Which home improvments will pay off?

There are two ways to go about making home improvements or complete home remodeling. Either you splurge for something purely for the pleasure of having it — the Italian marble bathroom you’ve dreamed about; that Gourmet Kitchen that your spouse has been hinting at for the last few years — or you take a different approach, buying an energy-efficient furnace or repairing a leaky roof because you want to increase your home’s market value.  Most of my clients in San Antonio like the idea of a room addition or a home remodel because they wan to increase their home’s value.

Be smart and do your homework before you remodel your home.  Talk to a real estate appraiser or realtor and find out what home are selling for in your area.  Then tell them your plans to remodel and see if it is worth the investment.  Just because you pour $25,000 into your home doesn’t mean that your house is worth $25,000 more. Many homeowners spend on amenities such as a backyard deck or granite counter tops.  You want to use your dollars wisely and remember that your home is an investment.  In order for that investment to pay off one day, you will need to sell it.  In order to sell it, you will  have had to make choices that appeal to the masses.”  Danny Garcia, owner of Rhino Design Build in San Antonio, Texas.

Exactly how much you’ll recoup in costs depends on several factors, including the direction of the broader housing market, the value of the homes in your neighborhood (comps), when you plan to sell the home and the nature of the project itself. In some housing markets, you could, indeed, earn more than your investment back on a home remodeling project.


Even a few basic improvements to your kitchen can increase the value of a home.  Paint, wallpaper, and even new flooring the room if necessary. Consider sanding, staining or painting dingy-looking cabinets. Replace old cabinet hardware — a low-cost improvement that makes a big difference in appearance.  Just be sure to go with a classic design and, if possible, use high-quality materials — after all, good taste endures. Expect to recoup between 70% and 80% of kitchen-remodeling jobs.

Creating New Space

As a rule, improvements that increase the functional space of a home hold their value longer than ones that just make a house look better. It’s also significantly cheaper than adding a room addition to your home. Converting an attic into a bedroom, for example, can returns upwards of 75% of its cost.

An Extra Bathroom

Adding an extra bathroom with all the trimmings — marble vanity top, molded sink, bathtub with shower and ceramic tile — almost pays for itself. You should make back between 65% and 75% of your costs of  a bathroom remodel , and around 65% of the costs of adding a full bath.


Of all the outdoor home improvements, except painting, it may be the most reliable value. Deck additions generally recoup 85% of their value.

New Windows and Other Green Updates

The savings on your utility bills is reason enough to consider energy-efficient improvements, but they will also add to the resale value of your home. Efficient windows and doors, a new roof (maybe even solar panels), and new insulation may be pricey, but some 65% to 76% may be recovered at resale. When considering new windows, however, keep in mind that customizing windows with fancy shapes, bays and bows doesn’t necessarily add any resale value.

Swimming Pools

It’s commonly agreed that a swimming pool has no resale value at all. In fact, some home buyers spend thousands of dollars to fill in a pool after purchasing a property. The main reason pools repel more prospective buyers than they attract is that they need expensive upkeep. Running a close second is the fear of liability: Pool accidents are a quick way to end up the subject of a negligence suit. A lot of people simply don’t want the responsibility.


Fancy gardens — which will require time and money to tend — usually won’t add to the offering price. Landscaping is for your own enjoyment. It may be a $40,000 investment, but it won’t add $40,000 to the value of your house. The same goes for expensive fences and stone walls. They look nice, but buyers don’t pay up for them.

Basic Improvements

It may not be all that enjoyable, but it’s the basic improvements that may have the greatest return on your home’s value. You could have a beautiful new kitchen, but if your roof is leaking, you have a real problem. So if you’re thinking of putting your house on the market in the next year or so, be sure to tackle any problems with the home’s structure or mechanical systems before you, say, install that hot tub you’ve always dreamed of.