8 Home Improvement Projects That Pay Off Big

As the housing market heats up, the right renovation can be the difference maker that leads to a sale. Here are some changes that tend to recoup a large percentage of your investment.

For millions of Americans, a home will be the biggest investment of their lives. So, when it’s time to sell, it’s smart to take steps to optimize the return on that investment.

With the real estate market on a steady climb back to solid ground, more people are feeling comfortable enough to explore the option of selling. If you’re flirting with the idea of listing your home, it’s important to outshine the competition.

Here are eight home improvement investments that offer sellers the highest return, with all figures coming from a 2015 Remodeling magazine survey:

1. Repainting


A coat of paint gives you a lot of bang for your home-improvement buck. Painting a room is economical, and it is a project most folks can handle without hiring a contractor.

If you’re selling, focus on rich neutral colors inside the home. It’s OK to push beyond the standard colors of builder’s beige and off-white. With a little experimentation and a keen eye, browns, greens and grays can become part of a contemporary neutral color scheme that will highlight the best features of your home and impress potential buyers.

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  • bigpinch

    I’m all about DIY home improvement. The average home-owner (or, even, renter) can save a lot of money, and improve one’s environment, by putting in a little sweat equity where you live. There are a lot of things you can do to improve a living space whether you own the property or not. But, you have to be smart about it.
    For example, when I was much younger, in the early 1970’s, I rented four different houses, over several years, on the same street in south Austin, Texas, that were owned by the same aspiring slum lord. He didn’t want to spend a dime on the maintenance of his rental properties and I was working a lot of construction jobs, all of which gave me access to left-over building material.
    I re-carpeted, re-painted, and re-constructed four houses on that street. I used some of my free time and free materials to improve the space in which I was living. I moved from one house to the next and always with an upgrade in my situation to the point that I was living in a three-bedroom house, with a million dollar panoramic view of all of the iconic views of Austin for no more than $100.00 per month, rent. The land lord rented each successive house to the next tenant for more than what he was charging me. He, finally, realized my worth, after a couple of years, and quit trying to raise my rent.
    That may sound unusual (and I admit that it may be) but my point is that a willingness to swing a hammer can result in a substantial monetary gain.

    • Robert Buchko

      Agree. Most folks let themselves be intimidated. Even larger projects can be DIY if planned properly. It’s easier than ever now, with professionals posting how-to videos online. At a townhouse I recently sold, my wife and I painted everything, cut and installed laminate flooring, installed new floorboards, installed a new bathroom vanity, redid all the kitchen sink plumbing, installed new faucets, removed a kitchen peninsula (relocating the dishwasher to along the wall) and replaced it with an island, installed granite countertops (we did have help from a friend who was a pro on that one), added several retaining walls outside, and poured an 8×8′ concrete slab and built a shed on it.

    • Gregg Fritz

      Am an AVID DIY’er. I agree with what you are saying in part. However… the trend to do all these improvements is forcing every Tom, Dick, and Harry to do it themselves. You need to have a clue how to do things the right way. I’m an Electrical Engineer so I do all my own wiring – exceeding code. I come from a long line of Carpenters in my family so doing many home things just comes naturally. I was also taught how to do Ceramic tile by a professional. It’s hard work, and there is satisfaction in doing it myself. BUT. When people do it wrong they are decreasing the value – dramatically. The most common scary DIY is a basement recroom. If you are going to do anything in life – do it RIGHT. Educate yourself on code, quality products, and proper methods. Then EXCEED all the above for a quality job that buyers will pay for.

      • bigpinch

        Well, of course, you are right. Don’t jump into any DIY project on a whim or suffer the consequences. I own my own home, out in the country, so I have plenty of projects for practice.

  • Jim Wiggins

    Please, don’t ever put laminate flooring in a bathroom.

    • Robert Buchko

      I’m really hoping they meant to type linoleum.

    • whattarush

      And, never put cheap laminate anywhere. We just purchased our house. The laminate was replaced recently due to a hot water tank bursting. It is some of the cheapest crap I have ever seen. We have been in the house about 4.5 months, and the laminate in the kitchen…where the table and chairs are…has rubbed away and is crumbling. Awful crap. We would like to have it all removed and skimmed with concrete (the house sits on a slab). Radiant heat floors would be nice, too. We could leave it plain or have it stained. Concrete floors would suit us fine. I hate laminate, and I hate cheap laminate even worse!

  • MrKnowitall

    By “Pay Off Big”, I would expect a return in excess of my investment. But, as I suspected, the article does not deliver the goods, where return on investment figures are provided they indicate your investment in your house is likely to lose money.

  • d1anaw

    Not one of these projects lists 100% return. So unless you are planning to stay there, what’s the point. I’d do them if I weren’t going to sell. But if I am going to sell, no way. The buyers these days want to come in and strip everything out and redo it anyway, even if you have just put money into doing it. So again, what’s the point?

    • whattarush

      Perhaps if the house isn’t expected to sell in its original state, upgrading (tastefully and thoughtfully) might bring the house into a more acceptable mode. The percent of return that is “lost” can be absorbed into the base of the house. For example, a small, plain 3-bedroom/1-bath home may sell for $100,000. If you add a deck for $4000 and update the kitchen for $6000, you couldn’t ask for $110,000, but it would help the house sell in the first place. So, if you got $108,000 for it, you should be happy. I’m not sure if they were going in that direction, but it kind of sounds right to me.

  • Gregg Fritz

    The upgrades to a home and ROI are based on a contractor doing the work. The ONLY way you make money is if you are handy and can do the work yourself – properly. If you are a hack without skills and do home renovation projects you should have taken the money and set it on fire. Half-ass upgrades done by homeowners are worse than doing nothing. I buy homes that need work, do all the work myself and always come out ahead. I can’t tell you the number of homes I have been through that EVERY upgrade the homeowner did had to be ripped out completely as it was done not to code, unsafe, or just plain CHEAP.

    • Christine Gavlick

      Unfortunately, my boyfriend bought a house like that for us. Not only is it too small, the previous owner half assed everything it. Wish I could bulldoze the SOB!

  • Christine Gavlick

    Anyone else notice the lack of a door on the shower/bath? Seriously! Who takes a shower and wants to spend an hour mopping the floor afterward? When did shower doors become tacky? And what about PRIVACY?

    • whattarush

      This bathroom is so plain and out of proportion, I thought it was a computer rendition, but then I looked at the blemishes on the vanity. Not sure what’s going on there!

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