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Top 7 home renovations that can increase your property's value — and quality of life as you age

Updated
Top 7 home renovations that can increase your property's value (Vesnaandjic via Getty Images)

With home prices and mortgage rates skyrocketing to historic highs, more Americans than ever are choosing to renovate their existing homes over buying a new one. More than 55% of homeowners would rather invest in their current properties rather than move, a recent survey by Discover Home Loans revealed, with 57% currently undergoing home renovations or planning one in the next year.

However, as you age, your renovation priorities may change. Rather than focus only on resale value, you could find yourself prioritizing comfort, safety and the ability to age in place. The good news is that many home renovations can achieve both goals simultaneously.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the top seven renovations that offer the biggest bang for your buck — plus advice on how to finance your project and select a reliable contractor. We base our list on highest national averages and ROI according to Remodeling magazine’s 2024 Cost vs. Value data, but you’ll want to also consider your local housing market, personal budget and long-term goals when deciding how to spend your money on a home renovation.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $4,513
Average resale value: $8,751
Recouped cost: 193.9%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +91.2%

Replacing your garage door has become one of the most profitable home improvements for 2024, offering an incredible return on investment. This renovation not only enhances your home's curb appeal but also boasts an impressive average recoup cost of nearly 200% — a rare feat in the world of remodeling projects.

To get the most out of your investment and reduce maintenance requirements, consider durable and affordable materials like steel, aluminum or fiberglass for your new garage door. Installing an automatic garage door opener with a keypad can also improve convenience and accessibility for you and your family.

2. Entry door replacement: Steel

? Quick facts
Average cost: $2,355
Average resale value: $4,430
Recouped cost: 188.1%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +87.2%

Swapping out your entry door is another budget-friendly option that enhances your home's curb appeal and maximizes your return on investment — potentially recouping an impressive 188% on average. As an added perk, a new door can also improve your home's energy efficiency.

While choosing a midrange steel door can help you get the highest ROI, it’s also important to consider features that can help you get in and out of your house more easily as you age.

One smart choice is to install a wide, flat threshold, which minimizes tripping hazards and makes it easier to navigate with a walker or wheelchair. For added convenience, opt for a door with a smooth, easy-to-grip handle and a keyless entry system that can simplify how you enter your home.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $11,287
Average resale value: $17,291
Recouped cost: 153.2%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +50.9%

Manufactured stone veneer can be used to beautify a wide range of surfaces on your home, including exterior and interior walls, entryways and more. It’s designed to mimic natural stone but at a lower cost and with easier installation. By replacing your home's siding or even just your entryway with manufactured stone veneer, you could potentially recoup all of your expenses and more, with an average ROI of 153%.

Faux stone is also highly durable, able to withstand cold and heat without breaking down, which makes it an attractive option if you’re looking to stay in your home long term. And unlike natural stone, manufactured stone veneer doesn't require regular sealing or cleaning. However, it's crucial to ensure proper installation to prevent moisture damage or other issues that could compromise your home's integrity over time.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $11,353
Average resale value: $11,054
Recouped cost: 97.4%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +47%

With an average recoup cost of nearly 100%, a fiberglass grand entrance is an impressive entryway upgrade that can significantly enhance your home's attractiveness and value. This renovation typically includes installing a new fiberglass door, door sidelights, a transom window over the door, new door handles and a doorbell, giving it a wow factor to make your house stand out.

Opting for a fiberglass door over wood or steel is a good choice for aging in place, as the fiber-reinforced plastic is low-maintenance, energy-efficient and durable. To make your grand entrance even more accessible as you age, consider a threshold that’s flat to the ground, with lever-style handles and a keyless entry system or smart lock that eliminates fumbling for keys.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $27,492
Average resale value: $26,406
Recouped cost: 96.1%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +10.4%

Are your kitchen cabinets and appliances looking a little dated? Updating your kitchen with a minor midrange remodel is a timeless and smart renovation, allowing you to potentially recoup nearly your total costs. A minor midrange remodel typically includes improvements like refaced cabinets, energy-efficient appliances, new countertops or a sink, updated hardware, fresh flooring and a new paint job.

By opting for these smaller changes instead of a major structural overhaul — which might set you back $80,000 or more — you'll get the most value for your money. And if you're thinking about future needs, consider adding features like easy-to-read appliances that integrate smart-home technology, lower-profile shelving and easy-to-reach storage like lazy Susans that can ensure your kitchen remains accessible for years to come.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $20,619
Average resale value: $18,230
Recouped cost: 88.4%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: -0.1%

Replacing your home's siding with a composite like fiber cement can considerably improve its curb appeal and energy efficiency. Fiber cement offers the look of wood without the need for regular painting or staining. And with an average recouped cost of 88%, this renovation can be a financially sound investment, especially if your current siding is damaged or dated.

