We’ve all been forced to take a good look around our domiciles this past year, including at outdated kitchen cabinets and worn bathroom tiles that look like they’ve played host to the running of the bulls about 300 times.
Many are considering that it might finally be time to invest in those home improvements. Plus, there’s an exodus of apartment dwellers seeking walls and a lawn to call their own, and they aren’t necessarily looking for move-in ready houses.
Hannah Bomze, CEO and co-founder of real estate app Casa Blanca, said that more than 50 percent of their users are looking to buy homes with renovation opportunities. “With how COVID-19 is affecting daily routines, we found that people are realizing they want more from their space. They are looking for an extra room to turn into an office and more outdoor space,” she said.
But not all home renovations are created equal. Some of the top items on your wish list might not actually deliver lasting or meaningful benefits, and may not add value to your home, either.
Bottom of the list for resale: Converting bedrooms, adding a pool, wall-to-wall carpeting and anything that reduces your yard’s square footage. These aren’t going to help your home value, said Marty Basher, home-improvement expert with Modular Closets. Of course, the immediate or personal benefits of some changes may outweigh the long-term, such as turning an extra bedroom into a home gym or office, or getting that pool so the kids (read: you) don’t go crazy all summer.
Here are some of the most common home-improvement projects, how painful they are on the wallet, and what you should consider in order to guide the smartest possible decisions.
Prices are all estimates based on an average 2,000-square-foot single family house in the tri-state area and the equivalent of a one-bedroom apartment in the city, and include labor and materials.
Price range: Starting between $25,000 – $30,000. A high-end kitchen can come in starting at $65,000.
What to consider: “You can do some advance prep on the materials side, because products like sinks and stoves generally have prices set nationally, and because you have more control over material costs than you do over labor costs,” said Jean Brownhill, founder of Sweeten, a service for people looking for vetted contractors for their home renovations.
Bottom line: Invest in materials and maintenance you will look back on a year from now and appreciate in this highly visible and well-used room.
Price range: Between $15,000 and $25,000. An upscale model starts at $50,000.
What to consider: “Homebuyers love when homes have upgraded bathrooms,” said Basher. “It’s a question that a real estate agent is most often asked by potential homebuyers. And, the upgrade doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. New paint and shower heads, and upgraded toilets can often be all a bathroom needs to wow homebuyers.”
Bottom line: Costs can vary wildly depending on whether you can get away with cosmetic changes or need a gut renovation, or if you’re adding a new bathroom entirely. Still, this is one investment that is worth it, both in the short-term for your family’s peace of mind, and for an estimated 100 percent return on investment.
Price range: $2,500 to $4,000 to remodel or $20,000 to build it from scratch.
What to consider: “Guest rooms need to do double or triple duty. Think office, Murphy bed and a Peloton rather than fully converting a room to a personal gym,” said Julie Bennett, founder of Renovator’s Toolkit, an online resource for renovation. “I sold our guest room furniture this winter to transition my makeshift home office to the permanent feature it has become. Pre-COVID, if I were to list our home, I would have positioned the space as a bedroom. Now, I would absolutely market it as a luxe home office.”
Bottom line: Think of an office as a multi-use space. Losing that room as an extra bedroom in a listing can cost you.
Price range: You could install vinyl flooring in your entire 2,000-square-foot home for around $4,000. Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, can cost anywhere from $14 to $32 per square foot, or up to $64,000.
What to consider: “Vinyl is through the roof right now,” said Will McDonald, co-founder and CEO of RugPadUSA. “It’s a cheaper option than traditionally popular flooring types, like hardwood floors or specialty tiles, and can look like anything you want it to. Most customers like it because it’s very durable and doesn’t scratch, giving you the most bang for your buck.
Bottom line: Consider durability and aesthetics in equal measure as price. You don’t always have to compromise one for the other.
Price range: A new patio can cost around $7,000 with an estimated $5,000 return on investment. An overall landscape upgrade usually costs around $6,000 for an estimated $5,000 return.
What to consider: “Outdoor kitchens, firepits, investing in a pool deck if you have a pool, adding a patio or eating area and adding a retaining wall can increase a home’s value,” said Joe Raboine, former contractor and director of residential hardscapes at Belgard.
Bottom line: Sleek landscaping can dramatically improve the curb appeal of a home and the enjoyment of outside space, as well as deliver a sizable return on your investment.
Price range: $8,000 to $15,000
What to consider: Home generator standbys cost more to install, but they are also more useful, turning on automatically when the power goes out and supplying more power than a portable generator would. Inverter generators cost more than portable generators, as well, but emit less and run more efficiently.
Bottom line: Generators are one of those expenses that feel frivolous until your power goes out. Then, you are eternally grateful that you invested in one.
Upgraded heating or air conditioning
Price range: Replacement of existing units alone is $7,500 to $12,000, while adding ductwork and an AC and furnace can cost $15,000 – $20,000.
What to consider: “Prices can vary from state to state and depend on multiple factors like location, home size and construction, ductwork and project difficulty,” said Anthony Carrino, home-improvement expert and partner at Trane Residential.
Bottom line: This is often an essential upgrade, but will also offer peace of mind for potential buyers.
Price range: This runs the gamut from $500 to $3,000 for items like thermostats, doorbells, locks, motorized window treatments, etc.
What to consider: “For every degree you raise your thermostat above 72 degrees, you’ll save up to 3 percent of your cooling expenses,” said Carrino. “Setting it and forgetting it with a smart thermostat is a no-brainer that can help reduce energy expenses this summer and year-round.”
Bottom line: Smart home tech learns your preferences and gets smarter as it gets to know you. It’s an investment that will save you in the short and long term.
Price range: $25,000 to $35,000; up to $100,000 for high-end.
What to consider: “In-ground pools are very expensive. They also require constant maintenance,” said Basher. But, “outdoor renovations provide extra space for rest and relaxation,” said Raboine.
Bottom line: A pool is a luxury item that can add tremendously to your summertime quality of life, but it’s a big ticket addition that rarely adds (and may detract from) your home’s value.
And a word of advice: Don’t forget to do your homework
With any home-improvement project, make sure you don’t end up caught in a construction quagmire. Jody Costello, founder of ContractorsFromHell.com and the Home Remodeling Bootcamp for Women, said you should thoroughly vet your contractor or anyone coming into your home to do work, even beyond license checks and referrals. Also, understand your rights and your contractor’s, and utilize protective clauses in any written agreements.
If you’re attempting to make improvements yourself, ensure you have the proper tools and skills, and a backup plan in case it goes sideways.
Also, think about improvements that will make your home more efficient, said Lauren Salz, CEO of Sealed, a service that matches contractors with homeowners looking for upgrades that will decrease their energy costs. Investing in new, energy-efficient appliances, updating heating and cooling systems and increasing insulation are all worth doing.