10 home renovations that will pay you back


When it's time to remodel, many homeowners want to choose the projects that offer the greatest potential to recoup their financial outlay. It's understandable: The average bathroom remodel costs more than $16,000, a garage addition can cost more than $50,000 and adding a master suite or second floor can easily cost six figures, according to Remodeling's "2015 Cost vs. Value" report.

From small to large, there are home renovations that can enhance the quality of your experience in your home, as well as the overall intrinsic value of your property. Here are several home renovations that could help make your home more enjoyable while you occupy it and offer the biggest bang for your buck for when it comes time to sell.

1. Remodel the Kitchen
"If it's more than 15 years old, upgrading the kitchen floor, cabinetry and appliances to modern standards will net you more money during (the) time of sale," said Joe Polyak, real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Burlingame, Calif.

For many, a kitchen is the center of the home. A minor kitchen renovation can increase value — the Remodeling report showed a 79 percent national recoup average. It can also increase home enjoyment for the entire family.

Still, renovators should take care that they don't go overboard. "Upgrading the appliances to a certain level of luxury — KitchenAid versus Bosch, for example — can significantly increase value," said Polyak. "Be careful, though. You don't need to put Wolfe appliances in a condo in a blue-collar condo complex. That won't add value."

2. Open the Floor Plan
An open floor plan is one of the more sought-after features for homebuyers today. However, older homes typically have many walls and narrow hallways, said Polyak. The good news is that it can be surprisingly inexpensive to knock down a wall and create a more cohesive space. An interior demolition costs about $3,000 on average, according to online home improvement marketplace HomeAdvisor.

Even load-bearing walls can be removed, preferably by a skilled contractor who can then place a beam in the ceiling for support. Even with the added costs, this improvement can still add significant value to a home, said Polyak.

3. Paint the Interior
"Painting is a quick, inexpensive and easy way to refresh or update your home," said Maria Samuels, marketing specialist at furniture manufacturer InstyleModern. "You can transform a room into a totally new space just by adding a splash of color. Not only does paint make a room look clean and bright, but it can also change your outlook on your home and living environment."

Most homeowners spend between $949 and $2,428 in home interior paint costs, according to online home improvement marketplace HomeAdvisor. At that price point, it's easy to recoup the cost when it's time to sell. Even so, it might be worthwhile to consult a professional before selecting a color. Not everyone knows that "light or white paint make small rooms and spaces appear bigger, and that bright colors can make a family or playroom more fun and vibrant," said Samuels.

Still, professional advice doesn't have to add to the cost of the project. Many national paint retailers like Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore offer free paint consultations.

4. Upgrade Lighting Fixtures
"You'll be amazed at the difference that great lighting makes," said Samuels. "It can take a room from sterile and unwelcoming to cozy and soothing." She suggested adding new lighting over a kitchen table or island, or hanging fixtures in entryways.

Most fixtures can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or less, but when you're working with electrical wires, you'll also want to make sure to bring in a professional. Most homeowners spend about $322 to bring in an electrician, which will increase an overall remodeling bill, according to HomeAdvisor. Even so, the difference enhanced lighting can make to a living space can make a lot of difference to a potential buyer later down the road.

5. Replace the Entry Door
Installing a new steel entry door has the largest cost versus resale value, according to Remodeling's report. It's about a $1,200 project that's likely to boost your home's value by the same amount.

"It alone can transform the front of your house and improve overall curb appeal, especially if you're looking to sell or raise your property value," said Samuels. "Before you head out to purchase one, learn which styles and materials work best for your home's design. Then, think about the color that interests you most."

Samuels recommended bold colors like Kelly green, bright yellow and high-gloss black. "To make this a super-affordable change, buy an inexpensive neutral door and paint it yourself," she suggested.

6. Install or Repurpose Flooring
"Updated hardwood floors or new carpeting can help sell a home," said John Bodrozic, co-founder of digital home management tool HomeZada. "But a lot of the determination of whether the project pays for itself depends on how much money people put into the project."

Existing carpets can be cleaned for about $174, and the average hardwood refinishing cost is $1,544. Installation of new flooring increases the cost: $1,493 for carpet and $4,432 for wood. However, you can reduce your costs.

"If you have the skill or are willing to learn, you can save labor costs if you can do some of the work yourself," said Bodrozic. "If you do hire a contractor, make sure you get three to five bids, and make it known to the contractors that they are competing for the business. Depending on the marketing conditions and timing of your project, you could save yourself some money."

7. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Features
"I'm noticing a big trend toward energy-efficient appliances, LED lights and tankless water heaters," said Diana George, founder of Oakland-based Vault Realty Group. "These products save homeowners money and contribute to a smaller carbon footprint." A tankless water heater can be installed for about $4,200 in a 2,200-square-foot home, and LED converter bulbs can be bought for about $14 per light, said George.

You don't have to wait until you move to reap the financial benefits that accompany an energy-efficient upgrade. A tankless water heater can cut a homeowner's water heating bill by about a fifth each year. A switch from incandescent to LED bulbs, meanwhile, can save a homeowner a surprising $300 per year. Energy-efficient upgrades might not be the most exciting of home improvement projects, but they can have an almost immediate impact on a home's overall bottom line.

8. Build an Outdoor Deck or Patio
"This can be a fairly inexpensive project that can add a lot of value in the eyes of potential homebuyers," said Polyak. Specific features tend to vary in popularity by geographic location, and the national average cost for this upgrade is about $10,000 for wood and $15,000 for composite materials, according to Remodeling's report. Of that amount, a homebuyer can hope to recoup about 80 percent and 68 percent, respectively.

"In Arizona, people like a nice fire pit with a beautiful outdoor area. In the San Francisco Bay area, they like a nice deck with landscaping," he said. "You can hire someone to do the work, but depending on how handy the homeowner, this can definitely be a fairly inexpensive do-it-yourself project."

9. Replace Vinyl Siding
It's not necessarily every homebuyer's idea of a dream home project, but new vinyl siding can dramatically enhance a home's curb appeal, which can make or break a homeowner's prospects when selling on the open market.

Newer siding can also help curb heating and cooling costs, and decrease the conditions under which mold, fungus and mildew can thrive. New vinyl siding generally costs around $12,000 and will increase a home's resale value by almost $9,700, according to Remodeling.

10. Remodel a Bathroom
"Bath renovations are always worth the money invested," said Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP in Warwick, N.Y. "If the home has good bones and quality finishes, the home seller will reap most, if not all, of the cost."

A homebuyer can expect to pay about $17,000 for a mid-range bathroom renovation and recoup about 70 percent, according to Remodeling. However, making smaller changes can also bring big rewards. "The impact a new light fixture can make can take a house from being dated to feeling new," said Plaisted. "I find upgrading light fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens to be worth every penny spent."

In the end, a home renovation choice is about more than just the value you'll eventually recoup. Consider projects that will keep your home properly maintained, but also that your family will enjoy. A house is more than an investment, it's also the place where your family will build memories for years to come.

From GoBankingRates.com: 10 home renovations that will pay you back

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