There are fewer times in American history that homeowners had the kind of time to remodel their homes than during the pandemic. It was the thing of statistics to see just what worked and what didn’t when taking a survey of renovations and their eventual value to those homeowners.
“The most profitable improvement homeowners can make to boost their resale value isn’t as sexy as a kitchen with marble counters and stainless-steel appliances, as practical as a dedicated home office, or as fun as a backyard pool or hot tub,” says Realtor’s Clare Trapasso. Instead, she says the work that pays off the most is refinishing or replacing the home’s hardwood floors. This is evidenced by a recent remodeling impact report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) that found that homeowners recouped about 147% of their investment for refinished floors and 118% of what they spent on new flooring when they sold their homes. One of the biggest reasons? How it looked online.
“It looks beautiful in photos and more people are relying on technology to search for homes these days,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of research. “Wood flooring really feels more hygienic than having a carpet in your home … and pet lovers and owners want hardwood floors for the ease of cleaning.”
Two surveys combined, including that of the National Remodeling Industry, totaling about 6,200 responses to questions asked about an average-sized home of 2,495 square feet built after 1981, while the materials used were considered midrange. “As the COVID-19 pandemic set in, Americans spent roughly $420 billion remodeling their homes in 2020, according to the report,” says Trapasso. “While most of those projects would have happened regardless of the pandemic confining people to their homes, many homeowners got more ambitious and did larger projects. Or once they got started on renovations, those home improvement plans grew to encompass other parts of the home.”
Those stepped-up efforts saw bored, trapped homeowners remodeling to upgrade surfaces, finishes, and materials in their homes and to add features that could improve livability. The majority were happy with how the work came out, and more than half wouldn’t change a thing. And it was noted that if you’re spending nearly 24/7 at home, enjoying that revamped home can offer a lot of satisfaction.
The breakdown? “Homeowners spent an estimated $3,400 on refinishing their hardwood floors—which earned them about $5,000 in resale value if they put their homes on the market,” says Trapasso. “They blew through about $5,500 on new hardwood flooring for a roughly $6,500 return.” She goes on to say that homeowners typically broke even on improvements less evident to the naked eye, such as insulation upgrades, replacing the roof, and garage doors.
Adding more square footage to homes was also popular, but the return on that investment was not as fruitful, with many having spent more on this extra space than they recouped when they sold their residences. As for converting basements into more livable spaces, putting in new closets and turning attics into gems, folks did lose a bit of money on them. But they also had some of the highest cost recovery. And the usual bathroom and kitchen upgrades were also high on the list of projects that recouped the most value. — but not always.
“Adding a new primary bedroom suite cost about $172,500, but resulted in homeowners receiving only an additional $100,000 in the resale value of their homes,” says Trapasso, who also says a new kitchen cost about $80,000 but tacked on only about $60,000 in value.
But many — in fact most — homeowners didn’t make all these changes with an eye to selling their homes any time soon to see what their return on investment might be, They did it for their own enjoyment. And the money spent on home improvements made many homeowners report that they felt happier. As for what actually resulted in the most joy, the votes go to painting the outside of a home or an interior room as well as adding additional space to a home, fixing the floors, and renovating closets, according to the report.