What are the best home improvements to make, that increase the value of my home?

Ultimately, you aren’t just embarking on your improvement project to increase your standard of living, you’d hope that there would be some return on your investment as well in terms of an appreciation in the value of your home.

Unfortunately, the question of which are the best home improvements is one where there is no one size fits all answer, and it would be foolish for us to assume that. It will depend on many factors such as the location of your home, preferences of the local market, the state of the economy, interest rates, and you could probably come up with a list the size of the Empire State Building listing numerous other examples!

However, being the curious cats that we are, we still wanted to see which ones were generally regarded as the best home improvements and took it on ourselves to ask some of the best 45 interior design and real estate experts in the business to see what they thought.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also wanted to see what prospective home buyers regarded as the most important improvement when looking for a home to purchase and decided to send out a questionnaire to get to the bottom of this – to 113 of them to be exact!

So before going through this comprehensive review, make sure you sit down somewhere comfortable, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and have a look at the results that we have summarized below in the infographic.
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Most Important Improvement According to Prospective Home Buyers

To be completely honest, the results of the questionnaire surprised us a little bit. According to prospective home buyers, having an open plan is the most important home improvement. You always hear about updated kitchens and bathrooms, which granted do make up the 2nd and 3rd positions, but we didn’t expect open plan living to rank higher than these.

Unfortunately, if your house currently doesn’t have an open plan, creating one is likely going to be one of the more expensive home improvements you’ll be making as well. You’ll likely spend more on it than what you’ll end up getting back for it.

According to Home Advisor, the average cost of an improvement of this nature will set you back anywhere in the region of $41,563, which could go up or down depending on the amount of structural work that you need to do to complete it. According to our prospective home buyer survey, those that ranked it as their most important improvement would pay a premium of 15.3% for it, which would translate into an absolute premium of $32,067 assuming the median home price of $209,700.

This means that you would theoretically stand lose $9,496 by converting to open plan living! It goes without saying that you’d have to look at your particular house, costs, and local preferences before drawing this conclusion but it does teach us one important lesson:

Just because buyers like a particular home improvement doesn’t mean it’s a good investment for you!


Which Home Improvement Provides the Best Financial Return?

This is another one that surprised us. According to the survey, upgrading your flooring is the best improvement you can make from a financial standpoint. Even though it only ranked 4th in overall importance to prospective buyers, those that ranked it as the most important were prepared to pay a whopping 16.8% premium for it – translating into an absolute premium of $35,268.

You’d just have to wait a little longer to find the person that regards upgraded flooring as the most important improvement, as compared to say, an open plan as we spoke about earlier.

Given the relatively lower cost of upgrading your flooring, estimated at an average of $4,218 by Home Advisor, you would stand to gain $31,050 by upgrading your flooring! Again, these are all very rough numbers and you would have to assess your situation independently to see if these numbers work in your area, but it does teach us another important lesson:

Often it’s the small and more affordable home improvements that have the most positive impact on the value of your home!

What About the Improvements that Enhance the Overall Emotional Pull of a Home?

There’s one big problem with using a survey to find out what the best home improvements are, and that is the fact that humans are irrational and emotional beings.

It’s all nice and dandy to answer what premium you would be prepared to pay for a particular home improvement when asked in a survey; but will that answer still be the same when after months of searching you have finally found your dream home?

We all know the answer to this one, as many of us have been there before for better or for worse! The answer in most cases is no.

The reason is simple, once we form an emotional connection with a home it is difficult to look at it as a purely rational transaction. We start envisioning ourselves living in the home, asking ourselves how our children would feel, whether their stroller would fit in the hallway, mentioning how cozy the place is, and potentially coming to the conclusion that we have to buy it because it just feels right. The problem is that all of these characteristics are subjective, and will mean completely different things to different people.

While conducting the survey, many of the experts asked me whether my question was relating to financial value or emotional value, and I think this is what they meant. It’s hard to put a price tag on emotional value, because it is different for everyone.

Having said that, I’m a firm believer that first impressions have a huge role to play in creating an emotional attachment to a home and many of the experts that we surveyed seemed to agree. Thankfully, there are many improvements you can make to improve the first impressions of your home and our experts have given countless of examples below. Simple things such as staging or refinishing your furniture, painting your front door, updating kitchen cabinets, and ensuring there is adequate lighting were all good examples. Be sure to read through all the expert opinions below!

Often it’s the first impression that causes a buyer to develop an irrevocable emotional bond with your home or not!

What Did the Experts Think?

Tallying up the answers from the experts, the majority included improvements to the kitchen and bathroom as part of their top 3 improvements with a total of 24 selecting those.
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