Which home renovations — new roof, kitchen update — get the best returns?

Which home renovations — new roof, kitchen update — get the best returns?

Crash! Thunk! Boom! The clamor jolts me out of my patio chair, where I am trying to write this column. A few minutes later, kaboom!

This scene repeats itself all morning as the hardworking roofers next door detach old clay roof tiles and shove piles of them into a dumpster 15 feet below. It is not peaceful.

However, according to a report that is literally in my hand — the 2022 Remodeling Impact report — it will be worth it. The report from the National Association of Realtors looked at the best outdoor and indoor improvements homeowners can make to get most or all of their money back. Researchers surveyed remodelers to find the average project costs and realtors to find out how much each improvement adds to the home’s resale value.

Topping the list of outdoor projects, delivering a 100 percent return on investment: a new roof.

My neighbor keeps apologizing for the inconvenience. “I’m so sorry! It’s a nightmare,” she hollered.

“You’ll be glad,” I assured her — and meant it.

“Why does a new roof top the list?” I asked Jessica Lautz, the realtor association’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights and one of the report’s authors. “I mean, no one drives up to your house and says, ‘I love your roof.’”

“Homebuyers know that replacing a roof is a costly, messy, loud, dirty, miserable job, so will pay for that,” she said.

Another good bet is a new garage door, which can boost curb appeal, improve insulation, and also return all your investment.

As for indoor improvements, the top spot goes to hardwood floors. Refinishing the ones you have returns an average of 147 percent of the cost, while installing new wood floors results in an average return of 118 percent. Though a decidedly unsexy improvement, new insulation delivers a 100 percent average return, plus the energy savings.

If you’re looking for more to do, finishing an attic or basement can result in a 75 to 86 percent return, respectively, while kitchen renovations ─ the selfish reason I was interested in this report, so I could secretly build a case to convince my husband ─ returned between 67 percent for a modest upgrade (new counters, new appliances, refreshed cabinet fronts) and 75 percent for a complete renovation (new layout, new cabinets, added island, plus the above).

Meanwhile Groundworks, a basement remodeling company with offices throughout the country, reported that a modest kitchen remodel provided an 81 percent return. I’m going with that.

Though the NAR report didn’t look at lower-cost projects, those can pay off handsomely. New landscaping and a freshly painted front door can boost a home’s sale price well past the cost of the effort. Depending on the color, meaning don’t do anything crazy, painting your home’s interior can net a 107 percent return, according to Groundworks, which is probably why 63 percent of realtors recommend their sellers paint their interior walls, Lautz said.

Of course, real life doesn’t come down to a single survey and simple math. Here’s what else to consider before you get out the jackhammer:

Necessity: In general, improvements add value when they upgrade old, worn and outdated materials or improve livability. So, if you tear out a new kitchen and put in another new kitchen, you probably won’t gain much.

Taste: How much value you add assumes that what you do looks better than before, and that others agree. Consult magazines, homes in your area, a designer or a realtor if you’re unsure. In general, don’t be too weird.

Neighborhood: What adds value to a home in one neck of the woods may be sunk money in another. Ask a realtor who knows your area whether the market will support the improvement you’re considering.

Age and condition: The NAR report was based on houses in good condition built after 1981. Older homes are more likely to have hidden issues lurking behind walls and cost more to remodel, because owners will have to bring them up to current building codes.

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