While using a midrange fiber cement will provide the best ROI, a higher-grade renovation with more expensive materials like brick or stone veneer offers a more luxurious look. You can also combine other aging-friendly renovations at the same time, like a new entry door with a wide, flat threshold or exterior lighting to improve visibility.

? Quick facts
Average cost: $17,615
Average resale value: $14,596
Recouped cost: 82.9%
Change in recouped cost from 2023: +32.7%

A wood deck adds a beautiful outdoor living area while boosting your home's value, with an average ROI of more than 80%. While that number isn’t as high as other renovations on our list, a midrange wood deck offers the best return on investment, even surpassing that of composite decks, which tend to be more expensive. On the other hand, composite decks have the advantage of being low maintenance, as they don't require regular sealing, staining or painting like their wood counterparts.

To make your deck more accessible and safe as you age, consider incorporating features like smooth handrails, nonslip surfaces and built-in seating for comfort and functionality. Ensuring that the deck is well lit and free of tripping hazards can further enhance safety and usability.

Not all homeowners have the cash saved to spruce up their homes. Here are some of the most popular ways homeowners finance renovation projects, including tapping into your home’s equity.

If you’ve built more than 20% equity in your home, a home equity line of credit is a way to borrow against that equity as a revolving line of credit, using your home as collateral. A HELOC typically comes with a variable rate and a 10-year draw period, followed by a 20-year repayment period, with an interest-only payment option during the draw period that depends on your lender.

Because you pay interest only on what you borrow, a HELOC can be a good choice when you don't know how much you’ll need to borrow for your renovations up front. Some HELOCs come with no closing costs, while others let you lock all or a portion of your line to a fixed rate, helping you to pay a lower rate on borrowed funds if or when rates decrease.

A home equity loan lets you borrow against your home’s equity, providing a lump sum of money up front, with a fixed interest rate and regular monthly payments. Home equity loans can be a good choice if you know exactly how much money you need for your renovation project and prefer the stability of fixed monthly payments that don’t fluctuate like HELOC payments.

Like HELOCs, home equity loans use your home as collateral, which presents a risk if you can’t keep up on your payments. But unlike a HELOC, which may have an interest-only draw period, you’ll be on the hook for a full principal and interest loan repayment every month after closing a home equity loan. Also, closing costs may apply with some home equity loans — which can add to the cost of borrowing.

Dig deeper: 4 ways to get equity out of your home while rates are high

If you have good to excellent credit and prefer not to use your home as collateral, an unsecured personal loan is another renovation financing option. Personal loans typically come with fixed interest rates and set repayment terms, easing how to predict and budget for repayments.

Interest rates on personal loans can be higher than secured home equity loans or HELOCs. But the stronger your credit and other financials, the lower the rate you could secure, with personal loan lenders like Lightstream offering starting rates of just 6.99% APR for those with excellent credit. If your credit isn’t as strong, think carefully before taking out a personal loan for home renovations, as rates can reach beyond 20% APR.

For smaller, lower-cost renovation projects, a balance transfer credit card can be a convenient financing option. These low-fee cards are designed to help you pay off high-interest debt, offering an introductory 0% APR period in which you can transfer over existing debts and pay no interest from 12 to 21 months, depending on the card and your credit score.

Many of these cards extend the no-interest promotional period to new purchases. If you can prioritize paying off what you borrow before the 0% offer expires, your card acts like an interest-free loan. But if you can’t? It will make your renovation more costly than you bargained for.

? Should you use your savings to pay for home improvements?

If you have the time to plan, opening a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit can be a lucrative way to sock away money for home updates and renovations. In today's high-rate environment, you can find high-yield accounts offering 5% APY and higher with low or no minimums, competitive with CDs that allow you to lock in guaranteed high rates for up to 12 months or longer — which is plenty of time to leverage the power of compound interest.

Dig deeper: High-yield savings account vs. CD: What to know when rates are high

Not all renovations are tax deductible, but qualifying upgrades might be if they fall into two key areas.

  • Renovations made for medical reasons, such as installing a wheelchair ramp or widening doorways to accommodate a disability, may qualify as a tax-deductible medical expense if made to care for you or a loved one. Deductions are subject to adjusted gross income thresholds and limitations, and you must itemize deductions on your tax return.

  • Home improvements that increase your home's energy efficiency, such as installing solar panels or energy-efficient windows in your primary residence, may qualify for tax credits. These credits can help offset the cost of the renovation, but they’re subject to change and you’ll want to note expiration dates.

