3 Top Home Improvement Projects Which (Mostly) Pay For Themselves



Ask any experienced seller or real estate professional if an upgrade is worth the effort when trying to sell their home and you’ll likely hear a mixture of responses – however most of them will be in the affirmative.

Home improvements

Home improvement does pay (most of the time)! © Kirill_M - Fotolia.com

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) put together a Cost vs. Value Report detailing the financial impact (according to survey input from Realtors across the country) that strategic home improvements have on a seller’s bottom line.

The following projects top the list as providing the most “bang for the buck” and are classified as “mid range” projects. The values reflected below are national averages:

1.     Replace the Entry Door with A New Steel Door

  •  Cost $1,218
  • Resale value $1,243
  • Cost recouped 102.1%

This project involves removing the existing door (3x6x8) including the jambs, and replacing it with a brand new 20 gauge steel door with a clear dual-pane half-glass panel, jambs, aluminum threshold and a stop made of a composite material.

Steel front door

A new steel door adds both security and appeal to your home. © Elenathewise - Fotolia.com

One thing to note, however, is the door needs to complement the home, rather than detract from it.  Donnie Worley, a broker at RE/MAX Real Estate Service in Sanford, NC told Realtor Mag that “The biggest mistake people make is to choose a door that doesn’t match the neighborhood or home. You won’t recoup the money at resale, and it might look funny,” continued Worley, “for high-end homes, leaded glass may be appropriate. But in a more moderately priced home, a regular steel door painted in a color that complements the home’s trim will make a bigger impact.”

McCluskey Construction, Realty and Loans owner Peter McCluskey advises sellers to do a bit of research online before committing to any particular door.

“Identify the type of steel, whether the door has been primed with a rust inhibitor, how many coats of finish paint have been added, and whether it’s insulated and if so with what insulation rating,” said McCluskey. “An alternative to finish paint is powder coating. It’s more like glue than paint and generally better than nonpowder coating.”

2.    Minor Kitchen Remodel

  • Cost $21,695 (Assuming a 200 sq ft kitchen)
  • Resale value $15,790
  • Cost recouped 72.8%

It doesn’t require a total removal of kitchen cabinetry to improve or update the look of a kitchen. If your kitchen works well, but could use a bit of “polish”, consider leaving the cabinets in place, but replacing the fronts with raised-panel wood drawers and doors, complete with new hardware.

designer kitchen

The kitchen is often one of your home's strongest selling points. Image courtesy The-Lane-Team

Install a new, energy efficient cooktop and wall oven, new laminate countertops and a mid-priced sink and faucet. Freshen up the paint and trim, or wall coverings and remove the existing flooring and replace with either tile or laminate flooring.

Kitchens and baths are the strongest selling points of a home, however Adam Bosworth, a sales associate at Peggy Parker Real Estate LLC in Norwich, NY stated, “Too often, home owners overimprove their kitchen. That’s not cost-effective unless they’ll stay in the house a long time.”

Other suggestions include painting existing cabinets to save your money and spring for good quality laminate countertops. Jeff Carbone, a general contractor and sales associate at Coldwell Banker Premiere, Realtors, in Southington, Conn. advised that “The most cost-effective way to give a kitchen a better look is with a laminate. The selections today are very impressive, with many mimicking quite well the look of marble, granite, or other natural stones.”

3.    Wood Deck Addition

  • Cost $10,973
  • Resale value $7,986
  • Cost recouped 72.8%

A comfortable 16 x 20 foot wooden deck, makes an excellent addition to any home, adding value, and for those individuals who are comfortable building things themselves, the cost reflected above can be reduced, increasing the amount which can be recouped.

Wood decking for home

A wooden deck is a great way to create more living space. Image courtesy Crinklecrankle.com

“Home owners can add an 8×8 foot wood deck, but it’s so small the space seems useless,” notes Bosworth, “or they can put on a deck that spans the length of the home. That’s great for entertaining, but they’ll never recoup the cost.”

Depending upon the home, the market conditions and the seller’s particular situation, the remodeling project(s) which are finally undertaken can mean more (or less) of a return on their investment, however one key factor remains throughout each of these projects – the more that a homeowner can do him or herself, the more value they will enjoy from the improvements.

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