Top 9 Home Updates for Best Return

HGTV experts rank the top 9 home improvements, plus offer tips on maximizing the return at resale. Consider a home equity loan with DFCU Financial to finance these updates and earn Cash Back at the same time.

#1 Minor Bathroom Remodel
Average return at resale: 102 percent
  • It costs about $10,500 to replace the tub, tile surround, floor, toilet, sink, vanity and fixtures. You’ll get back an average of $10,700 at resale, a recoup rate of 102 percent.
  • If you can pipe a child’s name on a birthday cake, you can re-caulk a tub. Use a softener like CAULK-BE-GONE® to get rid of the old caulk.
  • If your old tub is too large to fit out the door, re-glaze it for a like-new finish. Cost: $300 to $400.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint. For damaged walls, spray on texture provides quick coverage.
  • Old shower doors ruin any bathroom. Removing or replacing them adds the illusion of space.
#2 Landscaping
Average return at resale: 100 percent
  • The average homeowner spends about $3,502 for landscaping and another $1,465 on a designer, according to the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
  • Local garden centers often offer free design services, or ask the neighbors what works for them.
  • Sod costs about 30 to 35 cents a square foot, so a 5,000 sq. ft. yard would cost about $1,500 to sod. Budget for a delivery fee if you buy less than 1,000 sq. ft.
  • A charming focal point like a walkway and fountain adds major value to your property.
#3 Minor Kitchen Remodel
Average return at resale: 98.5 percent
  • A minor kitchen remodel averages $14,913 and brings in $14,691 at resale, a recoup rate of 98.5%. Go for the minor remodel when your kitchen needs a cosmetic update and not a drastically different floor plan.
  • A $15,000 kitchen update covers 30 feet of re-facing for cabinets and drawers, a new wall oven, cooktop, sink and fixtures, laminate countertops and resilient flooring.
  • If your home is worth more than $500,000 go with stone or trendy glass countertops.
  • Cover the old vinyl with floor leveler so the pattern doesn’t bleed through. You can’t put a second layer of vinyl on if the subfloor is below-grade concrete.
  • Brighten up the kitchen by giving old wood cabinets’ new character. Just sand and paint — it’s a whole lot less expensive than buying new ones. 
#4 Exterior Improvements
Vinyl Siding, Paint, Updated Front Entry
Average return at resale: 95.5 percent
  • The average national cost to replace 1,250 sq. ft. of vinyl siding: $7,239. Average return: $6,914, with a recoup rate of 95.5%.
  • A gallon of paint covers 400 sq. ft. of house.
  • Paint color cards take the guesswork out of choosing the right color combination for doors, trim and siding.
  • Upscale, fiber-cement siding costs $10,393 and returns $10,771 at resale, an even better recoup rate of 103.6%.
  • For an updated look, remove old awnings from over windows and doors.
  • Swap damaged wrought iron railings for real wood supports for a more inviting entry.
  • Give a bare, charmless porch a dramatic makeover by adding a pergola and columns.
#5 Major Bathroom Remodel
Average return at resale: 93.2 percent
  • A major bathroom remodel involves expanding an existing 5-by-7-foot bathroom, relocating and replacing the tub and toilet and adding designer sinks and faucets, a linen closet, lighting, a ceramic tile floor and exhaust fan for a cost of $26,052, which brings in $24,286 at resale.
  • Start at the bottom. Dated flooring can seriously drag down value. Replace old floors with fresh tile in ceramic or stone for a solid payoff. Buy extra tiles in case you break a few during installation. Set some tiles aside at the end of the job in case you need to make repairs in the future.
  • Give an old vanity a facelift with a new countertop for a clean fresh look buyers will love.
  • Use eye-fooling tricks to make a small bath look larger. A new pedestal sink is a smart replacement for an old cabinet. The smaller footprint gives the illusion of space.
#6 Major Kitchen Remodel
Average return at resale: 91 percent
  • A complete kitchen remodel in a midrange home averages $43,862 and returns $39,920 at resale. That price buys 30 ft. of cabinets, an island, laminate countertops, stainless sink, wall oven, cook top, vinyl flooring and appliances.
  • If your home’s value rises and your kitchen’s finishes don’t, do a major remodel rather than small fix-ups. Budget 10 to 15% percent of your home’s value remodeling the kitchen.
  • Kitchens feel bigger when there are fewer obstacles. Removing cabinets over a counter gives a wide open feel.
  • An eat-in kitchen is a big plus – give it a deluxe touch with a built in banquet or bench and nice pillows.
  • Local granite dealers that sell (or even give away) remnants then charge for cuts and installation can be a bargain option if you need 8 feet or less of countertop.
  • Planning to sell? Stick with neutral colors for walls and window treatments.
  • Tin ceiling tiles make an affordable, custom backsplash.
  • Put your home in the best light. Perk up a dark kitchen with French doors that’ll let sun in.
#7 Deck, Patio or Porch Addition
Average return at resale: 90.3 percent
  • Adding a 16x20 ft. pressure-treated wood deck with a simple pattern costs about $11,000. At resale, you’ll get about $10,000 of that back, a recoup rate of 90 percent.
  • One simple but effective trick — add eye-appeal with decorative planters on the front porch, patio and decks.
  • Give a courtyard an impressive entry with an inviting gate, lighting and mature plantings. These small improvements will have a big impact at closing.
  • Use bold plantings to emphasize features, or to distract the eye from flaws.
  • Run-down stairs lower your profit margin, so make sure porch railings are safe and attractive.
  • Camouflage unattractive air conditioning units with a wooden trellis.
#8 Replacement Windows
Average return at resale: 89.6 percent
  • Replacing 10 3x5 ft. windows runs about $9,700. On average nationally, you’ll get back $8,700 when you sell, a recoup rate of nearly 90 percent.
  • Big city window replacements pay off. The average homeowner recoups more than she spends on replacement windows in San Francisco, Seattle, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, New York City and Boston.

#9 Family Room Addition
Average return at resale: 83 percent
  • The average family room addition costs $54,464 and adds $45,458 at resale, a recoup rate of 83 percent.
  • The highest recoup rates occur in high-cost Western markets.
  • A sunroom counts in the home’s square footage only when the room is heated and cooled for year-round use.
  • A sunroom adds value only in upscale neighborhoods. It won’t bring in higher bids in lower-end neighborhoods.
  • An addition shouldn’t be obvious. Make sure it has an open transition. A wider interior doorway and more substantial steps visually connect the addition to the rest of the house.
  • Shop local window manufacturers to find offer good deals.


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While the DFCU Financial Board of Directors intends to pay Cash Back every year, and has done so since 2006, Cash Back is not guaranteed and will depend on our financial performance and other factors. Annual Cash Back payments are limited to an aggregate of $25,000 for each tax-reported owner. The IRS requires that Cash Back for an IRA be paid to the same IRA account, and that it be open when Cash Back is deposited. Cash Back to Business Banking members is subject to additional terms. Anyone who causes DFCU Financial a loss for any reason is not eligible for Cash Back.