The Top Half-Dozen Home Updates That Pay Off

By Bill Primavera

Like most people, I’m stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, contemplating the ceiling, floor and walls, along with all they encompass. Other people might be using this downtime to consider upgrades they could be incorporating into their homes, but thank God I live in a relatively new home where no updates are needed.

I bought my condo new just five years ago and only had to add my personal touches, such as adding professional woodworking of fine furniture quality in each room.

Had the pandemic visited us a few years ago when I was living in a 275-year-old farmhouse, it would have been a totally different story. From the time my wife and I moved in more than 40 years ago, until we downsized to our new home, we were in constant updating mode. While we always loved our surroundings, we never quite finished the job.

If we were still living in our old home, I would be going nuts right now, making lists of the remodeling and upgrade work that needed to be done while sidelined by the pandemic. During the entire time I lived there, I was never able to just sit back and relax.

Now, however, with an almost perverse delight, I checked in with HGTV for the first time in years to see what other homeowners were up to in upgrading their homes and how much money they were doling out to get the projects done.

HGTV offered 15 top projects with the biggest returns on investment, but my mind would have exploded to consider all 15. I think a good half-dozen is all my brain can accommodate, even when it’s strictly for editorial consideration.

Minor Bathroom Remodel

Average return at resale: 102 percent

It costs about $10,500 to replace the tub, tile surrounds, floor, toilet, sink, vanity and fixtures. Remove dated wall coverings and apply a fresh coat of paint. For damaged walls, spray-on texture provides quick coverage. The removal of old shower doors or replacing them with clear glass creates the illusion of space.


Average return at resale: 100 percent

The average homeowner spends about $3,502 for landscaping and $1,465 on a designer, according to the American Nursery Landscape Association. Local garden centers often offer free design services. Sod costs about 30 to 35 cents a square foot, so a 5,000-square-foot yard would cost about $1,500 to sod.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

Average return at resale: 98.5 percent

 A minor kitchen remodel averages $14,913 for $14,691 at resale, a recoup rate of 98.5 percent. Do a minor remodel when your kitchen needs a cosmetic update and not a drastically different floor plan. A $15,000 kitchen update covers 30 feet of re-facing for cabinets and drawers, a new wall oven, cooktop, sink and fixtures, laminate countertops and resilient flooring.

Exterior Improvements (including vinyl siding, paint, updated front entry)

Average return at resale: 95.5 percent

The average national cost to replace 1,250 square feet of vinyl siding: $7,239. Average return: $6,914, with a recoup rate of 95.5 percent. A gallon of paint covers 400 square feet of house. Upscale, fiber-cement siding costs $10,393 and returns $10,771 at resale, an even better recoup rate of 103.6 percent.

 Attic Bedroom Conversion

Average return at resale: 93.5 percent

The average attic bedroom in a two- or three-bedroom house costs $39,188 and returns $36,649 at resale. Adding attic insulation lowers utility bills, making sure the foil vapor barrier is installed down toward the ceiling to prevent moisture from seeping up. A solar-powered attic fan is an efficient way to save on cooling costs.

Major Bathroom Remodel

Average return at resale: 93.2 percent

A major bathroom remodel involves expanding an existing 5-foot by 7-foot bathroom, relocating and replacing the tub and toilet and adding designer sinks and faucets, a linen closet, lighting, a ceramic tile floor and exhaust fan for $26,052, which brings in $24,286 at resale.

These are just some of the ideas for upgrading the home that pay off best. If you’re fully upgraded as I am, the pandemic can offer the welcome excuse to just sit back, relax and gain weight from the lack of physical activity, as I’m doing.

Bill Primavera, while a writer and public relations practitioner, is also a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate. To engage the talents and services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.