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bathroom remodel, modern bathroomA brand new bathroom will add about $23,000 to the resale value of your home. Photo: Los Angeles Times

As someone who's practically obsessed with my home, here's my wish: that every dollar I spend fixing it up will be returned to me when I sell it.

Wouldn't that be a great argument to have when my husband and I engage in remodeling wars? He would say: "That's too much to spend." And I would say: "So what? We'll get it all back when we sell the house."

Of course, that scenario is far from reality. Rarely will you get back 100% of a project's initial cost when you resell your house.

Case in point: If I spend $39,000 to add a new bathroom, I can expect it to increase the appraised value of my home by $23,000, which means I will recoup only 60% the cost when I sell my home.

How do I know this? I read Remodeling Magazine's 22nd annual Cost vs. Value Report. Relying on input from real estate agents and other building professionals, the report rates the 33 most popular major home improvement projects based on cost vs. resale value -- basically, how much they'll each add to the dollar value of your house.

So why invest in these major improvements? In our current buyer's market, says the National Association of Realtors, houses with well-done improvements tend to sell quicker than their shabbier neighbors.

Looking to remodel? A new attic bedroom will yield the highest return on investment. Photo: Janesdead, Flickr

Of course, some improvements are more popular with buyers than others. The top rated projects include a $49,000 attic bedroom (which adds 81% of its cost -- or $41,000 -- to the value of your home), an $11,000 wood deck (recoups 80% of its cost -- or $8,500) and a $21,000 minor kitchen remodel (recoups 78% of its cost, or almost $17,000).

I know what you're thinking: Spending $21,000 on a kitchen remodel is considered a minor remodel? Well, Remodeling Magazine is primarily read by contractors, so most of these "cost" figures are actually based on contractor fees -- not necessarily DIY work. But the "value" part of the equation -- the amount the improvement adds onto the appraised value of your home -- remains the same.

But how about if you do DIY it?

That brings us back to the bathroom. Let's say you and your brother-in-law and your fireman buddy from high school are really handy and do the addition yourselves for, say, $23,000 in materials, permits and tools. That addition, according to this report, will add $23,000 onto the cost of the house. That equals a 100% return. The conclusion: It pays (literally) to DIY .

I can just hear my husband and I arguing over that one.

Him: "It's too much to spend."
Me: "We'll get ALL our money back when we sell."
Him: "OK, but I'm not doing all the work myself. Are you with me on this one?"
Me: "Let's roll."

So as you're perusing the numbers on the Cost vs. Value Report, be sure to mentally figure the cost to DIY. You could even come out ahead.

To research costs for professionally done projects, expected recoup value, and trends in your area, click on your region below.

New England
Middle Atlantic

South Atlantic
East South Central
West South Central

East North Central
West North Central


To compare projects and regions, go to the Cost vs. Value Report.

  • helena

    We recently did a little remodeling to our home to try and sale it. We have found out that the more you do the more people want and the less that they want to pay.
    My experience is to only remodel if you plan on reaping the benefits and living in that home for awhile. Fresh coats of paint are enough. If someone is interested and insists on new carpet, a new appliance, or something else, GIVE AN ALLOWANCE!

  • Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thank you for your insights, Helena. I think that's great advice to mainly do remodels for the benefit of your family and not only as a sales tactic.

  • Matman

    This article is completely flawed at the end...I have yet to see a homeowner complete a room addition as good as the professionals do it. In fact, I have seen some "remodeling" comp[anies that can't even get a floor level. And guess what, if you and a buddy who considers himself handy makes a major flaw with the room addition (which jhappens in a lot of cases), you get a house that CAN'T be sold because it is condemed!

  • Kathy Price-Robinson

    I agree that the typical homeowner won't do as good a job as the best professional. Not even close. But as you said, even some so-called professionals will not do a good job, thus the beauty of DIY. If someone's going to mess up, I'd rather it be me than someone I've paid tens of thousands of dollars. In my line of work, writing about remodels, I've seen some pretty darn decent DIY additions. And if DIY-ers are getting permits and building inspections along the way (foundation, pre-drywall, etc.), I don't see how they could end up with a condemned house.

  • Bob

    We just remodeled our kitchen (tile, cabinets, countertops and paint) and spent less than $10,000 by doing it all ourselves (except for the granite countertop). Though we have no immediate plans to sell, I do believe that the $10,000 spent will turn into at least a $20,000 boost in the sale price.

  • DiDi

    My husband is a home inspector and literally several times a week he sees really shoddy/poor workmanship on what is supposed to be home upgrades. If you do it yourself, make sure you do it correctly. FYI, just because someone is a general contractor doesn;t mean they are experts at all phases of construction.

