Get the Best Bang for Your Remodeling Buck

By: Victor Lisabeth
President, Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area, Inc.

Your home is your castle, but sometimes that castle may need a facelift. Remodeling is a great way to create a home environment that can meet your family’s changing needs and tastes without you having to spend a lot of money.

Before you spend your hard-earned dollars, however, make sure that the changes you make now will have longer-term benefits for you when you look to sell your home in the future.

You should find out what features are standard for homes in your neighborhood. If you have only one bathroom but most of the other homes average two or more, you will want to bring your house up to that standard. On the flipside, do not make changes that are too extravagant or out-of-place for your neighborhood. A local professional remodeler can offer good information to help with this decision.

Make sure you are not making changes that will turn off prospective buyers. “Keep in mind what future home buyers would like to see in their next home,” said Victor Lisabeth, Grand Bay Builders, and President of the HBAGTA. “It is often wiser to add an additional bathroom or bedroom rather than a sunroom or sauna, for example, which are costly and will not necessarily be a priority for someone else.”

The size and cost of your project matter as well. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University advises that smaller or midrange projects overall will tend to recover a higher percentage of their cost than larger, higher-end remodels.

For example, replacing old windows will generate a higher payback ratio than adding a high-end kitchen with all of the bells and whistles and it costs significantly less, according to Stephen Melman, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

Maintenance-related projects, such as siding and window replacement, are especially popular because these are repairs that are seen as necessary, but can also help improve curb appeal at fairly low costs in relation to other projects.

The top-ten midrange projects cited in Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report” that provide the highest percentage return are:

1. Deck Addition (wood) – 68.9 percent
2. Siding Replacement (vinyl) – 73.0 percent
3. Minor Kitchen Remodel – 69.1 percent
4. Window Replacement (wood) – 67.3 percent
5. Window Replacement (vinyl) – 67.1 percent
6. Major Kitchen Remodel – 66.5 percent
7. Bathroom Remodel – 64.3 percent
8. Attic Bedroom – 64.3 percent
9. Deck Addition (composite) – 64.2 percent
10. Basement Remodel – 59.1 percent

These numbers represent the average and percentages in the East North Central Region which includes Michigan. To get information on other projects that are the best investments for your area, check out the Remodeling magazine’s “2008-2009 Cost vs. Value Report” published by Hanley Wood online at

Whether you are looking to sell your house soon, or are just looking to remodel for yourself, it makes sense to keep an eye on how the changes you make now will reflect on your biggest investment down the road.

To find a professional remodeler in your area, contact your local Home Builders’ Association at 231-946-2305 or visit or

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