Profitable Renovations

In our busy, complex world, buyers want to come home and relax in a spa — or something close to it. That’s why you might want to take your vintage bathroom up a few notches and create a personal sanctuary. A bathroom redo, according to the Cost vs. Value Report, will recoup 78% of the costs, but it might mean paying for pricey touches such as jetted tubs, double sinks, and large imported tiles. Bathroom improvements require a lot of time and resources, so do them a few years before you plan to sell; that way you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Maximizing existing space
By extending a home’s living quarters outdoors, you’ll recoup 85% of your expenses, according to the Cost vs. Value Report, especially in Southern and Southwestern locales. For example, you might build a deck on a portion of empty backyard. “In warmer climates like Austin’s, people enjoy their outdoor dining and entertainment areas 11 months out of the year,” says Woods. Transforming an old basement into an entertainment room, in-law suite, or play area for the kids not only ramps up useable space, it can often seal the deal for many potential buyers.

Don’ts: Four projects to avoid
As the adage goes, all real estate is local. And every renovation project is individual. You may love the pricey home theater with cinema-style seating and wall-sized flat screen, but a potential buyer might want to take a sledgehammer to it. With that in mind, the following projects might not be worth your time or money — and might even turn buyers off.

Swimming pools
Only undertake this project if your family is passionate about swimming, because many buyers will cross a home with a swimming pool off their list, sight unseen. Why? Safety. As the authors of the best-selling book Freakonomics (William Morrow; $27.95) cited, a loaded gun in a house poses less danger to a child than a backyard swimming pool. A child is far more likely to die in a pool. In addition, ongoing pool-related construction can jack up costs beyond what you’ve budgeted.

Unwanted additions
You may think that adding a sunroom will make your house irresistible to buyers, but the numbers don’t lie. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, sunrooms often recoup the lowest percentage of dollars compared with any other renovation project — not even 60% of the expense. Thinking of a master suite or garage addition? You’ll only recoup 64%. “Expanding the footprint” doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot for the value of your home, says Foreman. By simply finishing a basement or attic you can often achieve the same results of increasing useable space without having to knock down walls and spend thousands of dollars.

Formal living and dining rooms
They may look pretty, but people hardly use them anymore. Today’s trends are all about casual living: great rooms where open spaces flow into each other, or outdoor patios where guests dine by a barbecue pit.

Home offices
If you need an expansive office for your home-based business, by all means design one. But don’t think the space will provide you with a gusher of cash if you sell your house. The Cost vs. Value Report singles out home office renovations as one of the most lackluster projects, recouping only 57% of expenses. Instead, think about marketing that space as an additional bedroom. Four-bedroom homes naturally fetch higher prices from growing families.