Top 5 Best and Worst Improvements to Make in California

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 in California?

Stay away from…

Home office: 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. With a 61 percent return, you’ll do a little better with this project than the 48 percent national average.

Sunrooms: 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. You’ll get a 61 percent return on this investment, compared with the 51 percent national average.

Master suite addition: 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 81 percent of that cost. Sure, that’s a lot better than the 67 percent average. But when you can get so much more out of other upgrades, why bother?

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. In this region, you can expect to get a 72 percent return, while nationally, you’re only going to recoup 67 percent.

Bathroom addition: 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 78 percent of your investment. That’s a little better than the national average of 60 percent.

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 average for returns on this investment in the Pacific region is 113 percent, that’s 17 percent higher than the national average.

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 in the Pacific a 109 percent return on their investment. That’s great, especially when you compare it with the 87 percent national average.

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 a 109 percent return next time you get an appraisal. Well above the 82 percent national average return.  

Adding an attic bedroom: Not only are you adding livable space to your house, an attic bedroom will 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 102 percent return. That’s well above the 84 percent return nationally. This one’s expensive, so you might want to think about a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) to help pay for it.  

Basement remodel: Home buyers in the Pacific are all about more space. A basement remodel will get you 102 percent return in this region. Nationally it doesn’t even make the top five with a 77 percent return.   

Make sure your improvements make sense in your neighborhood. If all the other houses in your neighborhood are small, ranch-style homes, does your three story behemoth really fit in?