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Home Renovations That Will Pay You Back

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When it’s time to remodel, many homeowners head to home improvement stores like Lowe's to buy the supplies they need to complete their home projects. It's a smart idea, especially since the right projects can put more money back into your pocket.

However, home renovation costs can be substantial: The average bathroom remodel costs more than $18,000, a bathroom addition can cost more than $40,000 and adding a master suite can easily cost six figures, according to Remodeling’s “2017 Cost vs. Value” report.

If you want to choose the best home renovations, here are several that will give you the biggest bang for your buck when the time comes to sell.

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Remodel the Kitchen

“If it’s more than 15 years old, upgrading the kitchen floor, cabinetry and appliances to modern standards will net you more money during [the] time of sale,” said Joe Polyak, real estate agent with Polyak Real Estate Group in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Many families view the kitchen as the center of the home. So, minor kitchen renovations can drastically increase your property's value — the Remodeling report showed a 65 percent national recoup on average. This renovation can also increase home enjoyment for the entire family.

If you have an outdoor kitchen that needs to be renovated, consider updating the appliances. For example, Lowe's offers savings on high-quality appliances.

"Outdoor entertaining and grilling go hand in hand," said Jule Eller, director of trend and style at Lowe’s. "So bring the heat, and fire up that backyard flavor with a modular grill. You can choose add-ons like a sink, side burners or refrigerator to create a complete outdoor kitchen.”

Still, renovators should take care not to go overboard with kitchen remodel costs. “Upgrading the appliances to a certain level of luxury — KitchenAid versus Bosch, for example — can significantly increase value,” said Polyak. “Be careful, though. You don’t need to put Wolf appliances in a condo in a blue-collar condo complex. That won’t add value.”

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Build an Outdoor Deck

“This can be a fairly inexpensive project that can add a lot of value in the eyes of potential homebuyers,” said Polyak. Specific features tend to vary in popularity by geographic location, and the national average cost for this upgrade is about $10,000 for wood and $17,000 for composite materials, according to Remodeling’s report. Of that amount, a homebuyer can hope to recoup about 71 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

“In Arizona, people like a nice fire pit with a beautiful outdoor area. In the San Francisco Bay Area, they like a nice deck with landscaping,” he said. “You can hire someone to do the work, but depending on how handy the homeowner, this can definitely be a fairly inexpensive do-it-yourself project.”

Building an Outdoor Deck? See How You Can Get a Free In-Home Consultation

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Create a Paver Patio

You might also consider adding a paver patio to your home. "Building a paver patio or walkway is a simple way to make your landscape more inviting and define an outdoor living space," said Eller. "Best of all, you can install the paving stones yourself. You can also integrate landscape lighting to add ambiance and dimension."

Eller recommends purchasing 10 percent more blocks, pavers or stones than you anticipated. "The excess should account for breakage, the material you need to cut and replacements for future repairs," she said.

Do It Yourself: Watch How to Install a Paver Walkway

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Upgrade Lighting Fixtures

“You’ll be amazed at the difference that great lighting makes,” said Maria Samuels, marketing specialist at furniture manufacturer InstyleModern. “It can take a room from sterile and unwelcoming to cozy and soothing.” She suggests adding new lighting over a kitchen table or island, or hanging fixtures in entryways.

Most fixtures can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or less, but when you’re working with electrical wires, you’ll also want to make sure to bring in a professional. Most homeowners spend about $318 to bring in an electrician, which will increase overall remodeling bills, according to HomeAdvisor. Still, prospective buyers are likely to appreciate the enhanced lighting, making it one of the best home renovations on a budget.

You might also want to upgrade your outdoor patio lighting with string lights, lanterns, candles, outdoor table lamps or floor lamps to bring your patio to life. Or, perhaps you have a deck? You'll probably want to upgrade those lights as well. The good news: It won't cost you a lot of money at stores like Lowe's.

"From setting a festive mood to offering a soft glow after dark, outdoor lighting is a great way to make your outdoors warm and inviting," said Eller. "Check out these battery-operated LED step lights or these bronze solar LED post lights."

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Replace the Entry Door

Installing a new steel entry door has the largest cost versus resale value, according to Remodeling’s report. It’s about a $1,400 project that’s likely to boost your home’s value by the same amount.

