A home’s curb appeal is at the top of most profitable remodeling projects, according to a report out this week that details remodeling costs versus value.

Every penny counts for homeowners and home sellers in a slumping housing market and those looking to remodel will consider the return on value of specific projects.

Three of the four projects with the highest national percentage of costs recouped this year were exterior upgrades, according to the report produced by Hanley Wood LLC in cooperation with Realtor Magazine.

The most profitable project on the national level was upscale siding replacement, recouping 88 percent of costs upon resale. Wood deck additions and wood window replacements also returned more than 80 percent of costs, at 85 percent and 81 percent, respectively. On a national average, the only interior project to return more than 80 percent of remodeling costs this year was a minor kitchen remodel, returning 83 percent of project costs at resale.

The 2007 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 29 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 60 markets across the country. Data are provided for nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. (See www.costvsvalue.com.)

Four new projects were added this year: the aforementioned wood deck addition, a back-up power generator, and both a midrange and upscale garage addition. Nationally, the back-up power generator only returned 58 percent of the investment on resale, although the return was highest in the West South Central region, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, at 68 percent.

Buyers in the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington value their garages: The midrange garage addition returned nearly 70 percent nationally but 88 percent in this region, while the upscale garage addition returned approximately 65 percent nationally but 78 percent in this area.

Homeowners in the Pacific region could also expect to see some of the highest percentages of remodeling expenses returned at resale, with 13 of the 29 projects returning 90 percent or higher of project costs.

Homeowners in the East North Central region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin might expect some of the lowest returns; only one project — upscale fiber cement siding — returned more than 80 percent upon resale (82 percent of costs recouped), while nine projects returned less than 60 percent of project costs.

The least profitable projects were a back-up power generator, sunroom addition, and home office remodel. The back-up power generator returned the lowest percentage of initial cost in the East North Central, New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), Pacific, and West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) regions.

Sunrooms are least popular in the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee), Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming), and West South Central regions.

Home office remodels return the lowest percentage of project costs in the Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) regions.

A PDF containing data for any of the 60 cities covered by the report is available at costvsvalue.com.

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