Before embarking on any large home improvement project, calculate what the payoff is — now and in the future

Hardwood Flooring


The mind of a homebuyer is an elusive thing. Which is why it’s so
difficult to figure out what home renovations might convince them to sign a
contract, and how much those renovations can impact your selling price. Here is
the projected value of five of the most popular choices.

Keep in mind that the real merit of any upgrade should be the
satisfaction it brings to the homeowner.

Kitchen cabinets

When thinking about a renovation that can increase the value of
a home, or the day-to-day pleasure of living there, the first space most people
turn to is the kitchen. A major kitchen renovation requires a substantial commitment
of time and money.

But to bring yourself a little joy, or catch the eye of a
potential buyer, keep it simple and update the cabinets. You can have them custom
designed for tens of thousands of dollars. Or for far less, and almost the same
effect, get them resurfaced with a permanent veneer of wood or laminate;
according to it’s about half the cost of replacing them outright.
(Resurfacing cabinets in a small 10-foot by 12-foot kitchen with wood veneer
should cost under $5,000.)

More cost effective yet, especially if your house is about to go
on the market, is a coat of paint in a universally popular color and an update
of hardware to whatever’s trending.


Zero-threshold shower

Bathrooms rank just behind kitchens as the most popular and
worthwhile area for home renovations. Yet while a down-to-the-studs bathroom
remodel can be a big ticket item costing substantially more than you’ll get
back from it (somewhere around 55% return on investment is a number commonly
used), tackling something less ambitious, such as replacing the old shower-bathtub
combo with a zero-threshold walk-in shower, makes a lot of sense.

Zerothreshold showers not only give the bathroom a contemporary look
but also eliminate worries about accessibility for older homeowners and
potential buyers. Removing the old tub and shower and getting the new shower
pan to slope into the drain isn’t a do-it-yourself job, so expect to pay up to $5,000
for the work.

The cost is substantially offset by the value you’ll add to the
house and the length of time you’ll be able to comfortably live in it.

Repair or replace windows

Among home improvement projects, replacing windows with modern,
more energy-efficient models is always popular.

You get an updated look, a reduction in your utility bill, and environmental
cred. However, windows can be expensive to replace: Top-end models can cost as
much as $1,500 or more apiece. And since it could take decades to see a return
on investment in terms of energy cost savings, most experts agree that it
usually makes more sense to repair old windows rather than replace them,
especially if their style contributes to a home’s character.

There are good arguments to the contrary, such as if an old
window frame is rotted beyond hope of saving, or your overriding concern is to
be as green as possible. But often, a bit of caulking, a little sanding, and a
coat of paint will allow an old window to look nearly as good and function nearly
as well as if it were new.


Hardwood flooring

Hardwood floors have been eye-pleasers for centuries and remain
hugely popular.

Its initial cost is high, about three times the cost of
carpeting. So if you’re about to put your house on the market, installing
hardwood floors (or somewhat less expensive engineered wood) to boost the
selling price might not be your best investment.

If the original flooring is a liability and needs to be
upgraded, a better solution is probably carpeting or even laminate flooring, a manufactured
product that can do a good job of mimicking hardwood, but that has nowhere near
its lifespan.

However, if you’re not planning to go anywhere for a while, the
initial cost of hardwood flooring should be less of a concern. Not only because
of the pleasure its natural beauty can bring, but also because it’s easier to
keep clean than carpeting, and if refinished every 7-10 years, can outlast the
life of the house.

A fresh coat of paint

You can add stainless appliances, quartz counter tops and
gold-tone bathroom fixtures, but almost nothing will increase the appeal of any
room in your home more than a fresh coat of paint. Zillow, the online real
estate database company, even says that the shade you choose can make thousands
of dollars of difference in what a house goes for. Popular choices tend to be light,
soft hues such as pale beige and taupe.

According to, the cost to paint an average 10-foot
by 12-foot room will be between $380 and $790, not including ceilings, trim or the
paint itself.

And keep in mind that while a competent homeowner can often do
the job themselves, usually about half way through the significant prep work
required, almost everyone decides it’s a task for professionals, after all.

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