People do home projects for a variety of reasons: repair, personalizing their space, getting their house ready to sell. Or, a recent growing category: boredom. Whatever the reason, you want to ensure that each project is adding value to your house, not detracting. Even if you don’t have current plans to sell, you don’t want to find out down the line that you removed something valuable and replaced it with poor craftsmanship, lesser materials, or something trendy that will be less sought after over time.
So, how do you research what home improvements add the most value to your house? It depends on: timing, durability, added comfort, and initial cost.
What Adds Value to a Home
65% of homeowners believe that the value of their home will continue to rise over the next decade. For many, this is true, but they don’t just do it on their own. Home value depends on: location, size, style, materials, heating & cooling, condition, etc. So, to add value through home projects, check your budget, your timeline, and how much you want to alter your house.
What Home Projects Add the Most Value
These statistics and cost evaluations come from the 2019 National Association of Realtors Remodeling Impact Report. Most estimated costs come from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Project and upgrade appeal to potential homebuyers is analyzed by realtors. Homeowners were also asked for reasoning behind doing the project and how they felt after project completion.
Insulation has an 83% return on investment upon resale.
The average project costs $2,400 with recovered cost at $2,000.
Insulation ranked high for both realtors and homeowners. 93% of homeowners performed insulation projects to improve energy efficiency. Over half of homeowners agreed that once they added better insulation, they wanted to be home more.
HVAC installation/replacement has an 85% return on investment upon resale.
The average project costs $2,400 with recovered cost at $2,000.
Most homeowners completed this project to improve energy efficiency and had an increased sense of enjoyment at home once done.
Refinishing Hardwood Floors
Refinishing hardwood floors has a 100% return on investment upon resale.
The average project costs $2,600 with recovered cost at $2,600.
Homeowners who completed this project did so to upgrade worn-out surfaces & to modernize. Over a quarter of realtors suggested refinishing floors before selling.
Insulation has a 107% return on investment upon resale.
The average project costs $7,500 with recovered cost at $8,000.
Over half the homeowners who completed this project did so because they wanted long-lasting results and materials. 39% of realtors suggest sellers re-roof before selling.
What Home Projects Add the Least Value & What to do Instead
All these home projects have a negative return on investment. It doesn’t mean you can’t do them, it just means that you are putting more money into the project than the value you are adding to your home.
Cementitious (Fiber-Cement) Siding
Adding vinyl siding has a 76% return on investment upson resale.
The average project costs $19,700 with recovered cost at $15,000.
70% of homeowners installed fiber-cement siding to upgrade worn-out surfaces & finishes with a durable material. Only 2% of realtors suggest this project and none said it helped with selling a home.
Value adding alternative: Wood siding. Fiber-cement siding will upgrade the look of the home immediately, but isn’t as durable as wood siding because it absorbs moisture. It also isn’t as energy efficient as wood or vinyl siding. Wood can be expensive, but is long-lasting with maintenance. If you are looking for something less expensive with some of the same benefits, engineered wood siding is getting better by the day and it’s one of the more environmentally friendly siding choices as well.
Adding vinyl siding has a 63% return on investment upson resale.
The average project costs $15,800 with recovered cost at $10,000.
Homeowners installing vinyl siding wanted durable and long-lasting results and to sell their home in the near future. Only 4% of realtors suggest completing this before selling and 1% said this helps with closing a sale.
Value adding alternative: Wood siding. Again, adding wood siding, or repairing wood siding you already have, returns a greater long-term value than vinyl siding. It’s beautiful, can last a century, and you have an opportunity to add insulation.
Adding vinyl windows has a 71% return on investment upson resale.
The average project costs $22,500 with recovered cost at $16,000.
Nearly half the homeowners who completed this project did so to improve their energy efficiency. Only 4% of realtors said this helps with closing a sale.
Value adding alternative: Window inserts. Homeowners who added vinyl windows wanted an increase in energy efficiency. Indow window inserts press into existing windows, provide the same energy efficiency as new vinyl windows without the need for construction. Window inserts cost less, provide the same benefits, last longer, and don’t alter the original windows in any way. Need help restoring old windows?
Timing on Home Improvement Projects
Now that you know what projects gain the most value, is now the right time to invest? You might have the time (and a long list of projects), but how do you decide where to put your effort and money? And how much money should go into maintenance and improvements vs a home emergency fund?
Real estate is in the top 10 performing sectors during a recession (Nerd Wallet). Financial experts say that you should save 1% – 3% of your home’s value for a home maintenance fund. The Balance provides a more complex home maintenance fund equation, factoring in home value, square footage, age, location, and weather.
Whatever you choose, it’s wise to either set up a separate fund for emergencies or not let your home maintenance fund go under 1%. Then, as you pull from this, consider what projects will save you from maintenance and emergencies in the future. Generally, those investments that protect you and your home will add value as well.
Home Value = Function + Comfort + Time
Looking at the results of this analysis, improving what is already present in your home provides the most cost-effective route to adding value. Homeowners added vinyl replacement windows because they wanted better energy efficiency. So did those who upgraded their insulation, but that project is much less expensive, lasts far longer, and has a much better return on investment. The same is true of adding window inserts instead of new vinyl windows, which need to be replaced every 10 years.
Both those projects get to core functions of the home: insulation and saving energy. They also provide great comfort for the inhabitants. Weigh project against your budget, how long you will be in the house, and what is most important to you.
General rules: know your home and what you want. You might be won over by the appeal of something new and shiny, but the value is something deeper. Vinyl siding may seem like a quick fix, but what would best serve the purpose it’s providing? The more you know your home and its history, the better you can maintain it and restore it in a way that will ensure it is both comfortable for you to live in and functional for decades to come.