5 Remodeling or Updating Suggestions That Pay Off Big at Resale

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

Confused about how to spend your budget?  When you get ready to put your home on the market, everyone has an opinion. You want to put your money where it will give you the best return on your investment - but where is that? 

Here are a few suggestions that should give you a good return on your investment and shorten the time that you spend on the market. If you put the effort into getting your current property ready for market, you will soon be packing to move to your next home!  Thanks to Jackie Grave of Number1AgentsUSA.com for the estimates of expense and ROI for these five projects. 

#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. Fill the tub with water after you’re done to stretch caulk while it dries.

If your old tub is too large to fit out the door, re-glaze it for a like-new finish. Cost: $300 to $400.

Remove dated wall coverings and apply a fresh coat of paint. For damaged walls, spray-on texture provides quick coverage.

Replace old shower doors or remove them to add the illusion of space. 

NOTE: ROI values and remodeling costs are subject to change.

#2 Landscaping

Average return at resale: 100 percent

The average homeowner spends about $3,502 for landscaping and $1,465 on a designer, according to the American Nursery Landscape Association.

Not sure where to start? Local garden centers often offer free design services, or ask the neighbors what works for them. Be sure to use plants that work in the mid-Atlantic region. They will last longer and require less care. 

Sod costs about 30 to 35 cents a square foot, so a 15,000 sq. ft. yard would cost about $4,500 to sod. Budget for delivery fee if you buy less than 1,000 sq. ft. of sod.

A splash of color at the front of the house is an eye-catching plus. For maximum impact, use one color and vary the height of plants. If you are planting to put your home on the market now, pick plants that will survive the summer heat. If you are planting for your own enjoyment, pick a variety of plants that will bloom at different times through the spring to fall.

If your doorway is overwhelmed by greenery, get out the shears. Replace overgrown shrubbery with flowering foundation plants, mixing heights and colors for dramatic effect.

A charming focal point like a walkway and fountain adds major value to your property. Roll a sealant on flagstones for a permanent wet look that enhances the color.

#3 Minor Kitchen Remodel

Average return at resale: 98.5 percent

A minor kitchen remodel averages $14,913 for $14,691 at resale, a recoup rate of 98.5 percent. Do a 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. Granite will add a few thousand more but the investment is worth it around here! 

Put recessed lights 3’ to 5’ apart on center and 18" from cabinets to light the countertops. Running the lights between two joists is easier than running through the joists.

If your home is worth more than $500,000, go with stone, granite or trendy glass countertops.

Cover 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. Consider adding wood floors if your budget allows it.

Brighten up the kitchen by sanding and painting existing cabinets. It's much less expensive than buying new ones. Add new knobs and handles for a quick update. 

Add decorator detail without the cost by changing drapes and window molding.

#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 percent.

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. 

If your house was painted before 1978, test for lead before sanding or scraping.

Upscale, fiber-cement siding costs $10,393 and returns $10,771 at resale, an even better recoup rate of 103.6 percent. Just make sure that your contractor doesn't put that upscale fiber-cement siding too close to the ground but allows some clearance. 

If you need columns to hold up a pergola, purchase the load-bearing type. Fiberglass composite columns are popular and durable. Check salvage yards for unique historic columns.

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 Living Room Updates - Decor

Average return at resale: 66 percent

It costs around $1,500 for staging and updating living room decor with new light switches, outlet covers, floor registers, crown molding, chair rails and drapes, plus fresh flowers and accessories.

Details add dollars. Crown molding gives a room a crisp, clean finish that buyers love.

Choose molding that complements window trim and floorboards. Prices start at around $1.40 per linear foot.

Shift furniture away from the walls to make living rooms feel larger and morecontemporary. Create a seating area around a feature you want buyers to notice, like a dramatic fireplace.

If you’re staging your home to sell, don’t move excess furniture and clutter into the garage. Rent a storage unit for about $1 per square foot per month.

New window treatments are a cost-conscious way to add a punch of designer color.

For low ceilings, create the illusion of height by positioning drapes and valances higher on the wall.


If you are confused by what you should be doing to sell your home, simplify your choices by getting expert guidance.

With nearly thirty years experience in guiding sellers through the process of getting their homes ready to put on the market with staging and small remodeling projects,

Lise Howe has a long list of vendors who can help you put your home into picture perfect condition. Call her at 240-401-5577 or email her at lise@lisehowe.com to start getting your home ready to sell!


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Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

Good morning, Lise Howe those are great guidelines for all homeowners to follow... I have already followed most of them with my rehab of the home I live in.... I can fully understand why so many homeowners hire you for direction and guidance with the sale of their properties... I'd be doing that, if I lived in your area.... 

May 29, 2017 05:40 AM #1
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

This is a nice guide, Lisa. Too many people think every upgrade will result in a higher price but that's not the case. They need to know when it's prudent to spend money on an improvement and when it's best to leave it alone.

May 29, 2017 06:23 AM #2
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

That is about what I thought, kitchens and bathrooms are always the ones that seem to benefit the most from updating.

May 29, 2017 06:31 AM #3
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Good morning Lisa.  My wife and I were at a home the other day.  My goodness did it ever need a remodel on both bathrooms.  It just wasn't worth the 20K +.  Great floor plan, I guess that is why it hasn't sold yet. 

May 30, 2017 01:43 AM #4
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Good Morning Lise Howe and what a great blog to write about.  Everyone wants to know what gives them the best return.


May 30, 2017 06:07 AM #5
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Will Hamm - thanks for the kind words - it is always great to hear from you!

May 30, 2017 06:14 AM #6
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

James Dray - thanks for stopping by!  I am trying to find a way to get someone to work on remodeling the bathrooms of a client who wants to list his house - that fine line of good work at a low price - not ever easy!

May 30, 2017 06:15 AM #7
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Lise Howe

Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC
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