When people first move into a new house, there is always a laundry list of home improvements and changes they want to make to it, to make it their own. Saving, and setting aside money here and there, eventually, they start on their projects. Some may be the projects of dreams, such as granite counters in the kitchen and a remodeled master bath featuring a steam shower. Other things may be much more practical things such as a fresh coat of paint, new landscaping, or a new furnace. The question becomes, with all the different types of improvements you can make, which ones are going to pay off the most when it comes time to sell?

The truth is, If the roof is leaking, or your heater is not functioning correctly, buyers aren’t going to accept that. No matter how great the counters look in your kitchen, basic home functions need to be well maintained in order to keep a buyer considering your property. Even more, according to Remodeling Magazine you’re less likely to recoup your investment in a major kitchen or bathroom remodel than you are to get back what you spend on basic home maintenance such as a new roof, fresh paint, or new siding. 

Buyers take for granted that if you are selling your home, it’s basic systems are functioning properly. They assume the roof doesn’t leak and the air conditioning and plumbing work. 

That’s not to say that granite counters and steam showers don’t pay off; kitchen and bathroom remodels continue to be two of the best investments you can make in your house. These are the rooms that new home builders focus on, so if your home is older, doing a well done remodel in these rooms will grab buyer’s attention as they tour your home.

If you’re thinking about sinking some money into home improvement projects this year, keep a few things in mind. What you’ll get back on your investment depends on the value of your house, the value of houses in your immediate neighborhood, the housing market where you live, how soon you sell after making improvements, and the quality of the project itself. For instance,  it does not make sense to update your kitchen if your house is the only house in the neighborhood with just one bathroom.

For your convenience, I’ve put together a list of home improvements that will give you the biggest bang for your buck:

Kitchens And Baths​

In this hot Silicon Valley market, investing in a kitchen or bath remodel is a sure-fire investment, often returning more than 100 percent of the cost. Minor kitchen remodels (average cost: $15,273), done correctly, can also provide returns of more than 100 percent.

Kitchens and baths are the areas in a home where you can tell if money has been well spent or not. They’re the most expensive areas of the home in terms of construction. And they’re where people spend time in their homes.

So exactly what should you improve when you redo your kitchen or bathroom? Think traditional: all-wood cabinets, commercial-look appliances, natural wood or stone floors and stone countertops. Walk-in showers have replaced whirlpool tubs as the must-have. Many homeowners skip the tub to have a big walk-in shower if they don’t have room for both. Especially in the Silicon Valley, people are busy. Most people don’t have time to take a bath, and if you add a big tub as part of your remodel, you’re giving away all that square footage for the tub that rarely gets used. Floor-to-ceiling steam showers are also very popular luxury features.

There are two key points to consider when planning a bathroom remodel: First, don’t spend money remodeling the bathroom if it’s the only one you’ve got. Your money is better spent adding a second bath. Many people love the charm of older homes. A number of older homes though lack a sufficient number of bathrooms. So if you’ve got a four-bedroom, one-bath home, it’s certainly going to pay to add a second bathroom. Adding a bathroom can increase the sale price of a home by 8.7 percent. That is more than twice the rate for adding a bedroom.

Second, if you’re not planning to move in the near future, spend your money remodeling in a way that you’ll most enjoy. For instance, adding a Viking Range to your kitchen remodel may seem like an extra expense that may not be worth it. If you and your spouse are foodies though, having (and enjoying) this high-end range would make a lot of sense to your happiness in the time you live in your home.

Curb Appeal

Even in this hot Silicon Valley housing market, this old saying holds true: If people drive by your home and are not impressed they’re not going to walk inside.

When deciding where to spend money on your home, spending money on curb appeal is a very important project. Adding a front porch to create interest to the exterior of a flat house, for instance, is a great way to make it look more welcoming. If all your remodeling is on the inside but the outside of the house needs work, you’ll never have a chance to even show the inside.

Home Maintenance

Still, new kitchens and baths lose some of their glamour if there’s a leaky roof when a potential buyer comes to look at your house. Every homeowner’s first priority should be keeping the existing structure and basic home features and systems sound. If you are considering spending thirty or forty thousand dollars to remodel the kitchen, but your roof is leaking every time it rains, your priorities are out of alignment and you must get control of these basic items.

Most buyers have a limit on what they can spend for a house. If they know they don’t have to spend money on the upkeep of basic systems, then they’re more likely to buy the house and consider upgrading the kitchen or baths themselves. More often than not, buyers who purchase existing homes know what they were going to remodel before they even close on the deal. Not only that, 30 to 40 percent of buyers of existing homes make home improvements within six months after purchase.

Santa Clara Real Estate Guy
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