Best Home Renovations: 6 Tips for Getting a Great Return on Your Investment

Renovating may make your home more marketable and increase its resale value—but not all renovations have the same return on investment (ROI).

Summer's a boom time for homebuying and selling—and making renovations. But if you're thinking you could someday put your house on the market (or you simply want to see your property’s value go up), which are the best home renovations to invest in? Here are tips from a real estate veteran.

1. Make scale-appropriate improvements

"Be mindful of the overall value of your house so you don't over-renovate," recommends San Antonio—based Realtor® Dan Balcar. "No matter what kind of improvements they are, you won't earn your money back if you make a $20,000 renovation on a $200,000 home."

Consider what's appropriate for your neighborhood. For ROI purposes, you don't want to have the most expensive house on the block or a home with amenities that are out of sync with your neighbors. To Balcar's point: If a single upgrade is going to cost you 10% of your property's value, it may not be the best home renovation to invest in.

2. Prioritize needed repairs

The best home renovations may not necessarily be shiny and new. Prioritize your home's functionality and any maintenance issues that need fixing before adding new features. Repair leaky faucets, squeaky cabinets and worn siding or shingles.

"No one wants to buy a home with a brand-new kitchen if the roof leaks, and no one wants to buy a house that immediately needs fixing," Balcar says.

Buyers tend to overestimate the costs of needed repairs, so it makes sense to resolve those first.

3. Remember: First impressions matter

If you ever need to sell, improving your home's curb appeal is one of the best ways to increase your chances of selling. For your exterior, the best home renovations are sometimes simple improvements—such as a new front door or garage door, either of which can make a great first impression on buyers. In fact, both boast an average return of more than 90%, according to 2018 cost vs. value averages(opens in a new tab) compiled by Remodeling magazine.

If you're not up for replacing those doors altogether, even smaller tweaks can achieve the effect.

"Paint the door and give it new hardware to update the look," Balcar says. "Adding a keyless lock, for example, can give an older home a more modern feel."

4. Consider adding space

Renovations that let homeowners spread out can also be good investments. Decks, for instance, tend to be one of the best home renovations and a reliable investment nationally. On average, decks recoup more than 80% of their cost(opens in a new tab).

"Think about your region," Balcar adds. "In areas with a high price per square foot, cellar and attic build-outs can increase living space at a reasonable cost." In markets with greater land availability, however (like Balcar's San Antonio market), those renovations probably aren't as strong an investment.

5. Improve bathrooms and kitchens

If you're going to put money and effort into a room, bathrooms and kitchens can be good bets.

"Be careful not to overspend, though," Balcar recommends. For instance, "Don’t put marble floors in your bath unless you're in a half-million-dollar neighborhood," he says.

Fortunately, simple updates like lighting, backsplashes, mirrors and fixtures can vastly improve appeal at reasonable costs. And installing granite countertops in the kitchen can help you modernize a key area of the house without having to replace cabinets and flooring.

Depending on your house and intentions, you may want to consider adding a bathroom. For a three-bedroom, one-bath home, the addition of another bath can be costly. Although you may not recoup the full cost, the added bath may get you the sale in a competitive market.

6. Think twice about that pool

Pools are generally not among the best home renovations for ROI, sometimes resulting in a negative return. Worse, they can even hurt your resale chances.

"There are two kinds of buyers," Balcar warns. "Those who want a pool, and those who don't."

A pool is polarizing enough to turn away the second group, even if everything else about your home is perfect.

Regardless of what you choose to improve, don't expect a dollar-for-dollar return on your renovation investment unless you’re able to do the renovations on your own. With all that in mind, you might decide to renovate now—that way you can enjoy the improvements while you still live in your home!

Looking for a good way to fund your home renovations? Consider a BB&T Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit—making the right home renovations is one of several smart ways to use your home’s equity . Talk with a BB&T Home Mortgage Professional to discuss options.

Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.

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