House renovations that yield the most resale value

Created date

August 8th, 2016
Putting in insulation in a house.

Putting in insulation in a house.

If you’re planning to sell your house to downsize in retirement, you’ll probably want to make some updates before putting in on the market—particularly, if you’ve lived there for many years. But, the question on many homeowners’ minds is this: Which renovations will yield the most resale value?

Fortunately, Remodeling magazine publishes an annual cost vs. value report (, which compares the average cost of popular renovation projects with the value they retain at the time of resale. Most people assume that kitchen and bathroom remodels add the most resale value. However, the report shows that adding fiberglass attic insulation actually yields the best return on investment at 117%. Other renovations topping the list are replacing vinyl siding on bottom third of house with stone veneer (93%), garage door replacement (92%) and steel entry door replacement (91%).

“The study further found that minor kitchen and bathroom updates had a much better return than major overhauls, and that midrange kitchen and bathroom updates offer better returns than high-end updates,” says real estate investor and blogger Brian Davis ( 

Kitchens and bathrooms

That’s good news for homeowners looking to sell because kitchens and bathrooms often make or break a deal. But, you don’t have to spend a bundle to get them up to snuff. Texas interior designer Pablo Solomon ( says a thorough cleaning and fresh paint will go a long way in making kitchens and bathrooms appeal to buyers. In bathrooms, Solomon says putting in new sinks and fixtures is a relatively inexpensive project. And when it comes to kitchens, sometimes what’s not there matters more than what is.

“In a lot of kitchens, removing an island will actually improve things more than adding one,” Solomon says. “Most buyers are drawn to a kitchen that is not cluttered.”

The number of bedrooms in a house is a big deciding factor for most buyers. Adding a bedroom is a pricy proposition; according to the Remodeling magazine report, adding a master suite costs an average of $115,810, and only about 64% of that cost tends to be recouped at resale. But you may be able to up your house’s bedroom count for a minimal cost. Elizabeth Jenkins of Source Capital (, a hard money lending company, says to research what qualifies as a bedroom in your town. Typically, she says, a bedroom must have one entrance, one window or other escape route, 7-foot ceilings, and be 70 square feet.

“Some homes even have dens or basements that fulfill the bedroom requirements but have never been officially considered ‘bedrooms,’ and a visit from an inspector will result in a new bedroom,” Jenkins says. 

While the Remodeling magazine report is an excellent reference to assess the potential resale value of home improvements, when you’re getting your house ready to sell, your best resource is an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market.

“If it is a hot market where there is not a lot of inventory and home prices are increasing, then you might be able to sell the home without any updates,” says John Bodrozic of HomeZada (, a company that provides digital home management for homeowners. “But if there are a lot of homes on the market, you might have to take on some updates to make your home stand out or be competitive, as buyers have multiple homes to choose from.”