12 Most Valuable Home Improvements You Can Make this Year

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Do you fantasize about a cedar-lined sauna for your new house? Or is your partner pushing for hardwood floors instead? How do you figure out if it makes financial sense to move forward, and finally make those home improvements you’ve been thinking about for what feels like ages? Are you remodeling within reason?

The folks over a Remodeling Magazine did research about best possible changes to make to your house. They took a look at the average cost for a list of popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale. Here are some of the key findings:

Overall, things are looking up. From 2008 to 2012, the value from remodeling projects was in a downward slide (due to high construction costs for example) but for the past two years, the trend has reversed itself. The best news is that ALL projects are up (an average of 10%) for the first time in six years.
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Some projects still yield more value than others, namely:
  1. Replacing practical features — like windows, siding and steel front doors — are on average more valuable upon resale than other, more discretionary projects like home office remodels, or adding a sunroom (not to mention that cedar-lined sauna we talked about earlier).
  2. Similarly, exterior projects have a higher overall cost-value ratio. Things like adding a deck, or replacing your garage door, up curb appeal and will give you more bang for your buck when you go to sell.
  3. One exception to the interior/exterior rule is minor kitchen renovations, which include cabinet upgrades, countertops and new appliances that ring in under $50K. So if you’re not excited at the prospect of new vinyl siding, this is your chance to argue for a new kitchen instead.
  4. Given the recent economic slump, it probably not a surprise that kitchen remodels in this lower range fared better than their higher-end luxury counterparts over 100K. And generally this is true for most other projects; it’s best to keep a tight hold on those purse strings.
  5. If you do want a higher-end remodel, with a large scope and/or more expensive finishes, then choose either a bathroom, second story addition, or basement remodel, three projects that add square footage and that did better than other spend-y projects. Major bathroom projects even fared slightly better than minor bathroom upgrades.

Of course, there's more to consider here — if you telecommute, for example, it might make more sense to go for the home office remodel, even if it doesn't give the highest return. Or, if you don’t expect to sell for quite some time, resale value might not carry as much weight as your current enjoyment of your home.

Either way, there's lots more to see and learn on Remodeling Magazine's website. The study breaks the data down by region, cost, and specific project. They also have different sections for mid-range and upscale projects. So before you break out the sledgehammer and start your next project, take a look and see statistically if it’s worth the time and expense.

(Image credits: Stephanie Strickland; Remodeling Magazine)

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