Top 15 Home Updates

Find out how the top 15 home improvements rank, plus get tips on maximizing the return at resale.

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#4 Exterior Improvements
Vinyl Siding, Paint, Updated Front Entry
Average return at resale: 95.5 percent

  • The average national cost to replace 1,250 sq. ft. of vinyl siding: $7,239. Average return: $6,914, with a recoup rate of 95.5%.
  • A gallon of paint covers 400 sq. ft. of house.
  • Paint color cards take the guesswork out of choosing the right color combination for doors, trim and siding. Get more tips on exterior colors here.
  • If you think your house was painted before 1978, test for lead before sanding or scraping.
  • Upscale, fiber-cement siding costs $10,393 and returns $10,771 at resale, an even better recoup rate of 103.6%.
  • If your columns have to hold up that pergola, make sure you purchase the load-bearing type. Fiberglass composite columns are popular and durable. Check salvage yards for unique historic columns.
  • For an updated look, remove old awnings from over windows and doors.
  • Swap damaged wrought iron railings for real wood supports for a more inviting entry.
  • Give a bare, charmless porch a dramatic makeover by adding a pergola and columns.

#5 Attic Bedroom Conversion
Average return at resale: 93.5 percent

  • The average attic bedroom in a two- or three-bedroom house costs $39,188 and returns $36,649 at resale.
  • The best recoup rate is in the West: 105 percent; worst is in the Midwest: 82 percent.
  • That price includes a 15 x 15 ft. bedroom, a 5x7 bath with shower, a 15-ft. dormer, four windows and a closet.
  • Add insulation in your attic to lower your utility bills. Just make sure the foil vapor barrier is installed down toward the ceiling to prevent moisture from seeping up. Check the U.S. Department of Energy web site to see the right level of insulation for your area:
  • Can your existing HVAC system handle the load of another room? If not, factor in the cost of a second unit.

  • A solar-powered attic fan is a super efficient way to save on cooling your house. The attic fan exhausts heat from above your home and is powered by a solar cell on the roof – so it doesn’t add a cent to your utility bill.

    #6 Major Bathroom Remodel
    Average return at resale: 93.2 percent

    • A major bathroom remodel involves expanding an existing 5-by-7-foot bathroom, relocating and replacing the tub and toilet and adding designer sinks and faucets, a linen closet, lighting, a ceramic tile floor and exhaust fan for a cost of $26,052, which brings in $24,286 at resale.
    • Start at the bottom. Dated flooring can seriously drag down value. Replace old floors with fresh tile in ceramic or stone for a solid payoff. Buy extra tiles in case you break a few during installation. Set some tiles aside at the end of the job in case you need to make repairs in the future.
    • Give an old vanity a facelift with a new countertop for a clean fresh look buyers will love.
    • Use eye-fooling tricks to make a small bath look larger. A new pedestal sink is a smart replacement for an old cabinet. The smaller footprint gives the illusion of space.

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