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Home Improvement Decisions

Usually, people undertake home improvement projects for one of two reasons: to make their home more enjoyable for themselves or to increase its value. If you’re doing a home improvement project to get your house just the way you like it, and you plan on staying there for several years, then the main thing you should worry about is paying for it and getting the results you want. But if you want to do home improvements to increase your home’s sale value or to help it sell faster, keep in mind that not all home improvements help.

Two projects that have a decent chance of recouping your expenditures are painting and kitchen improvements. Two projects that don’t recoup expenditures when it’s time to sell are elaborate gardens and fancy or custom windows.

Repainting is a basic fix that pays off, particularly if you want to sell within a couple of years. Having the exterior of your house repainted professionally can recoup some 80% of the costs when it’s time to sell. Repainting inside beats installing new floors, cabinets, and fixtures in all cases except when the old ones were severely outdated or worn. A new coat of paint on the front door can work wonders for your home’s appeal when it’s time to sell.

Modest kitchen overhauls can pay off too. This means things like repainting and replacing cabinet hardware. While a major kitchen overhaul can recoup about 90% of expenditures, a modest kitchen update can recoup some 94% of your expenditures.

If you love gardening and the joy of having gorgeous, elaborate plantings, then by all means go ahead. But if you want to put in gardens on the theory that they will increase your home’s value, think again, particularly if you have a high maintenance garden (like extensive rose beds). And while functional fences can improve a home’s sales appeal (particularly for pet owners), fancy fences, stone walls, and the like won’t increase your home’s selling price nearly enough to recoup costs.

For the average house, sinking $10,000 into new, high-tech windows will return 35 to 50% of costs when it’s time to sell. But adding $1,200 to $1,500 worth of insulation and caulking will return over 70% of its costs. Of course malfunctioning or leaky windows should be replaced, but primarily because of the savings you’ll have on your energy bills, and not as an attempt to increase your home’s selling price. Custom windows, such as bay windows and unusual custom shapes generally don’t recoup their costs at selling time.

For the most part, you should undertake home improvements if they will increase your enjoyment of your home and not as a way to drive up your home’s value. While keeping your home in great repair is important should you want to sell, often expensive customizations do not end up affecting home value very much. Improvements that involve high quality (but not ridiculously upscale) fixtures and built-in appliances can recoup some of their costs, but in general, the basics of fresh paint and a home that’s in good repair are the biggest draws to potential buyers.