Keep in mind that most home renovations are considered capital improvements and can’t be deducted in the year they’re completed. Rather, they may be used to adjust your home's cost basis when you sell the property, potentially reducing your capital gains tax liability.

No, not all renovations will yield a positive financial return on investment. While many of the renovations in our list — such as garage door replacements, manufactured stone veneer and minor kitchen remodels — are likely to recoup a significant portion of their costs, others may not.

Highly personal renovations can actually decrease a home's value. For example, installing a pool or hot tub may sound like a luxurious addition but can deter potential buyers who might see them as a maintenance burden or a safety hazard.

Other renovations that can decrease your home’s value include:

  • Overly customized or themed rooms, such as taste-specific wallpaper or design choices

  • High-end upgrades that don't align with the neighborhood's average home value

  • Removing bedrooms to create larger spaces

  • Inconsistent or poor-quality workmanship

However, as you get older, it’s wise to consider factors beyond just financial ROI. For example, renovations that make your home more comfortable, more accessible and easier to navigate can help you live independently longer, meaningfully improving your quality of life as you age. Even if they don't necessarily yield a high financial return, that peace of mind can be well worth the investment.

If you plan to age at home, consider incorporating into your renovations and upgrades features that add not only safety, but also wider independence into your everyday living. Here’s a brief checklist of high-level additions to weigh while you plan.

? Bathrooms

  • Install grab bars and nonslip flooring in the shower and around the toilet

  • Consider a walk-in shower with a low threshold or a curbless design

  • Build in lever-style faucets and easy-to-use controls

? Kitchens

  • Add pull-out shelves and install lazy Susans in lower cabinets for greater reach

  • Replace refrigerators with side-by-side models to avoid the need to stoop or reach too high for food

  • Consider a cooktop with easy-to-read controls and a light that indicates when a surface is hot

? Flooring and stairs

  • Install slip-resistant flooring materials, such as textured tile or low-pile carpeting

  • Lower thresholds between rooms so they’re close to the ground

  • Build in handrails on both sides of stairways

?Lighting and electrical

  • Add light switches at both ends of hallways and near entrances to each room to minimize risk of falling

  • Install electrical outlets at convenient heights of about 15 inches above the floor to prevent the need to bend

  • Consider a home automation system or smart home devices that allow for easy control of lighting, temperature and security features

A certified aging-in-place specialist can provide helpful, personalized advice tailored to your home. Contact the National Association of Home Builders at 800-368-5242 for more information.

One of the best ways to start your search is by asking for recommendations from family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers or visiting websites like HomeAdvisor, Houzz and Yelp that allow you to search for contractors in your area and read reviews from real customers..

You can also reach out to local hardware stores, building inspectors, architectural or engineering firms and local chapters of trade organizations for referrals.

To help ensure that your contractor is reputable:

  • Confirm the contractor is licensed and insured in your state. Avoid unlicensed contractors, as they may not adhere to building codes and standards, leaving you with subpar work or legal liabilities down the road.

  • Check if the contractor belongs to professional associations. Organizations like the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry require members to adhere to a code of ethics and maintain a certain level of professionalism.

  • Research the contractor's reputation. The Better Business Bureau, online reviews and local consumer protection agencies can offer insights from customers outside of a contractor’s own references.

  • Get written, itemized estimates from at least three contractors. Compare their bids, weighing such factors as experience, quality of work and value for money. Be cautious of bids that come in too low, as they could mean the contractor cuts corners or uses subpar materials.

  • Always get a written contract. Your contract should include a detailed description of the work to be done, project completion dates, a total price and payment schedule, refund policies, warranties and more.

Unfortunately, older Americans are a known target for home repair scams and unscrupulous contractors. Watch out for builders and renovators that advertise too-good-to-be-true offers, use high-pressure sales tactics or try to scare you into making immediate decisions.

If you believe you’re the victim of a home repair scam or have a complaint about the work of a contractor, act quickly to file a complaint with state and federal agencies that include:

When filing a complaint, provide as much detail about the scammer, your situation and the outcome as possible. For issues related to your insurance policies or claims, contact your insurance company, agent or broker for specific guidance. And don’t be afraid to contact a lawyer for legal advice or support.

Kat Aoki is a seasoned finance writer who's written thousands of articles to empower people to better understand technology, fintech, banking, lending and investments. Her expertise has been featured on sites like Forbes Advisor, Lifewire and Finder, with bylines at top technology brands in the U.S. and Australia. Kat strives to empower consumers and business owners to make informed decisions and choose the right financial products for their needs.

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