The best - and worst - home improvements to make this year

Most homeowners will make improvements or do renovations over time, but if you are hoping to get back everything you’ve spent on those projects when you sell your property, you should focus on keeping what you already have in really great condition rather than making more radical changes.
That’s the word from Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who says: “As agents we see this all the time – less expensive projects like repainting your home, or waterproofing the roof, or sanding and resealing your wooden floors usually generate much better returns on expenditure than big additions and alterations.”
And this is underlined, he says, by the results of the latest research by Remodeling Magazine, which has published an annual Cost vs Value report for the past 30 years to help owners decide which professionally-done home improvements are most likely to pay off. (For key trends see )
“This research clearly shows that making your existing home the best it can be is the most cost effective course of action, with the top-ranking projects of the year – those likely to generate the highest return on money spent - being the installation of fibreglass ceiling insulation, the installation of a steel front door, the improvement of the exterior appearance of your home, a minor kitchen remodel and a garage door replacement.”
Commenting on the results, Remodeling Magazine editor Craig Webb says it is worth noting that that some of the most common home improvement projects, like adding a bathroom or bedroom, recoup the least amounts on resale of the property. Indeed, major alterations generate an average return on investment of about 64%, while smaller home improvements and repairs pay back an average of about 74%.
In addition, Remodeling found that exterior or “curb appeal” projects paid back an average of almost 75% while interior projects returned just 63% on average. “And this also holds true for SA,” says Kotzé, “because we generally like to spend a lot of our leisure time outside, gardening or swimming or entertaining round the braai.
“Spending money on a poolside patio or new thatch for the lapa is likely to give you a much better payoff, rand for rand, than a new kitchen or an extra bathroom. And it will still increase the appeal of your home for prospective buyers. In fact, kitchens and bathrooms are such personal spaces that a major revamp might not pay off at all if your dream makeover fails to impress a buyer that has totally different taste.”
Meanwhile, the Remodeling Magazine report does identify a couple of new renovation themes which appear to be catching on strongly and are likely to generate increasingly good returns. The first of these is making homes more energy-efficient, and it encompasses projects such as the installation of ceiling insulation, solar geysers, and rainwater tanks.
The second is “universal design” which ensures that a home can be navigated and used just as easily by the elderly or disabled as anyone else, and it reflects increasing lifespans and a growing preference for “ageing in place”. It includes relatively easy-to-make improvements like grab bars in bathrooms, no-threshold showers, lever-style doorknobs, and countertops and sinks that can accommodate a wheelchair if necessary.

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