“It alone can transform the front of your house and improve overall curb appeal, especially if you’re looking to sell or raise your property value,” said Samuels. “Before you head out to purchase one, learn which styles and materials work best for your home’s design. Then, think about the color that interests you most.”

Samuels recommends bold colors like Kelly green, bright yellow and high-gloss black. “To make this a super-affordable change, buy an inexpensive neutral door and paint it yourself,” she said. There are plenty of affordable door options you can find online.

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Install or Repurpose Flooring

“Updated hardwood floors or new carpeting can help sell a home,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of digital home management tool HomeZada. “But a lot of the determination of whether the project pays for itself depends on how much money people put into the project.”

According to HomeAdvisor, existing carpets can be cleaned for about $174, and the average hardwood refinishing cost is $1.50 to $4 per square foot. Installation of new flooring increases the cost: $1,583 for carpet and $4,397 for wood. However, you can reduce these sums.

“If you have the skill or are willing to learn, you can save labor costs if you can do some of the work yourself,” said Bodrozic. “If you do hire a contractor, make sure you get three to five bids and make it known to the contractors that they are competing for the business. Depending on the marketing conditions and timing of your project, you could save yourself some money."

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Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Features

“I’m noticing a big trend toward energy-efficient appliances, LED lights and tankless water heaters,” said Diana George, a vice president at Century 21 Real Estate Alliance.

“These products save homeowners money and contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.” A tankless water heater can be installed for about $4,200 in a 2,200-square-foot home, and LED converter bulbs can be bought for about $14 per light, said George.

You don’t have to wait until you move to reap the financial benefits that accompany an energy-efficient upgrade. A tankless water heater can cut a homeowner’s water heating bill by about a fifth each year. A switch from incandescent to LED bulbs, meanwhile, can save a homeowner a surprising $300 per year. Energy-efficient upgrades might not be the most exciting of home improvement projects, but they can have an almost immediate impact on a home’s overall bottom line.

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Replace Vinyl Siding

It’s not everyone's idea of a dream renovation project, but new vinyl siding can dramatically enhance a home’s curb appeal, which can make or break a homeowner’s prospects when selling on the open market.

Newer siding can also help curb heating and cooling costs and reduce occurrences of mold, fungus and mildew. New vinyl siding generally costs around $14,000 and will increase a home’s resale value by about $11,000, according to Remodeling.

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Remodel a Bathroom

“Bath renovations are always worth the money invested,” said Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP in Warwick, N.Y. “If the home has good bones and quality finishes, the home seller will reap most, if not all, of the cost.”

A homebuyer can expect to pay about $18,000 for a mid-range bathroom renovation and recoup about 65 percent, according to Remodeling. However, making smaller changes can also bring big rewards. “The impact a new light fixture can make can take a house from being dated to feeling new,” said Gray-Plaisted. “I find upgrading light fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens to be worth every penny spent.”

In the end, a home renovation choice is about more than just the value you’ll eventually recoup. Consider projects that will keep your home properly maintained, but also that your family will enjoy. A house is more than an investment; it’s also the place where your family will build memories for years to come.

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Open the Floor Plan

An open floor plan is one of the more sought-after features for homebuyers today. However, older homes typically have many walls and narrow hallways, said Polyak. The good news is that it can be surprisingly inexpensive to knock down a wall and create a more cohesive space. An interior demolition costs about $3,000 on average, according to HomeAdvisor.

Even load-bearing walls can be removed, preferably by a skilled contractor who can then place a beam in the ceiling for support. Even with the added home renovation costs, this improvement can still add significant value to a home, said Polyak.

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Paint the Interior

“Painting is a quick, inexpensive and easy way to refresh or update your home,” said Samuels. “You can transform a room into a totally new space just by adding a splash of color. Not only does paint make a room look clean and bright, but it can also change your outlook on your home and living environment.”

Most homeowners spend between $996 and $2,721 on home interior paint costs, according to HomeAdvisor. At that price point, it’s easy to recoup the cost when it’s time to sell. Even so, it might be worthwhile to consult a professional before selecting a color. Not everyone knows that “light or white paint makes small rooms and spaces appear bigger, and that bright colors can make a family or playroom more fun and vibrant,” said Samuels.

Still, professional advice doesn’t have to add to the cost of the project. Many national paint retailers like Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore offer free paint consultations.

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