I was surprised to learn that upscale kitchen and bathroom upgrades don’t give you the best return on your investment.  It doesn’t mean you shoudn’t do it, especially if your kitchen and bathrooms are really dated and you plan to live in your home for many years as you’ll probably enjoy your house more and get more for your house when it comes time to sell… But if you want the biggest bang for the buck, here are five home improvement projects that will give you the highest return on investment according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2021 Cost vs Value Report.  

First, I’ll talk about our source, Remodeling Magazine.  Remodeling Magazine is a part of Hanley Wood Business Media that produces magazines like Architect, Builder and Custom Home.  They specialize in commercial and residential construction data in North America.  Remodeling Magazine is a business-to-business publication for residential remodelers.  If you google “best home improvements for resale,” a number of articles come up from a variety of sources and Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report is referenced more than once.  With this pedigree, it seems they are a reputable source of home remodeling information.  Let’s go to their website and check it out.

On their home page, you’ll see a link to their Cost vs Value report.  On that page, home improvement projects are listed in descending order from the highest rate of return to the lowest.  Next to each project is its average cost, its estimated resale value and cost recouped.  This is national data but we’re interested in the five home improvements with the highest returns in Los Angeles, so click on the Pacific region then to Los Angeles, California.  This data is free but to access it you’ll have to register after which you will be able to download a pdf with this data.  I already registered so that’s why I’m able to click right through.  Click on a project and you’ll go to that project page.  

So number one in Los Angeles is…

Number one – install a new garage door.

The before and after is an example of what an upgraded door could look like and the idea is that the new garage door looks better, more interesting and appealing than the old one.  The cost is based on replacing the door and the hardware the door rolls on but keeping the door opener motor.  At this cost, you should be able to get an insulated door that is pre-painted at the factory with pinch-resistant seals between the panels, insulated windows and comes with a warranty.  At this cost you can replace the tracks with new heavy duty galvanized steel tracks, galvanized steel hinges on the door sections mounted on ball bearing urethane rollers for smooth operation.  Average cost for the LA area:  $4,107, estimated resale value $4,025 to get 98% of the cost recouped

Number two, change the look of the front of your house with manufactured stone veneer. 

Stone veneer is basically a backsplash for the front of your house except that the backsplash is made up of natural looking, stacked stone.  This can completely transform the look of your home.  The estimated cost is to put on a 300 square foot band around the front, bottom third of your house that faces the street.  This is quite a bit of work, chicken wire  sheathing with water barriers have to be installed on which a mortar scratch coat is applied on which the veneer would be buttered on.  The rendering for this shows the entryway changed to an arched opening as well but this project is just to apply a manufactured stone veneer to the lower part of the house only.  Average cost for the LA area:  $11,113 with an estimated resale value of $10,669, which amounts to recovering 96% of the cost.  

Number three, a minor kitchen remodel with mid-range appliances and finishes.  

Upgrading your kitchen will transform the look and feel of the inside of your house and could make using it more enjoyable.  The cost for this is based on a 200 square foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops.  The cabinet boxes are left intact, just the cabinet front, drawer fronts and hardware are replaced with new.  Counters are replaced with laminate; the sink and faucet are replaced as well as all appliances with energy efficient models.  Flooring is changed to resilient laminate and walls, trim and ceiling are repainted.  This is the most expensive project on the list and costs can easily run away from you.  The idea is to keep it a “minor remodel” for the best return so update, not upscale, everything should be mid-range, mid-priced.  Average cost for the LA area:  $30,551 with a resale value of $27,388, a cost recovery of 89.6%.  

Number four, make your front door into a grand entrance

This project goes one up on upgrading the entry door which along with the stone veneer will transform the look of your house.  The cost includes removing the existing door and enlarging the opening so that sidelights can be installed on either side of a new door.  An upscale door with matching decorative sidelights is installed with upscale hardware.  Work would need to be done to finish the wall that was cut to enlarge the opening including relocating any electrical switches or lights.  Average cost for the LA area:  $10,965 with an estimated resale value of $9,382 for a cost recovery of 85.6%.  

Number five, replace your windows with new vinyl frame windows

Replacing the windows can improve the look of your house and more importantly, should improve the energy efficiency of your house by keeping as much of the expensive, conditioned air inside.  The cost for this will obviously vary by the number of windows you have.  The average cost is to replace 10, 3’ x 5’ double hung windows with insulated, low-E, simulated divided light, vinyl windows.  Vinyl windows offer better energy efficiency than aluminium or wood windows, don’t need as much maintenance and are cheaper.  This is the second most expensive project on the list.  Average cost for the LA area:  $21,502, estimated resale value $17,839, and 83% cost recovery.  

So those are the five home improvements with the highest returns in Los Angeles.  As you may have noticed, four out of five of these projects are about improving curb appeal, it’s that first impression that you want to make count.  If you’ve got an older, dated home, doing these improvements should not only improve future resale value but also give you greater pride of ownership and enjoyment of your house until you do sell.

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This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.