The Biggest Bang For The Buck

By: Linda Shropshire Grissom

During these uncertain economic times, many homeowners are deciding to make do with their current homes and stay put. Doing so leads many homeowners to make changes to their existing home. With so many home projects to choose from, the question becomes  –  Which projects will reap the largest returns when the time is right to sell? Below are a few projects that garnered the biggest bang for the the buck in 2009, according to real estate and remodeling experts.

1) Kitchen Renovations–  Kitchen projects are always a safe bet as long as the renovations are tempered. Keep in mind that mid-range renovations will reap a bigger return on investment than will an upscale re-do. According to Remodeling magazine, kitchens with mid-range upgrades recouped returns of an average  72.1 percent while upscale upgrades only brought in 63.2 percent.

2) Bathroom Renovations – Same rules of restraints apply to baths. Stick with upgrades that are in the mid-range and your investment will pay off by a greater percent.  The average returns with mid-range bathroom project were 71 percent and upscale projects almost a full 10 percent less with 61.6 percent.

3) Front Entry Door Replacement – Don’t forget first impressions. In 2009 the biggest return on a small invest among the top home projects was front entry door replacement. A national average survey conducted by REALTOR magazine showed the average return on this low cost investment was 128.9 percent.

4) Deck Addition – More and more people are looking for ways to increase the livability of their homes on the outside as well as the inside. Decks are hugely popular and are valued as living space. Nationally the average deck will cost approximately $10,000, but its average return on investment was 80.6 percent. 

5) Attic to Bedroom Conversion –  Buyers are increasing looking for more room for their buck. Taking an unused space and creating a bedroom optimizes  the living space for families. Although costly, this project will recover huge returns. The national average return was 83.1 percent.

6) Vinyl Window Replacement – This project heaps huge benefits that are noticed greatly by todays environmentally conscience buyers. A vinyl window replacement proved to have average returns of 76.5, not to mention the utility savings year after year.

7) Fiber Cement Replacement – Of all the upscale projects surveyed, fiber cement replacement was squarely at the top of the list. With an average fiber cement project costing more than $13,000, the average return was 83.6.

With so many projects to choose from, it is important to choose materials and contractors carefully. Also consider the price range of the homes in your neighborhood. It is important that renovations don’t out price the home beyond the recent sells.

Before you endeavor to make a big change, contact an Urban Durham REALTOR for a complete comparative market analysis.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Urban Durhamite said,

    Linda, great advice and thanks for sharing. One comments I’d add that are unique to some of Durham’s urban neighborhoods:

    Many of our treasured near-downtown neighborhoods are inside National Historic Register districts, and one of the selling points for these houses is their historic character.

    Removing original windows (if you still have them) and replacing with vinyl does add energy efficiency… BUT it comes at the cost of losing a key piece of history. Fixing up original windows and putting natural, clear storms over them can do the trick, as can spray-foam insulation in attics and walls.

    Similarly, fiber cement can be a great choice if you need to re-side your house, but with older homes, you can often sand down to the original wood layer and bring back your historic charms, especially by removing that tired 60s/70s vinyl or aluminum siding.

    For windows, rehab and repair including glazing and fixing-up old in-wall pulleys is more labor-intensive and costly than replacement. But, on the other hand, the State of NC will give you a tax credit on your qualifying project of 30% of an investment exceeding $25k over 2 years for qualified properties, such as contributing properties in a National Historic Register district.

    We paid substantially more to rehab our original siding and windows than we would have spent to replace them — but in doing so, we made an historical house more attractive to a buyer seeking that sort of thing, and we’ll get back $13,000 over the next few years… we probably won’t pay the State much income tax for years.

    Preservation Durham or Preservation North Carolina can walk you through how to do this. And it’s a great way to save your house, and help save your neighborhood, from the decay of modernization!

    • 2

      urbandurham said,

      Great advice Kevin! Of course historic homes have their own set of rules. I will endeavor to find out more about the Preservation tax credits and include this in my next blog.


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