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What Home Improvements Add the Most Value? We Uncover Them All

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

According to the Houzz and Home Overview of U.S. Renovation, 52% of people selling their house in 2016 renovated, spending about $36,300 on average.

Hold the phone. Homeowners spent $36,300 on average?

That means that, on top of all the other costs of selling a home, homeowners sink almost four grand into renovations that they won’t even get to enjoy.

When we did a study in 2016 on how much it costs to sell a home we found that someone selling a $200,000 house can estimate to spend about $13,000 exclusive of any renovations or repairs. If we add in Houzz’s average cost of renovations, that’s $50,000 down the drain. Not to mention that the cost will likely be even greater for houses with a higher fair market value.

We know you’re hoping that the money you spend renovating your home will turn around and get a higher sale price but the higher sale price probably won’t recoup what you spent. If you’re spending thousands of dollars just to attract a buyer and you’re not going to get back the money, you shouldn’t spend it in the first place.

That’s why we scoured the internet to find out what home improvements add the most value so that you increase your sale price without losing cash. We looked up the major home renovations most people attempt before selling and found the average return on investment for each. The results showed an overwhelming loss of funds for almost every renovation across the board.

We found the improvements that do get you a return on money spent both in cash value and buyer interest.

Before You Do Anything, Get an Estimate

Wait! Don’t start renovating yet! Put down that paintbrush! The best way to understand how home improvements affect your home’s value is to get a home value estimate before you begin.

Plug your address into HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator tool and you’ll get an average value estimate from five leading home value sites.

Got your number? Phew. Okay, first thing’s first.

Here’s How We Found the Home Renovations With the Highest Return

We went room by room and thought through over 50 different renovation projects.

Then, we read through the National Association of Realtors’ Remodeling Impact Report and the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report. We compiled the data into an easy to read graph that shows you how much cash you really stand to make from 10 of the most common renovation projects for people selling their homes.

We included the renovation projects with the highest return on investment and added 7 others to give you a cross-section of returns in various areas of the house.

We analyzed renovations across the board to figure out what home improvements add the most value.

The Return on The Top 10 Renovations:

Refinishing Hardwood Floors: 0% of Investment Lost

Refinish your hardwood floors and you’ll get back all of the money you spent–but you won’t make anything. This renovation is a toss-up. If your hardwood floors are extremely damaged, refinishing could make a big impact on the space and keep buyers from negotiating the price down.

Similarly, if you have hardwood hiding under old carpets, removing the carpet and refinishing the floors could be a big draw for buyers, especially in a neighborhood where hardwood is the norm. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average price to refresh hardwood floors is $2,500.

Bathroom Renovation: 35% of Investment Lost

Let go of lofty dreams for a spa bathroom in your old home and save your money for your new place. Bathroom renovations only recoup 65% of money spent, meaning that you’ll lose 35% of your investment.

Minor Kitchen Renovation: 20% of Investment Lost

Rethink your plans to replace all of your kitchen cabinets or change out the stovetop. Even minor kitchen renovations lose you 20% of your investment. If your kitchen is in desperate need of an overhaul, opt for affordable kitchen update ideas like refinishing or painting cabinets yourself. These ideas cost almost nothing and make a big difference in the space.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation: Full Return plus 8%

Attic insulation could get back all of the money you spent and makes you 8% on top of that. This fix is pretty specific, so check in with your real estate agent to see if there’s a need in your local market.

Lawn Care (Seed): Full Return plus 317%

Seeding your lawn to make it lush and green gets you all of your money back plus a whopping 317%. This improvement has the highest return on investment out of all the renovations on both Costs vs. Value and the National Association of Realtors’ lists.

lawn care home maintenance
Source: (Fauzan Saari / Unsplash)

Roof Replacement: 31% of Investment Lost

You probably don’t need to replace your whole roof–especially if you’ll only get back 69%. Get an estimate (and an inspection) from a roofing company, but usually you can salvage a roof by replacing damaged tiles for a much lower cost.

New Garage Door: 23% of Investment Lost

You’ll lose money if you replace your entire garage door, so if it’s in bad shape see if you can get it repaired. If it’s dirty or dated a good power wash and a coat of paint should be enough.

Siding Replacement: 24% of Investment Lost

Similar to your garage door, a good power wash should clean up your siding. If it’s damaged, see if you can just replace rotting or broken pieces.

Vinyl Window Replacement: 26% of Investment Lost

When you sell your house your windows should be spotless. That doesn’t mean you need all new windows, though. Be sure to replace broken panes and dysfunctional windows and give all other windows a deep clean.

Curb Appeal Landscaping Gets the Best Return on Investment

The main takeaway from our research is this: landscaping fixes that improve your home’s curb appeal get you the best return on investment. With such a high return on the seed lawn upgrade, we dug into NAR’s Remodeling Impact Report for Outdoor Features a little bit further.We looked at curb appeal upgrades to help figure out what home improvements add the most value.

While seeding the lawn still came out on top, a general landscape overhaul also gets a good return and makes a great first impression on buyers. The bottom line: if you’re going to renovate before selling your home, put your money into curb appeal.

We wrote a guide on low budget, high impact curb appeal tips just for you. Check it out to learn more about how to get more money for your house with some great curb appeal.