Jean Wawrzyniak-Fry Realtor® (480) 721-1195

Remodeling Cost vs. Value: 10 Cheap Fixes

home improvement

With home price gains slowing in most parts of the country, sellers will be looking for ways to get top dollar for their listing. Cleaning and staging make a big difference. But for some sellers—such as investors seeking to bring a property up to neighborhood standards before the sale—remodeling work may be the ticket.

What Is the Cost vs. Value Report?

The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, produced by Remodeling magazine in cooperation with the National Association of REALTORS® and REALTOR® Magazine, provides estimated costs for 36 midrange or upscale home-improvement projects, along with the percentage of cost that owners can expect to recoup when they sell. Projects range from a new garage door to a master suite addition.

Project costs for the 102 markets surveyed for the 2015 report were provided by RemodelMax, a publisher of estimating tools for remodelers, using Clear Estimates remodeling software. NAR members provided the expected value of the projects at resale.

To learn more and see all 36 projects broken down by region and market area, visit Remodeling at CostvsValue.com.

As the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report makes clear, large-scale jobs aren’t likely to return sellers their full cost. But there are improvements worth doing in anticipation of an upcoming sale. Some will return almost 100 percent of their cost. Others may not have as great a payback, but they can improve the market position of the property in relation to the competition. (Think about the impact of beautiful kitchen photos on online home shoppers.) In addition, several pricier projects can provide owners with a few years of enjoyment while still offering a decent payback down the road.

As a general rule:

  • Simpler, lower-cost projects tend to return greater value. The national average cost for a steel door replacement was $1,230, for example. That’s the least expensive project on the list, and it ranks highest on the payback scale, returning 101.8 percent nationally on average. In fact, in 43 of the 102 markets surveyed, REALTORS® said the new door would recoup more than 100 percent of its cost. Other projects expected to top 100 percent payback in multiple markets: the midrange garage door replacement, the upscale garage door replacement, the midrange wood window replacement, and the minor kitchen remodel. Notice a pattern? With the exception of the kitchen job, they’re all replacement projects. In general, replacements cost less and provide a bigger payback than remodels or additions.
  • First impressions are important. The replacements that offer the greatest payback are the ones that are most obvious to buyers when they first view a house in person or online, such as new door or garage door. Siding replacement also provides great value at resale—particularly this year’s one new project, manufactured stone veneer,  which is expected to recoup 92.2 percent of its cost nationally on average.
  • Kitchens still offer the most remodeling bang for the buck. The only remodeling job breaking into the top 10 in terms of payback is the minor kitchen remodel with a national average cost of $19,226 and a national average payback of 79.3 percent.

Top 5 projects nationally in terms of cost recouped:

1. Entry door replacement (101.8%)
2. Manufactured stone veneer (92.2%)
3. Garage door replacement—mid-range (88.5%)
4. Siding replacement, fiber cement (84.3%)
5. Garage door replacement—upscale (82.5%)

  • Expect bigger payoffs in the West. In addition to reporting national averages, Remodeling magazine breaks down Cost vs. Value data by Census region. In the Pacific region—which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—six projects are expected to top 100 percent payback. The nearest competitor is the East South Central region—Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee—where two projects are expected to top 100 percent payback.

Just how much sellers can expect to recoup from home improvements depends on the job and the region of the country they live in. There are also factors that vary from house to house and sale to sale, such as what updates are typical for the neighborhood, the quality of the work, and how important the improvement is to a particular buyer. And while you can’t apply this data directly to any specific house or neighborhood, you can use the Cost vs. Value Report as a starting point in discussions with buyers and sellers about the cost and value of remodeling.

10 cheap fixes to boost the value of your home

Looking for ways to spruce up your home without putting yourself in the poorhouse? Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home or want to spiff it up inexpensively for your own enjoyment, we’ve got 10 good strategies for you to consider.

The actual cost and payback for each project can vary, depending on both your home’s condition and overall real estate market values in your region of the country.

