Don’t Waste Your Money on These 10 Popular Home Upgrades

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Remodeling is a favorite American pastime once again. But don't kid yourself about getting the money back when you sell.

The economy is reviving, and so is our appetite for spending on home improvements. By 2014, remodeling had nearly returned to the levels of early 2007, when the housing market hit a peak, according to researchers at Hanley Wood, publisher of Remodeling Magazine. They expect remodeling to grow 4 percent more in 2015.

Today is different, though: When you sell a home, you can’t recover as much of your remodeling costs as you could then. Remodeling Magazine blames today’s “tepid housing market and rising job costs.”

Home remodeling rarely earns a profit, anyway. But, today’s return on investment of 62.2 percent is low. ROI for remodeling reached a high of 86.7 percent in 2005, according to the magazine’s 2015 Cost vs Value report. It fell to 57.7 percent in 2011-2012 and has been making a wobbly recovery since. See the trend graphed here.

Remodeling is recovering, payback is not

The Cost vs Value report each year identifies remodeling projects with the best and worst ROI. The magazine collects data on costs, sale prices and desirability of home features from building and real-estate professionals. It looks at both midrange projects and upscale ones, those with a more expensive “scope of work, complexity and quality of finishes.”

If the “Property Brothers” have you lusting after high-end kitchens, and you’re telling yourself you’ll get the money back when you sell the house, the message from this report is: Get a grip. Upscale projects have some of the most-disappointing payoffs in Remodeling Magazine’s survey, including (No. 8) an upscale kitchen remodel.

This doesn’t mean don’t do it. It means that remodeling is consumption — spending for enjoyment on something whose value will diminish, not grow, like a TV or new shoes. (A really expensive pair of shoes.)

Your project’s return on investment might be better or worse than the national averages below. ROI depends a lot on where you live. Here are the report’s costs and returns by region and by city.

Remodeling Magazine’s 10 home improvements with the worst payoff in 2015 are:

1. Sunroom addition

  • ROI: 48.5 percent
  • Cost: $75,726
  • Resale value: $36,704

This isn’t a sunroom kit but a fairly expensive 200-square-foot addition to the home’s footprint with a new roof and skylights, foundation, energy-efficient windows and automatic shades.

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