, improper installation can lead to unnecessary setbacks.

If your home has older single-pane windows, now’s the time to assess if a vinyl double hung window replacement project is in your home improvement budget. On average, you will see a 72.3% return on investment and the average job cost is $17,641.

In today’s window market, there are a wide variety of window options, from traditional styles with transoms to modern, clean-lined windows that exude minimalism.

How to increase home value with the right improvements

There are so many factors to assess when preparing your home for sale. The ultimate goal is to increase your home’s value. Take advantage of resources such as Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value data to choose the right projects that will have the highest return on investment.

Drill down to your geographic region, city, and even neighborhood for comparison. Taking these important steps will guide you on how to increase your home value.

The bottom line

Preparing your home for sale takes a great deal of planning. Set a realistic budget for home improvements and work with your realtor to determine which investments will positively impact your home’s list price. Once the improvements have been made, be sure your realtor includes these upgrades when marketing your home to attract a larger audience.

Frequently asked questions

What things add value to a home? 

The top five remodeling projects that offer the greatest return on investment are replacing your home’s garage door, windows, and siding (either vinyl or fiber-cement), adding stone veneer, and completing a minor kitchen upgrade.

What improvement projects should I focus on before putting my house on the market? 

Once you’ve set your home improvement budget, research the cost versus value of home improvements that add value in your area.

How do I choose the right home improvement project? 

Taking your own personal preference out of the equation is essential to choosing the right home improvement project. The ultimate goal is to update what will attract the greatest number of potential buyers. Focus on delivering what buyers in your area are looking for in a home purchase.


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