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This article was published on: 11/01/2000

Resale value of the most popular home remodeling projects

Cost vs. value
Remodeling for Dollars

What costs and returns can consumers expect from home improvements? Our annual report provides the skinny.

You’ve got a nice listing that would be a great catch—with some fixing up. Some buyers are interested, but they have just a couple questions.

How much will it cost? And much of the cost can they get back in a resale?

Helping you answer these questions is what this “2000 Cost vs. Value Report” is all about. Compiled by Remodeling magazine and published annually in REALTOR® Magazine through an editorial partnership, the study compares the cost of and expected return on the 10 most popular home improvements across the country, four of which we present here: a master suite, basement refinishing, re-roofing, and sunroom addition.

Read about six other projects--a minor kitchen remodel, two-story addition, bathroom addition, bathroom remodel, family room addition, and exterior painting--by clicking on the links.

Master Suite
When Mom and Dad get tired of listening to rap music, computer games, television, and arguments about whose turn it is to feed the dog, they retire for the evening to their self-contained retreat--the master suite.

The rising popularity of the master suite reflects both demographics and taste. Both empty-nesters and couples with children like it and want it. Even many singles go for the power bedroom look, with its spaciousness and convenient at-hand bath.

“A master suite with accompanying bath is a great seller,” Des Moines, Iowa, real estate practitioner Ray Dennis says.

But it doesn’t come cheap. HomeTech estimates the cost of adding a master suite at $63,736. That figure is considerably less expensive in the South--$56,969. But nationwide, a master suite addition will recoup 72 percent of costs, or $45,610.

Remodeler Tips
A bay—whether a sitting bay or a bay window—adds dimension to the room.—Ron Roell, interior remodeling specialist, Cincinnati

Place high transom windows above the bedroom wall. Doing that allows both for privacy and for light to penetrate.—John Duncan, architect, Moon Brothers, a design-build remodeling firm, Atlanta

The addition of an undercabinet refrigerator makes the suite even more of a hideaway.—Pam Enz, an interior designer with M/A/Peterson, Edina, Minn.

Project Description: On a house with two or three bedrooms, add a 24-by-16-foot master bedroom suite over a crawl space. Include a walk-in closet. In master bath, include dressing area, whirlpool tub, separate ceramic tile shower, and double-bowl vanity. Bedroom floor, carpet; bathroom floor, ceramic tile.

Next: Basement refinishing>
Cost vs. value . . .

Basement refinishing presents remodelers with its own unique set of challenges: how to conceal pipes, poles, soffits, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical while providing adequate light and safe egress. But perhaps the biggest challenge is to build in a way that obliterates the stereotype of dropped ceilings, exposed ducts, and cheap paneling.

Pure economics makes it all worthwhile. Contractors such as Ron Roell of Cincinnati, who specializes in basements, claim that a lower-floor retrofit can increase living space for a quarter of the cost of an addition. The extra space appeals to buyers. “Technically, it’s not square footage because it’s underground,” says Connecticut real estate pro Vince Lapenta. “But people see it as a kind of bonus room.”
Water tables and soil instability make basements impractical in Southeast and South Central states like Florida and Texas. In other areas, real estate pros rate basements near the bottom—no pun intended—of remodeling investment return, yielding 69 percent, $27,261 on an average investment of $39,658.

Remodeler Tips
Framing with steel studs eliminates warping and dry rot and can be done for about a third of the cost.—Ron Roell, interior remodeling specialist, Cinncinnati

Install Sheetrock rather than drop ceiling tiles to avoid the do-it-yourself basement look.—Pam Enz, an interior designer with M/A/Peterson, Edina, Minn.

With light at a premium, paint woodwork white, which reflects natural light rather than absorbing it.—Ron Roell, interior remodeling specialist, Cinncinnati

Project Description: Refinish the lower level of a house, adding a 20-by-30-foot entertainment area, an 8-by-12-foot wet bar area, a 5-by-8-foot full bath, and a 12-by-12-foot auxiliary room (bedroom or office, for example). Walls are of 2x4 construction with electrical outlets as per local building codes, painted drywall surfaces, and three-and-a-half-inch primed ogee baseboard. Exterior walls include fiberglass insulation.