  • Melissa

    Ok...normally I don't respond to any message boards, but I couldn't sit on this comment any longer..
    WHY do people place "remodel" hand in hand with "selling my house"???? Why not remodel your house and live in the damn thing instead of just looking at the next flip??? Buy a goddamned fixer upper that is the size you're looking to BE in for a LONG time, remodel it to your tastes, and LIVE in the f-ing house, have a family in the house, grow OLD in the house.. Jeezus, why do people keep approaching everything with the attitude of not getting attached to it, making it a temporary thing??? My sister in law ONLY leases cars "because she gets tired of them after a couple of years", so she'll be paying a car payment until she dies.... I just don't get it!!!!
    If you've been relocated to a new location because of your job, that's one thing, but WHY only remodel your home so you can sell it? I watch HGTV shows on the weekends, and when they get into staging houses for people who can't sell them, once they make the changes to the homes, the people usually make comments akin to "wow..why didn't we do this? I love this!"
    We do so many people suffer from ADD in this area??

  • Jake

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a licensed contractor in the State of California, U.S.A.

    I love this beautiful country; I live here and I plan to live here for the rest of my life.

    As I was reading your blog entry, I again met the sad reality; it appears that we---Americans---never learn our lesson.

    Before I say the reason of my opinion, I'd like to second Matman's entire comment. Dear Kathy, I feel what Matman says; by saying "some "remodeling" companies" Matman meant people who are unprofessional and who shouldn't be in this serous business.

    Home improvement construction is a very serous business; even a replacement of a power outlet requires a permit. A permit is not a piece of paper that is issued to someone or somebody. A permit is given so that later on the work can be checked by the local housing inspector.

    Lets say a homeowner is a DIY-ing his/her house and they need to change some outlets in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in name it; I'd strongly suggest them: be careful...wait, let me write that again BE CAREFUL! DANGER!

    Danger is not just in power's what may happen after; if you have short somewhere, you may burn your entire house. Or, if you fixed your house and sold it to someone...they'd be toasted in the end. Now, is that something that you thought of? I'm quite sure not.

    In general, people think that home improvement construction is an easy task. Believe me, it's not easy at all. Let's take, for example, carpenter's work.

    A carpenter works with a table saw, routers, shapers, jointers, planers, sanders, brad nailers, name it. All these tools have very SHARP cutter blades, metallic parts, sharp points and, most importantly, these sharp cutter blades cycle at very high speeds...somewhere around 5000 to 10000 rounds per minute.

    What this means is, if you accidentally get your body in contact with these tools, you're pretty much screwed. I know, you may say, hey there's a SawStop table saw that doesn't cut your case if you guys want to see what I'm talking about, check out this link Well, even in this case it's unsafe. SawStop is just a corporation and we're human; in case SawStop doesn't stop 100 per cent, then someone losses his or her fingers. Anyway, my word on this is that this trade--that is carpentry---is NOT safe.

    So, why should we misdirect people---especially ones who read your article.

    An another perspective is that this article kind of hurts American businesses. I hope President Obama won't find this article, because he'd go nuts, or call you a Republican (I don't know your political orientation :) and I really don't want to know.)

    When you're trying to save a buck and get your kitchen cabinets from a store, chances are you're getting something made in China (or, a new label that fools people Made in P.R.C---that is Peoples Republic of China, darn it.) So, tell me deary, do we know under what ecological regulations were these cabinetry made? I know people who import from China and I know especially one guy who lost his eye sight because he tried to alternate a Chinese made Kitchen Cabinet. Apparently these cabinets contain some chemical finishes that are hazardous to humans. Such chemicals, as far as I know, are prohibited in California (tho you may still use some in Arizona.)

    Purchasing Chinese made products in construction will be destructive for all of us.

    Jake @ Palo Arte

    P.S. Be sure to check out Project 350

  • Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thanks for your well-thought-out comments, Jake! You are spot on in terms of safety. Yes, remodeling is dangerous. I stay away from power saws and would never do electrical work.

    But, this being that great free country called United States of America, people are going to want to do their own work. It's just how some of us roll. And as we are a DIY site, we naturally want to help do-it-yourselfers do it better and safer. Otherwise, we'd just put one sentence on the home page -- Don't do anything yourself. Hire someone -- and then we'd go home and look for jobs.

    I can't buy the notion of DIY-ers hurting small companies. Am I putting a nail salon out of business each time I trim my nails? Are you putting the car wash out of business when you wash your own car? Do I have to start feeling guilty about mowing my lawn?

    It's a very personal decision what we do for ourselves and what we hire out. And with all the bad experiences people have with incompetent, overly committed, disorganized and underfunded contracting companies, well, there's going to be a backlash. The homeowners are partly at fault for taking the lowest bids so often, even when a much better company would do the work for a slightly higher cost. There seems to be a demand for bad companies.

    So again, thanks for your comments. I hear ya! And I hope you prosper in the coming year by finding a whole bunch of great clients.

    P.S. I did check out the 350 project at and it's very impressive.

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