Home Improvement 101

When William Maxwell of Cheverly, Maryland, adjoined a home office to his house, it added up to dollars and sense. When Maxwell sells his house, he may receive almost $30,000 more in profit. As homeowners, we all want the best for our dwellings, from cherry wood floors to state-of-the-art kitchens. But how can you determine which upgrades will deliver the biggest return?

Adding a bathroom or a half-bath is generally a smart move, says Candace A. Giles, an appraiser in New Carrolton, Maryland. In fact, homeowners who add bathrooms can expect to receive about 86% of the average $23,000 in construction costs upon resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report conducted by Remodeling magazine and the National Association of Realtors.

Bathroom remodeling jobs are also lucrative. A mid-range bathroom remodeling job that replaces all fixtures and adds ceramic tiles, vinyl wallpaper, and a vanity counter with a double sink can net a homeowner 102.2% of the cost upon resale, the survey found.

For a minor kitchen remodeling job, in which the floors, cabinet doors, and drawers are replaced and appliances are upgraded, homeowners can expect to recoup 98.5% of the estimated $15,000 cost, according to the report. Consumers can download data for their city from the report at www.remodelingmagazine.com. For the top 10 remodeling projects and percentage of cost recovered, see the sidebar.

Other improvements are more practical than cosmetic. Siding improvements on average yield 95% of the cost at resale while homeowners are likely to recoup 90% of the cost of replacing windows, the report found. In addition, by adding a few coats of paint and bringing the shine back to hardwood floors, consumers can add tremendous value to their home without spending a substantial amount of money.

Check out the open houses in the newspaper to see the upgrades homeowners are making. You can also go online and visit www.fsbo.com and www.homegain.com to find properties comparable to yours.

The amount of money you’ll spend depends on the amount of work the job entails and the cost of materials. For example, if you’re remodeling your bathroom, you not only pay for labor costs but also for materials such as new sink fixtures or floor tiling.

Keep in mind the amount of time the job will take. If you have to order parts, allow several weeks for delivery. A contractor can give you an idea of how long a job will take, but add wiggle room in case the contractor underestimates the time frame, or there is a problem with the work. For tips on how to get the most from your contractor, log on to blackenterprise.com.

Of course, the ultimate value is in the eye of the buyer, so if improvements aren’t being made for your own enjoyment, you might be taking a gamble. “You have to decide if you’re doing the renovation because it’s something that you want or if you’re more concerned with profit,” says Giles.

Top 10 home improvement projects

Project Description Job Cost Value at Sale % Cost Recovered