The Best and Worst Value Adding Home Improvements

If you’re like most people, a lot of the work you do on your home is meant for you to enjoy--at least for a little while. But you also want to make sure you get some of that money back when it’s time to sell or refinance. So which improvements are also smart investments? Here’s what the numbers say for 2014.

Stay away from...

Home offices

Having your own kid/pet/clutter-free space to telecommute from seems like a no-brainer, right? But what happens when your potential buyers both work outside the home and your office oasis means their kids will have to share a room (and probably end up killing each other in the process)? Suddenly you’re wishing you’d just set up a desk in your guest room and called it a day. On average, you’re only going to get 48 percent back on your investment.


They’re hard to heat and cool, require additional wiring, and aren’t very versatile. If you’re thinking sunrooms, trying focusing on a deck instead. You’ll get a lot of the same benefits without the hassle. If you can’t live without the sunroom, you can expect to only get about a 51 percent return.

Master suite additions

Your master suite might be your oasis. Walk-in closets, dressing areas, whirlpool tubs with a separate shower. But a potential buyer might not expect to spend quite as much time there. To them, it’s not worth the $100,000 investment it took to make. You’ll only recoup 67 percent of that cost.

Back up power generation 

Sure it’s nice knowing you’re never going to be without power, but for most people that security isn’t worth the thousands of dollars in cost. Nationally, you’re only going to recoup 67 percent on this one.

Bathroom additions

There’s a lot that goes into adding a bathroom. Not only do you have to add plumbing, wiring, and heating and cooling, you also have to buy all the bathroom fixtures. At the end of the day you’re only going to get back about 60 percent of your investment.

Consider adding...

A steel front door

This upgrade probably isn’t at the top of your list. But nationwide, it has one of the best returns your investment. Why? A steel door is more energy efficient and a whole heck of a lot harder to break down than a wood door. The national average for returns on this investment is 96 percent.

A wood deck

Nothing says summer like backyard barbeques, afternoon cocktails, and relaxing on your favorite chaise lounge. A deck can seem like an additional (and indispensable) room in your house. So it’s no brainer that this addition gives homeowners an 87 percent return on their investment.

Minor kitchen upgrades

When we say minor we mean more than a coat of paint, but less than a gourmet chef’s dream. Focus on replacing your cabinet fronts, hardware, countertops, flooring, and stove and you can expect to see an 82 percent return.

A new garage door

The main reason this upgrade is on the list is cosmetic. A garage door takes up a huge amount of space on the front of the house. So having an up-to-date, door in good condition makes an immediate impression. Not to mention you’ll get an 83 percent return next time you get an appraisal.

An attic bedroom

Not only are you adding livable space to your house, but an attic bedroom will also offer guests (or moody teenagers) more privacy than a room on the main floor. Your guests will be happy and so will you with an 84 percent return. This one’s expensive, so you might want to think about using a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) to help pay for your renovation.  

Make sure your improvements make sense in your region and neighborhood. Who wouldn’t want to spend their weekends floating in their private pool in California? But if you put that same house in Fargo, North Dakota, it’s suddenly wasted space nine months out of the year. And if all the other houses in your neighborhood are small, ranch-style homes, does your three story behemoth really fit in?