by James Rada, Jr
People remodel to upgrade rooms, improve livability, or simply because it’s time for a change. While they are all good reasons, you want to get your money’s worth from the project. Often that means you hope the project will save you more money over its lifetime than you have to pay for it.
The other way to get a good return on your home investment is to focus on projects that increase the value of your home more than the project costs. These projects can be more subjective, depending on where you live.
“A pool may be very important in Florida, and it may not be as important in Pennsylvania,” said Shanna Terroso, executive officer with the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties.
One place to start as you consider home renovation projects is the annual Cost vs. Value Report released by Remodeling Magazine. The report looks at the average cost and return on investment of 21 popular remodeling projects. The value of the report comes from its ability to release this information by area. Adams and York County cost information can be found in its own report.
The National Association of Realtors also has a Remodeling Impact Report it compiles information from its members. Both reports can help you decide on which project is one you want to invest in — and it is an investment, because every change you make to your largest investment (your home) will impact its value.
Best Projects for Improving Home Value
Looking at the data compiled in the 2018 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), the projects that will give your home value the biggest bump in value are the following:
- Manufactured Stone Veneer (midrange): Average cost: $8,608 with 93.7 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. Get rid of vinyl siding and replace it with attractive stone veneer on the lower third of the street-facing side of the house.
- Garage Door Replacement (upscale): Average cost: $3,600 with 90.6 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. While you can reuse an existing motor, an upscale garage door offers features such as insulation at R-12 and up and thermal seals between the panels.
- Entry Door Replacement — Steel (midrange): Average cost: $1,900 with 78.4 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. A new steel door and aluminum threshold is an attractive addition to a home.
- Deck Addition — Wood (midrange): Average cost: $10,984 with 74.1 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. This 16×20 deck has a built-in bench and planter, stairs, and railing, all made from pressure-treated wood.
- Minor Kitchen Remodel (midrange): Average cost: $21,526 with 73.4 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. Additions here include new drawer and cabinet faces, energy-efficient cooktop/oven, slide-in refrigerator, faucets, and countertop laminate. It also includes a fresh coat of paint on the walls and replacing the flooring.
The Remodeling Impact Report found that the top three interior projects that will best improve your home value are a complete kitchen renovation, kitchen upgrade, and bathroom renovation. The top three exterior projects are new roofing, new vinyl windows, and a new garage door.
“Kitchens and baths are the best improvement you can make inside, and roofs and windows outside,” said Mary Price with Berkshire-Hathaway in Hanover.
However, she points out that if you are simply looking to improve the value of your home on a budget, a fresh coat of paint and decluttering the rooms will help. “Things that make the rooms look bigger and brighter will make the home look more appealing.”
Things like window and siding replacement fall in the middle ground of adding to home value, according to the Cost vs. Value Report, but some contractors feel they are more important than other projects.
Holly Miller with Douglas M. Miller Construction in New Oxford said, “Doug feels if your foundation is secure, and you have a good secure outside with siding that won’t let the rain in where it can cause mold, and you use good products, you will have a good house.”
Miller focuses on improvements that a homeowner will appreciate, although they might not always see them, such as having good insulation in the attic joists.
“Most people, especially first-time homebuyers, want to move into a house and not have much to do to it,” said Price.
Worst Projects for Improving Home Value
For projects you need to do more because they need to be done rather than because they add value to your home, the Cost vs. Value Report lists the following:
- Master Suite Addition (upscale): Average cost: $263,427 with 42.2 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. This includes so much more than a midrange addition, such as a gas fireplace with stone hearth, custom counters, soundproofing, and a hospitality center. It’s far more than most people want.
- Backyard Patio (midrange): Average cost: $54,124 with 43.97 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. This is a flagstone patio with a retractable awning that includes items such as a gas grill and all-weather furniture.
- Bathroom Addition (upscale): Average cost: $83,784 with 47.6 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. This addition includes custom cabinetry, a humidstat-controlled exhaust fan, and high-end materials.
- Major Kitchen Remodel (upscale): Average cost: $131,072 with 48.9 percent of that cost added to the value of your home. The remodel replaces just about everything in the kitchen with high-end items, such as an undermount sink with designer faucets and a water filtration system and a glass-tile backsplash.
- Bathroom Remodel (upscale): Average cost: $62,673 with 50.9 percent of that cost added to the value of your home.
On the whole, using the most expensive appliances, material, and furniture available won’t always give you the best return on your investment. A midrange version of these projects generally offers a better return.
The bottom three interior projects in the Remodeling Impact Report are insulation upgrade, closet renovation, and attic conversion to a living area. The bottom three exterior projects are new fiberglass front door, new fiber-cement siding, and new steel front door.
Something to note here is that the Remodeling Impact Report ranked a new steel front door lower than the Cost vs. Value Report because the Remodeling Impact Report looks at more than just cost and added home value. It takes into account Realtor recommendations and homeowners opinions. As far as cost and added home value go, the two reports differ only slightly.
Dealing with Historic Homes
York and Adams counties have a lot of historic and older homes that present their own special issues when trying to make them comfortable for the modern homeowner while keeping their historic charm and value.
“Preserving the historic feel of houses is recommended in most cases,” said Price.
What you can actually do to a home will be limited the more historic it is, particularly if it is on the historic register of homes. However, Miller points out that even if you can make changes to a historic home, how those changes affect the value will depend on the buyer. Someone who is looking for a home that is more authentic to its original construction period will devalue any improvements you make, while someone who just wants a home that feels historic will appreciate modern touches.
Before you make any changes to your home, though, make sure you get multiple quotes and that you review your potential contractor’s references and insurance.
In the end, the important thing is to make sure you are happy with your renovations. “After remodeling, 75 percent of owners have a greater desire to be in their home,” according to the Renovation Impact Report. “Sixty-five percent have increased enjoyment in their home. Fifty-six percent feel happy and 39 percent feel satisfied when they see their completed project with a typical Joy Score of 9.6. Seventy-seven percent feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think of their completed project.”