Remodeling Projects with Highest ROI

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Jay Kay

Subject: Home Improvement ROI

Don't let negative ROI keep you from performing much-needed maintenance, light remodeling or repairs on your home.

Not one of the articles I have read while researching this subject mentions this: Unless you are in a red-hot market, you will get much LESS for your home if it needs repairs or updating. That is the plain, simple truth.

In addition, you may also find it much harder to sell a home that needs repairs or updating.

There's an old saying in the real estate world: "Buyers are liars." So, while buyers might say they don't mind sprucing up a home a bit, move-in homes sell MUCH quicker than homes that "just need a few things." In the case of homes that need more than a little work, sure, people will buy "fixer uppers," but at a steep discount.

I know this not only from my own experience in preparing three homes for sale, but also in doing a great deal of hands-on marketing work for a client who is a realtor. Please believe me when I say that homes which are truly move-in ready sell quicker and bring more money than their otherwise-equal comps.

IMHO, you should work on:
Exterior curb appeal (Landscaping, paint or pressure wash the house as is appropriate and yes, a nice front door is helpful.
Cost-efficient kitchen and bath updates -- this is where you spend and make your money.
Fresh paint inside!
Fresh paint inside!
Did I mention fresh paint inside? In neutral colors.
Replace worn-out, dated or pet-soiled carpets. Consider attractive laminate flooring in living and dining areas in lieu of carpet. New flooring and fresh paint sell houses.

Last, but certainly not least, put your clutter in storage! (Or better yet get rid of it!) NO ONE wants to see all your junk. They want to imagine how the home will look with their junk.

Good luck!

P.S. Our family is getting ready to sell our fourth home. We will spend approx. 5-7k, but it will be move-in ready, and I guarantee it will sell -- probably FSBO.

Brian Heflin

Subject: There are still big profits

There are still big profits in real-estate. I flip homes in a very popular city in Ohio, I can purchase bank foreclosures for about 30-60k and my profits are 45-60k per home. We completely remodel a home in 45 days. We only do quality work and our last project just sold in 1 day on the market. People want quality work at a fair price.


Subject: completely remodel

You failed to mention what aspects of the property that you remodeled. That would be very helpful in determining ROI. Also, how much was spent on the remodel to justify a 45-60K profit?


Subject: These numbers are quite different, here in the NY Metro area...

"Limiting your project cost to no more than 20 percent of the value of your home" - could mean $200K, $300K kitchen renovations and more, for many NY Metro homes... Instead, I think it should be "value of your home's construction cost (not including land)".
Also, in our area the return on investment many times exceeds 100% (!!!).



Pay attention:all of these return less than 100%. That means that if you do it just to sell you'll LOSE money. Only do these remodels if you plan to enjoy them for a while. What remodels return more than 100%? Adding square footage is one. If the cost per sf for homes is higher than the construction cost you will make money.

M. Sabo


I am also surprised about the mention of replacing windows being a high return item. In our historic district, it is against code to replace original wood windows with plastic, etc. Those "big box" windows can actually decrease your home's value! There are many articles on the net teaching window restoration techniques...the windows work beautifully and look beautiful when restored. I have done window restorations myself, and it is not too difficult. Don't let a slick talking salesman sign you up for something you, your home, and your neighbors will regret. When they're gone, they're gone....



Yes please, an article on window restoration/improvement would be very welcome asap! Lots of variables and priorities to consider when replacing wondows & doors eg New construction windows vs Insert replacement vs sash-pack replacement options. Also pros & cons of wood vs clad-wood vs vinyl vs fiberglass.



wow, a an actual semi-intelligent article from angies list.. well, there is a first for everything.

Jim Warner


I was very surprised that Garage Door Replacement did not rank very high on your listing. All of the studies I have seen included the Garage Door right behind the Kitchen remodel as #2 in ROI because of the relatively low cost of replacing a Garage Door vs. all other remodel options. When you consider the significant curb appeal and great first impressions a new Garage Door can offer since it usually takes up a 1/4 or more of the front of the home, there is not another option on this list that can make a more drastic difference in how others view your entire home for the price. Good First Impressions are easily made at an affordable price with the many new modern Garage Door options available today. A bad first impression of the entire home can easily be made due to an old, damaged, or poorly maintained garage door. When you compare older non-wind loaded Garage Doors with a modern Garage Door that meets the new windload requirements in the latest building codes, the ROI can go even higer for homeowners since a non-windloaded Garage Door is the weakest most vunerable part of your home where roof and internal damage costs are very expensive once your Garage Door collapses. You may be able to get a reduction in your homeowners insurance costs with a new wind-loaded Garage Door that meets the latest Building Codes.



In the current market I don't think its wise to update with return on investment in mind. Update because its your home and you're updating it for you, not some faceless buyer in the future. The days of huge real estate profits are over. Bottom line is: do updates because you want them and make smart choices.

Charles Barranger


How do I repair a muti deep cracked driveway located alongside a culvert and to the bact of my house. 49 yards of concrete required.

G.B. Landrigan


As an Indianapolis Realtor for 26 years, I was very disappointed to see that Window Replacement was shown as one of the five remodeling projects with the highest return. It is not. For homes built prior to World War II (whether a mansion or bungalow), replacing the original windows often REDUCES the home's value. Those buying these homes are usually seeking something with charm, quality, and a certain "look." Windows are one of the key element of such a home and are uniquely proportionate and style to the architecture of the home. Almost (almost!) without exception, new windows strip this away. Buyers notice this, even if subconsciously. I agree that replacement windows for more recent homes or those beyond repair may very well be a good investment. But Angie's List needs to specify for which homes replacement is appropriate. Homeowners will unwittingly reduce the value of their homes. An article on window restoration/improvement (and its lower cost) would be timely.

Shirley Halsey

Subject: replacing original windows in older homes

Changing out windows in a older style house would change the look that can not be replaced with the new windows. I have a older home with tall fixed windows and have this problem with a little vapor in between the panes and installed cone blinds that works well for me

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.