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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#10 Replacement Windows
Average return at resale: 89.6 percent

  • Replacing 10 3x5 ft. windows runs about $9,700. On average nationally, you’ll get back $8,700 when you sell, a recoup rate of nearly 90 percent.
  • Big city window replacements pay off. The average homeowner recoups more than she spends on replacement windows in San Francisco, Seattle, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, New York City and Boston.
  • For hot climates, there’s low-e glass that reflects heat. And for maximum efficiency, add argon gas inside the pane to prevent heat and cold transference within the window.
  • Replacing windows doesn’t pay in all hot climates. You’ll recoup only 62% of your cost in the Las Vegas desert.

#11 Family Room Addition
Average return at resale: 83 percent

  • The average family room addition costs $54,464 and adds $45,458 at resale, a recoup rate of 83 percent.
  • The highest recoup rates occur in high-cost Western markets.
  • A sunroom counts in the home’s square footage only when the room is heated and cooled for year-round use.
  • A sunroom adds value only in upscale neighborhoods. It won’t bring in higher bids in lower-end neighborhoods.
  • An addition shouldn’t be obvious. Make sure it has an open transition. A wider interior doorway and more substantial steps visually connect the addition to the rest of the house.
  • Shop local window manufacturers to find offer good deals.

#12 Bonus Room Updates
Average return at resale: 72.8 percent

  • Converting a 12x12 bonus room into a home office costs on average $13,143 and brings in $9,569 at closing.
  • Use a roller to paint the paneling and a brush to smooth of the paint that puddles in paneling grooves.
  • Paint panels different colors for a groovy modern effect.
  • If you’re selling, know your target market and decorate to please them. Families use bonus rooms differently than empty-nesters and singles.
  • Add electric outlets for your computer and recessed lights. Kitchen cabinets or bookshelves organize the space above your desk. Put a rolling file cabinet underneath.
  • Glass doors add a finished look to any bookshelf.
  • Check local zoning before you build a studio to rent.
  • Budget $2,500 for the mini-kitchen.
  • Adding a full bath costs an average of $22,977 nationally. You’ll average $19,850 back if you sell, a recoup rate of 86.4 percent. Return rates go above 100 percent in big cities like New York City, San Francisco, Orlando, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

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