As first-time homeowners, we watch more than our share of DIY Network / HGTV / buying and selling home shows. My wife and I work as a team: she concentrates on making home improvements, and I’m concerned with making sure things don’t fall apart. I also worry sometimes that any project we undertake might be a waste of money, or at least, not realize the return that some people promise.
I’m sort of haunted by this phrase that shows up in a commercial for DIY Network’s show “Sweat Equity”, where the host Amy Matthews is heard to say, “You’ll get two dollars back for every dollar you spend.” That might have been true when she said it, depending on which project she was talking about in the specific real estate climate she was in at the time. I asked my parents, who have dozens of years of real estate experience between them, and my father, who is as scientifically-minded as I am, found me a good resource:
Remodeling Online has a “Cost vs. Value Report” that analyzes the average cost of 29 common projects one might undertake to increase the resale value of a home – if not the resale value, at least the likelihood that someone will buy it.
What’s more, they have specific information for different regions of the country, even down to the City level in some cases. Where we live, for example, remodeling the bathroom will recoup 90.9% of what it cost us, when the national average is 78.3%. But none of the projects listed indicate a cost recoupment of over 100%, nationally or regionally, so we’ll probably never get even one dollar back for every dollar we spend. But that doesn’t mean we’ll stop making improvements. It just means that the main reason to make home improvements is for the sanity of the current owners. I’m okay with that.
(Here’s a direct link to where the average numbers come from, as well as complete descriptions for each project analyzed.)
Update: Justin points out in the comments (below) that my comparison isn’t quite fair, since in the Sweat Equity scenario, you’d be doing all the work yourself. The Cost vs. Value table assumes that you’re paying full price for labor, so there’s bound to be some percentage that you’d be saving / recouping by doing it yourself.
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published August 13, 2008.