Often the best return on your home investment is the joy you get from waking up in a home you love more and more with each project you complete.
And the best part? You can sometimes get your money back when the love affair is over.
Which home improvements will pay off when you sell depends on how savvy you are when you remodel.
Here are some of the more popular home improvements, and whether you should do them for love or money (and in some cases, how to have both).
Do It For: Love
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $65,000
Will remodeling your kitchen increase your home value? Sure. Will you love it? Homeowners almost always do, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®.
But you’ll love it even more if you can bump up that ROI.
How to add more money to your love: A little sweat equity can save you thousands if you’re willing to tackle some tasks such as demolition and painting.
Keeping the same electrical and plumbing footprint will save even more, as will refacing your cabinets.
Do It For: Love
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $40,000
Converting a basement to a living area is the very definition of a project done for love. It instantly makes your home more functional by giving you more living space — without increasing your home’s footprint. Just so you know, though, it can be a big-ticket remodel.
How to add more money to your love: Think about how you’ll use the space. Will you be working, throwing parties, or watching Netflix? If you can make an open floor plan work, you’ll save the cost of framing, drywalling, and painting more rooms.
Skip the cost of a drop ceiling, and give your basement the flavor of a downtown loft by painting the ceiling, ducts, and plumbing.
Speaking of plumbing, if you can run upstairs for the loo and your wet bar doesn’t actually need to be wet, skip the extra pipes and save a bundle.
New Wood Floors
Do It For: Money (and Love!)
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $5,500
One of the best returns on a home investment is hardwood floors. They’re beautiful, durable, and timeless — and one of the smartest things you can do, too.
Many homeowners now want (and even expect) hardwood floors. And when done in keeping with the home’s layout and neighborhood, they can add 2.5% to the sale price.
How to get even more ROI: If you already have wood floors and they’re still in good shape, why not refinish them and save a little money? It costs around $3,000 and recovers 100% of its value at resale.
In-Ground Swimming Pool
Do It For: Love
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $57,500
Even if you adore the thought of diving into the clear, blue water of your very own backyard swimming pool, when you hear about the 43% ROI (not to mention the high project cost and the years of maintenance), the idea of installing one may feel like a wet blanket. And let’s face it: There’s no DIYing an in-ground pool to trim costs.
A better bet for your ROI: If you’re more of a sit-by-the-water type, consider a waterfall or fountain. It’ll bring you water-side happiness while also upping curb appeal. Or DIY a small (removable) soaking pool and mini-deck — you’ll get all the watery goodness without the high cost and maintenance.
But! If you just can’t stop dreaming about the real deal, don’t let the low return on investment deter you. Being happy while you’re in your home is just as important, maybe more so.
Do It For: Love
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $59,000
Adding a new bathroom seems like an ROI no-brainer. And yet, it’s not. So ask yourself why you’re fantasizing about the update. If it’s because you’re legitimately short on toilets, it’s worth considering.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, buyers tend to favor houses with an equal number of bathrooms and bedrooms. And if you’re in a four-bedroom with one bathroom, you probably do, too.
How to add some money to your love: If a new bathroom will boost your happiness (or sanity), there are ways to make the most of your remodeling budget. Adding one within the existing footprint of your home and next to existing plumbing will save thousands. And like a kitchen update, the bathroom is a place where DIY pays off. Doing your own paint or demo can save a bundle.
New Garage Door
Do It For: Money
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $2,300
While it’s not the dreamiest home investment, a new garage door is one of the quickest ways to make your home shine, especially if it’s front and center like many of today’s homes. It’s also one of the most affordable.
How to make your garage door pay off more: In addition to improving curb appeal, an insulated door on an attached garage can help lower energy bills, which will earn back money every month — and generate a little joy in your heart.
Do It For: Love and Money (depending on where you live)
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $14,000
There’s something dreamy about cozying up to a table under the trees and digging into a meal you’ve cooked under the open sky.
But before you give in to the call of a backyard cucina, consider your climate and neighborhood.
While 71% ROI is good, that’s a number that includes homes from sunny Tucson to frigid Fargo. The more you can use the outdoor kitchen, the better your ROI will be.
If your neighbors prefer a simple backyard grill and plastic lawn chairs, your ROI may not be so great.
How to add even more money to your love: Stick to a built-in charcoal or gas grill and skip the cooktop to avoid running electricity. Use inexpensive string lights from the wall outlet on your home’s exterior to illuminate the space.
Also, situate the outdoor kitchen near the back door, and you can use the plumbing inside rather than paying extra for an outdoor sink.
Do It For: Love and Money
Estimated Cost: $50 to $100 for a 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree
ROI: 100% or more
Planting trees today is one of the smartest ways to reap financial rewards tomorrow. A well-positioned tree shades the house in summer and shields it from harsh winds in winter, shaving money off your utility bills — as much as $250 per year.
And according to the Forest Service, mature trees contribute as much as 10% to your home value.
Do It For: Money
Estimated Cost for a Pro Job: $7,500
Putting on a new roof tops the home project list in rate of return. This is a relatively high-dollar item, but wow — that 109% ROI sure makes your bottom line do the happy dance.
And even better: REALTORS® say a new roof helps them make a sale 32% of the time.
FYI on your roof’s ROI: Naturally, the longer the time span between your roof replacement and your home sale, the lower that ROI becomes. But even if you aren’t thinking of selling right away, if your roof is in disrepair, a new one is the wise choice.
It improves energy efficiency (an Energy Star-certified roof can reduce peak cooling demand 10%-15%); it ups curb appeal; and it protects you from mold, critters, and the dreaded water damage.