IN SEPTEMBER 1998, DR. KIM L. THORNTON PURCHASED A HOME IN Newton, Massachusetts, for $490,000. She spent the next decade renovating it. In the kitchen she added a center island, changed the countertops from laminate to granite, installed a hardwood floor and new appliances, and painted the existing cabinets and polished their hardware.
"I wanted an updated kitchen that had greater functionality," says Thornton. "I love to cook and entertain, and the kitchen is always the center of any party. Also, I knew I would be selling the home so I chose renovations that would increase its value. I chose neutral colors for the cabinets, and remodeled the basement to prevent flooding. To enhance the home's curb appeal, I repaved the driveway, replaced the retaining wall, painted the home's exterior, and replaced the roof."
In June 2009, Thornton sold the property for $710,500. With the housing market on the rebound--according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which sample 20 U.S. cities, average home prices increased by 8.1% as of January--this may be a good time for you to sell your home. But before you do, renovations can often increase its value.
"Start by knowing what you want. Then look at Hanley Wood's Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report (www.hanleywood.com). It will give you the information you need," advises David Lupberger, president of Remodel Force. "It will show you the investments and the returns on those investments."
"The simplest advice is to correct deficiencies and avoid over-improving your home," says Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. "You'll get the best return by bringing a substandard home up to neighborhood norms. It's important to see your home from the viewpoint of prospective buyers. They're visiting other homes in your neighborhood and making comparisons based on condition and amenities. You want buyers to be able to visualize your house as their home."
EXPERTS SHARE MORE ABOUT WHICH RENOVATIONS ARE MOST PROFITABLE:
1 UPDATE THE BATHROOM AND KITCHEN.
These two key areas are often the selling points of a home. "In residential remodeling, we say renovate where there is water. Bathrooms and kitchens usually capture 75% to...