Boost your home’s value
These simple upgrades can easily add thousands of dollars to your home’s value.
10 cheap fixes
  1. Make your kitchen really cook.
  2. Give appliances a facelift.
  3. Buff up the bath.
  4. Step up your storage.
  5. Add a room in a week or less.
  6. Mind the mechanics.
  7. Look underfoot.
  8. Let there be light.
  9. Reframe your entry.
  10. Consider curb appeal.

1. Make your kitchen really cook. The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential home buyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated.

For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.

If you’ve got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. “Rather than spring for a whole new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into hiring a refacing company,” says serial remodeler Gwen Moran, co-author of “Build Your Own Home on a Shoestring.”

“Many companies can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, then add brand-new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint over the whole set, your cabinets will look like new.”

If you’re handy, you can order your own replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself.

2. Give appliances a facelift. If your kitchen appliances don’t match, order new doors or face panels for them. When Nicole Persley, a Realtor in Boca Raton, Fla., was sprucing up her own home to sell, her mix-and-match kitchen bothered her. The room had a white dishwasher, microwave and wall oven mixed with other pieces that were stainless steel with black trim.

When Persley called the dishwasher manufacturer to see about ordering a new, black face panel, the customer service representative clued her in on a big secret: Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other.

“All I had to do was unscrew two screws, slide out the panel and flip it around. Sure enough — it was black on the other side!”

Persley, who has remodeled numerous homes for resale, says that a more cohesive-looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer’s mind — and in the home’s resale price.

3. Buff up the bath. Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. “Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference in the look of the bath,” says Moran.

 Moran also suggests replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. “You may not even need to take up the old floor. You can install the new floor right over the old one,” she says.

If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.

 4. Step up your storage. Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, Realtor Moe Viessi of Miami suggests adding do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.Firms like ClosetMaid allow you to measure and redesign your closets online. You can also get design details and parts for these systems at many large home-improvement stores. Most closets can be updated in a weekend or less.In the end, your closets will be more functional while you’re living in the house and will make your home look more customized to potential buyers when you’re ready to sell.

5. Add a room in a week or less. “If you have a three-bedroom house with a den, the only reason the den can’t be considered a bedroom may be because it doesn’t have a closet,” says Persley. “If you add a closet to that room, you’ve now got a four-bedroom house. That adds a lot of value.”

Persley says it’s usually possible to add a custom closet system and drywall it in for less than $1,500.

6. Mind the mechanics. Finley Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass., advocates spending a few bucks on nitty-gritty stuff. “It’s often very worthwhile to hire an electrician and plumber for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks,” Perry says. “Those details tell a buyer that someone has really taken care of the home and can really influence its price.”

7. Look underfoot. Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors.

If your carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with inexpensive, strategically placed area rugs. Unless it is truly hideous, most real estate agents don’t suggest replacing wall-to-wall carpeting right before you sell your house. The new homeowners may want to choose their own carpeting after they move in.

8. Let there be light. If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms, consider replacing one of the room’s lights with an eye-catching chandelier. Home stores offer a wide range of inexpensive, but nice-looking, ceiling fixtures these days. If you have a ceiling fan and light, you can also buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture’s look.

9. Reframe your entry. Do you have a flimsy little knob on your main entry door? If so, spring for a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set. “A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home,” says Viessi.

Also, if you’re stuck with a basic steel front door, Persley suggests painting or faux-finishing it for more eye appeal. “It’s becoming a trend in Florida to add wood-grain doors to a home’s entry or garage. The good news, though, is that you can easily paint existing metal doors with stain and paint,” she says.

After using a good metal primer, Persley gives the door a base coat of paint (again, be sure to use one approved for use over metal). For a cherry wood look, Persley uses a burgundy base paint. After it dries, she brushes over the base coat with a cherry wood stain. “It really looks amazing, and it only takes a few hours,” she says.

10. Consider curb appeal. Although it sounds obvious, a nicely mowed lawn, a few well-placed shrubs and a swept walkway makes a great first impression. “What buyers see when they first drive by your home is tremendously important,” says Viessi.

If you don’t have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. “These kinds of changes can instantly change people’s perception of your home and, therefore, increase its value,” says Viessi. And hey, your neighbors will love you for it, too.

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