11 Home Upgrades With the Worst Return on Investment

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Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report takes a look at national average costs for 22 home remodeling projects.

It compares construction cost estimates for each project with the likely resale value. To get those resale estimates, the researchers surveyed real estate agents in 136 U.S. real estate markets, asking them these projects’ value when a remodeled home is sold.

Some of these are “upscale” jobs, others are “midrange” in cost. Although regional results vary, nationally, none of the jobs here can be expected to totally recover their cost.

Here, from bad to worst, are the projects that make particularly poor choices for payback.

11. Bath remodel (midrange)

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Average cost: $21,377
Return on investment: 64%

This project, updating a 5-by-7-foot bathroom, involves installing ceramic tile on the floor, new wallpaper, new toilet and a new tub-shower with a ceramic tile surround. Also included are a new medicine cabinet and light and a solid surface vanity with a built-in sink. Mid-priced materials are used.

On average, you would recoup not much more than half of the investment if selling the home at today’s prices. However, a bathroom renovation is one of the home projects that give owners the most satisfaction of all.

10. Bath remodel (universal design)

Man Wheelchair accessible bathroom Washing Hands In Bathroom
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $34,643
Return on investment: 62%

There are other reasons, as this project demonstrates, for remodeling besides return on investment. These improvements are likely to markedly improve the quality of life for older and disabled residents of a home.

This project requires altering the door to allow wheelchair entry and installing flat-panel electrical switches for access at sitting level. Other improvements include a lower, elongated toilet with bidet features and a tiled, no-curb shower with a fold-out seat and bi-directional glass door. Replace flooring to allow electric radiant heat beneath luxury vinyl tile and add nine towel bars that can support 250 pounds.

9. Roofing replacement (metal)

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Average cost: $40,318
Return on investment: 61.2%

This project includes putting an ice-barrier membrane and a high-grade synthetic underlayment under the new 3,000-square-foot roof.

A $40,000 roof replacement is no small expense. But a new roof is one of the home upgrades that homeowners say delivers the most joy in their lives, and there are ways to keep costs down when shopping for a new roof.

8. Major kitchen remodel (midrange)

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Average cost: $68,490
Return on investment: 58.6%

From the day homeowners buy an older property with an outdated kitchen, many dream of remodeling the space, the most-used and favorite gathering place in many homes. Sinking nearly $70,000 into a midpriced kitchen project may be a life upgrade that repays you in happiness, but this major remodeling job is not a true investment, since the return on the money spent is only about 58.6%.

This midrange remodel of an outmoded 200-square-foot kitchen includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, a 3-by-5-foot island, laminate countertops and a double-tub stainless-steel sink. Custom lighting, resilient flooring, fresh paint and new appliances are also included.

7. Master suite addition (midrange)

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Average cost: $136,739
Return on investment: 58.5%

Adding a new 24-by-16-foot master suite is a dream project. The all-new construction, the privacy of having an ensuite bathroom just off the master bedroom and the pleasure of expanding a home’s living space all count when considering this job. The project doesn’t pay back well, though, if return on investment is the goal.

This midrange master suite addition offers the perks of a master suite without going all-in on luxury features. In addition to the bedroom area, the suite provides a walk-in closet/dressing area and bathroom with a freestanding soaker tub, separate tiled shower, toilet and double-sink vanity.

6. Bath remodel (upscale)

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Average cost: $67,106
Return on investment:

Remodeling Magazine’s upscale bath remodel envisions nearly tripling the size of a 35-square-foot bathroom, to 100 square feet without adding to the home.

The job involves adding a freestanding soaker tub and a 42-by-42-inch tiled neo-angle shower, with body-spray fixtures and a frameless glass door. A stone countertop with twin sinks, mirrored medicine cabinets, custom cabinets, new lighting, a toilet compartment and a heated tile floor are among the features.

5. Bathroom addition (upscale)

pics721 / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $91,287
Return on investment:

Homeowners who add a bathroom to their home get a ton of joy from the purchase, research has shown, even if the payback isn’t great.

Envisioned here is an addition of a 100-square-foot bathroom with many of the features of the upscale bath remodel that opens into a home’s existing master bedroom. The new bath would have electric heat under a tile floor, a 42-by-42-inch ceramic-tiled neo-angle shower with frameless glass door, freestanding soaker tub, stone countertop with twin sinks, new cabinets, lighting and a private toilet compartment.

4. Bathroom addition (midrange)

bath time
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Average cost: $49,598
Return on investment:

This bathroom addition is neither a luxury level project nor an economy job. It involves building a new 6-by-8-foot space with poured concrete walls at the back of the home.

Features include a cultured-stone vanity top with molded sink, a 30-by-60-inch fiberglass tub-shower with ceramic tile surround, a low-profile toilet, new lighting, a tile floor and linen storage closet or cabinet.

3. Major kitchen remodel (upscale)

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Average cost:$135,547
Return on investment:

At $135,547, this major kitchen remodel is another project that you’d do for the joy of it, rather than financial return. Remodeling Magazine says that, although projects done in the home’s interior appeal to owners, they don’t pay back as well as improvements to a home’s exterior.

“Feedback indicated that larger discretionary projects, such as kitchen, bath, and master-suite remodels, tend to be too individualized to provide broad appeal,” the researchers say.

This upscale remodel of a 200-square-foot kitchen includes custom wood cabinets, stone countertops with imported ceramic- or glass-tile backsplash, an island, new appliances, sink with water filtration system and tile or wood-look flooring.

2. Grand entrance (fiberglass)

David Papazian / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $9,254
Return on investment:

Home upgrades that add to curb appeal often can be a good idea. But this relatively inexpensive project can be one of the worst investments to make in a home, the research found.

The project involves removing a home’s standard entry door and enlarging the space. A larger, “upscale” fiberglass door with sidelights on either side is the replacement.

1. Master suite addition (upscale)

Luxury upscale bedroom bathroom
ShortPhotos / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $282,062
Return on investment:

The worst bang for your remodeling buck, this study finds, results from constructing a new, high-end master suite.

At a return of roughly 51.6%, the cost of this project — $282,062 — buys a 30-by-20-foot addition housing a spacious sleeping-sitting-lounging area surrounded by custom bookcases, built-in storage and walk-in closet. A stone hearth and custom mantle frame a high-end gas fireplace, and a nearby hospitality area provides a bar sink, refrigerator, microwave and custom cabinetry. The bathroom is equally grand.

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