Five Home Renovations That Add Value: Bathroom Updates, Decks, & More
May 29, 2014 / Stephanie Radebaugh

My husband and I have an annual home-improvements chat every Spring. Inevitably during the course of the conversation one of us utters something like, “well, if we sold the house, this landscaping project or that new office would increase the value.” Truth be told, we both know better, and my recent research on this topic proves it.

Some home improvements actually do reap real estate rewards, but not necessarily the ones you think. And none of them really pay for themselves.  Even the most valuable updates generally only return 70-80% of their cost.

Here’s what I found when I searched for the most reasonable renovations and updates that actually make a difference when you sell your home. When I say reasonable, I mean less than $20,000 and ideally much less expensive than that. My hope is that it’s also a doable renovation—one that doesn’t require you to move out of your home just to get it done.

1). A sunny bathroom pays off.
Every single list I’ve ever reviewed suggests bathroom renovations are worth the effort when selling your home. The extent of the investment is relative to the condition of your home as well as your neighborhood values. If your toilet, bathroom sink, or tub are in questionable condition (i.e., cracking caulk or any griminess) then consider a repair. But as this Real Simple article notes, you don’t necessarily need anything fancy. Just go classic and you’ll get a better return. Even inexpensive bathroom updates as simple as fresh caulk, new paint, and new fixtures can be really valuable when selling your home.

Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report says a bathroom remodel will return around 72.5% of the cost, which is a pretty good return.

Bathroom updates

Bright bathroom updates include adding light and neutral tile.

2). If you’ve always wanted a deck, go ahead and get it!

This one actually came up this year during our chat about the backyard, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a wood deck has one of the higher returns of any renovation. At an average of $9,500, a wood deck returns around 87.4%. Composite decks are more expensive and, therefore, return less (74.3%). This is one of those home improvements everyone can get behind, especially now that it’s grilling season.

Deck_Blog 11

Decks have one of the highest returns of any home improvement.

3). There’s a reason everyone ends up standing in the kitchen.
We like food, we like drink. We like hanging out in the kitchen. And if your kitchen needs anything, go for it, but don’t necessarily go wild. A minor kitchen remodel (avg $19K) has a higher percentage payoff (82.7%) than a $55K overhaul (74.2%). This means that updating with stainless appliances, granite counters, and a little fresh paint can really go a long way.

4). Increase Your Home’s Earth Appeal
This is broad, I know, but it’s all about the condition of your home. MSN Money says virtually any green upgrades will hook modern buyers. Green updates include anything from fresh insulation in the attic to new windows or HVAC. In general, consumers appreciate energy-saving work that’s done before they move in, and they like knowing they’re saving money with new windows, seals, etc. That said, if you’re AC isn’t in bad shape, you won’t benefit from replacing it. So take a green look at your house and take care of easy things and necessities.

5). Paint
You’d be surprised how quickly paint starts to get dull, even dingy. Both inside and outside, paint is a simple way to freshen things up. If you’re selling, don’t go wild with colors that other buyers may not like; DIY Network suggests choosing colors that brighten up your space.

Just because I love this stuff, here’s Remodeling Magazine’s chart of returns on home improvements. I only include renovations/repairs under $20,000. The full report is here.

Bathroom Remodel $16, 128 $11,688 72.5%
Deck Addition (wood) $9,539 $8,334 87.4%
Deck Addition (composite) $15,437 $11,476 74.3%
Entry Door (fiberglass) $2,822 $1,997 70.8%
Entry Door (steel) $1,162 $1,122 96.6%
Garage Door Replacement $1,534 $1,283 83.7%
Minor Kitchen Remodel $18,856 $15,585 82.7%
Roofing Replacement $18,913 $12,777 67.6%
Siding Replacement (vinyl) $11,475 $8,975 78.2%
Window Replacement (vinyl) $9,978 $7,857 78.7%
Window Replacement (wood) $10,926 $8,662 79.3%


Excuse me while I start shopping for that new front door I’ve been wanting—96% return is as good as it gets.