Ceilings are of five-eighths-inch fire-rated painted drywall. Include five six-panel primed hardboard doors in primed jambs. Lighting is to feature 15 recessed can fixtures and three installed light fixtures. Bathroom features toilet, 36-inch vanity with simulated marble top in solid white or almond, ceramic floor tiles, 36-by-36-inch fiberglass shower unit, a light-fan combination, wall-mount light fixture, and 36-by-42-by-one-quarter-inch plate-glass mirror. Bar area features raised-panel oak cabinets, laminate countertops, 14-by-14-inch stainless steel bowl with faucet combination, undercounter refrigerator, and ceramic floor tile.

Next: Re-roofing>

Cost vs. value . . .
"If you’re driving around and you see a house with a 20-year-old gray asphalt shingle roof, it’s old and boring,” Fort Worth, Texas, real estate appraiser William Durham says, especially when compared to some of the aluminum shakes or composition shingles that have color or texture."

A new roof dresses up the house as seen from the curb. HomeTech estimates a homeowner can have one installed for roughly $10,000. But returns on that investment rank at the bottom of the Cost vs. Value list. It brings back only $6,100, on average. Some real estate pros report recouping as little as 33 percent (Lancaster, Pa.) or 36 percent (Salt Lake City).

The reason is simple: Re-roofing falls into the maintenance and repair category. Real estate pros say buyers are willing to discuss decorating changes but expect an intact roof. “It’s not a question of whether you’ll get it back but of whether you'll sell the house," says Iowa real estate pro Ray Dennis. On the other hand, a new roof assures buyers they’ll be spared leaks for a decade or two.

Remodeler Tips
Tie the color of the roof to the base of the house, so the roof doesn’t just “go away.”—Pam Enz, an interior designer with M/A/Peterson, Edina, Minn.

Three-dimensional shingles are slightly more expensive and a lot more appealing.—Ron Roell, interior remodeling specialist, Cinncinnati

Lighter shingles, which reflect more light and gain less heat, last longer.—John Duncan, architect, Moon Brothers, a design-build remodeling firm, Atlanta

A fungicide embedded in the materials prevents moss and other shade growth.—Duncan

Project Description: Remove existing roofing to bare wood. Install 3,000 square feet (30 squares) of new fiberglass shingles with new felt underlayment.

Next: Sunroom Addition>
Cost vs. value
Sunroom Addition
Sunrooms, like decks and porches, merge indoor and outdoor space. Unlike porches and decks, however, they’re enclosed space, combining the light and visuals of outside with the heat and comfort of within. Year-round use is a major advantage.

For prospective homebuyers, sunrooms, like porches and decks, fall in the category of extras. “It adds to the value, no doubt,” Fort Worth, Texas, appraiser William Durham says. “But the typical buyer might see it as maybe half as valuable as original living area. It’s not a critical feature; it’s just a nice thing to have, like a sprinkler system.”

HomeTech estimates that installing a manufactured sunroom—not the designed and stick-built type—costs $27,081 nationally and would return about 60 percent of that, $16,247, in a resale. But real estate pros in some parts of the United States report considerably higher returns. In Washington, D.C., a $26,751 sunroom is estimated to bring back $24,400—91 percent of cost—at resale.

Remodeler Tips
Use a brand-name manufacturer. The lifetime warranty is as good as the lifetime of the company.—Duncan

Avoid the all-white monochrome look by installing a ceiling fan made of brass and wood.—Enz

Ready-made window treatments—fabric and blinds—enhance the in-home feel of the room.—Enz

Project Description: Add a 200-square-foot sunroom to a two-story post-World War II house. Form and pour footings and build foundation. Walls will be of extruded aluminum with windows of double-paned glass. Insulate roof and ceiling. Add ceiling fan.

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