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February 23, 2015

Home improvements with the greatest return on investment

Home Improvement Projects

Content sponsored by Anne Koons - Native 020715

Bathroom with standalone tub File Art/for PhillyVoice

Some renovation projects have a better return on investment than others.

It happens all too often. Homeowners invest thousands of dollars on that fancy in-ground pool thinking they will get their money back when they sell the house. Unfortunately, many expensive projects do not result in a large return on investment. If a particular home improvement is something you want to do, will improve your family’s life, and make you happy, by all means do it. However, be advised that, upon selling your house, some renovation projects have a better return than others. Here are a few tips.

The "guts" are important

State of the art, energy-efficient furnaces, functioning rain gutters and downspouts, and dry basements may not be the most glamorous things on which to spend your dollars, but they’re what buyers care most about. No matter how breathtaking a kitchen remodel or sparkling swimming pool may be, if the roof is leaking the house is losing market value. Basic, fundamental home maintenance is always home-improvement money well spent.

Outside appearance is key

That’s why replacing worn or dirty exterior siding, updating and replacing a tired front door, and focusing on landscaping and curb appeal are smart decisions. These are relatively inexpensive projects, and they always pay off big by drawing buyers in.

Kitchens & baths

You almost can’t lose in updating an old kitchen or bath – as long as the renovation is proportional in scale to the value of the house and the economic level of the neighborhood. It’s only when remodelers go over the top – with acres of Carrara marble, for example – that baths or kitchens can put you into the red.

Garage doors & decks 

Upgrading or replacing these features almost always pays off. Any home’s curb appeal and marketability is enhanced by the replacement of a weary, old-style wood garage door with a new embossed-steel model. Decks, meanwhile, really answer buyers’ love of outdoor space. And one of the great things about decks is you’re adding square footage to your home at far less than the cost of adding on a room.

Attic remodel

Turning an unfinished attic into a finished extra bedroom – or private master suite – is a smart investment. Again, you’re creating additional living space without having to add-on, so remodeling costs are by definition kept to a minimum.  

Adding-on space

Increasing the footprint of your house by adding-on a room can make sense in an “up” housing market, because buyers do want size. Generally, it’s bathroom additions that pay off the best, since many older homes today don’t have the two- and three-bathroom layouts that current buyers want. Buyers also love dedicated hobby and craft rooms – gyms, yoga and exercise spaces, and home offices. But remember, it only makes sense to build-on if your home is noticeably lacking something – not just expansion for expansion’s sake.

Paneling & "popcorn ceiling" removal

No, 1970s paneling is never coming back into style, and almost everyone hates the pebbled “cottage cheese” or “popcorn” ceilings of that era. Ripping out these dated finishes – replacing the old ceiling with a smooth-finish plaster look, and substituting drywall or even horizontal barn boards for dreary paneling – is 100 percent worth the time, effort and money.

Basement finishing

The amount of livable space you add to your house by finishing out the basement as a sports den, lounge, children’s playroom, rec room, or “man cave,” can be enormous. Just make sure you do it professionally, that you have the necessary legal permits (that way it will count as legitimate square footage), and that you address any dampness or mildew issues before starting work.

Beware of over-improving

Ultra-luxurious home-improvement projects, especially if they’re out of sync with the economics of the neighborhood, can be money-losers. Elaborate home theaters with costly electronics and speakers; sprawling climate-controlled wine cellars;  and four- or five-car garages can seem to offer a lot of impact – but their cost is hard to justify on the selling end.

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