According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, Americans spend $400 billion annually on home remodeling projects. Which of those projects bring the most joy? Which ones provide the best value?
To answer these questions, the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, published by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), offers insights from three distinct perspectives—consumers, real estate professionals, and remodeling experts.
First, to calculate a “joy score,” consumers were asked about their satisfaction and happiness with recent remodeling projects.
For perspectives on remodeling priorities and estimates of cost recovery at resale, NAR surveyed members (REALTORS®) who are engaged in residential transactions.
Estimates on the cost of each project were obtained through members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
Here are the top ten interior remodeling projects, ranked by joy scores:
1. Complete Kitchen Renovation (Joy Score = 10)
For many homeowners, the kitchen is the heart of the home, where meals are prepared and shared with loved ones. It’s a room that invites creativity but also takes a beating over time.
It’s not surprising that a complete kitchen renovation earned the highest joy score. It’s also the most expensive remodeling project, estimated at $68,000 with a 59 percent cost recovery rate ($40,000).
2. Closet Renovation (Joy Score = 10)
A brand new kitchen may top your wish list, but many homeowners were equally satisfied with renovating a closet. Improved functionality, livability, and storage organization are top drivers.
Among remodeling projects, closet renovations are relatively inexpensive, but they also had the lowest cost recovery rate (40 percent).
3. Full Interior Paint Job (Joy Score = 9.8)
A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to update rooms. Paint companies are happy to offer suggestions. Each year, for example, Benjamin Moore reveals its latest color trends.
The top reason for tackling a full interior paint job was “time for a change” (49 percent). Upgrading worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials was another top priority.
4. Individual Room Paint Job (Joy Score = 9.7)
Painting one room brought homeowners nearly as much satisfaction as a complete interior paint job. The top motivating factor was adding individual personality to the home.
5. Kitchen Upgrade (Joy Score = 9.7)
Even if you aren’t ready for a total kitchen overhaul, smaller upgrades are nearly as satisfying, and there are plenty of ways to make budget-friendly updates.
A kitchen upgrade ranked highest among REALTORS®, in terms of tips for successfully marketing a property. One out of five surveyed NAR members said kitchen upgrades helped close a sale.
6. Basement Conversion to Living Area (Joy Score = 9.5)
For homeowners eager to add livable square footage to their home, renovating space in an unfinished basement can be an optimal solution.
Additionally, this upgrade earned one the highest cost recovery estimates, at 64 percent.
7. Refinish Hardwood Flooring (Joy Score = 9.5)
Whether homeowners want to repair worn-out surfaces or update the look of their home, refinishing hardwood floors yielded a 9.5 joy score.
It’s a project that’s also expected to provide full cost recovery.
Over a quarter of REALTORS® (27 percent) have suggested sellers complete this renovation before attempting to sell their home.
8. Bathroom Renovation (Joy Score = 9.3)
Similar to kitchens, bathroom surfaces, finishes, and materials wear out over time or require updates.
Bathroom renovations are also strongly encouraged by REALTORS®, with one in three saying they have suggested sellers tackle this project before listing their home.
9. Insulation Upgrade (Joy Score = 9.3)
When you walk in the door of your home, you may not “see” an insulation upgrade, but you will probably feel it.
Improved energy efficiency is the overwhelming reason to tackle this project. Plus, unlike cosmetic updates, the cost recovery benefits of upgrading insulation improve over time.
10. New Bathroom Addition (Joy Score = 9.2)
If your family’s daily routines get bogged down by bathroom traffic jams, you may be a prime candidate for this renovation project. Bathroom additions are predominately undertaken to add features and improve a home’s livability.
Bathroom additions are also relatively cost-effective, with a 50 percent recovery estimate.