The remodel recoup

Contractors and realty professionals share their insight on home improvements that can boost property value

Whether you’re preparing to sell or you just want to make some updates to add to the comfort or curb appeal of your home, the value of each investment is something to consider. 

Remodeling projects can be costly and the expense can be hard to recoup, especially if you don’t know where to put the money. To make that easier, the Southwest Journal recently spoke with some experts in the field to go over a few of the top value-adding projects. Here’s what they had to say, along with cost and value estimates for midrange projects in Minneapolis from Remodeling Magazine’s 2009-2010 Cost vs. Value Report, available at 

Kitchen Remodel

Cost (major remodel): $65,955

Resale value: $44,612

Money back: 83 percent

When it comes to interior renovations, the Kitchen is king for value. 

“Kitchen renovations or kitchen remodels yield the highest returns,” said Bjorn Freudenthal, vice president of sales and marketing for Lakeville-based College City Design Build. “Historically, the kitchen and bath industry has been the fastest growing segment of the remodeling industry since the early 2000s.”

He said major remodels that transform smaller, walled-in kitchens into more open “kitchen great rooms” that flow into the dining room are increasingly popular. But aside from complete remodels, things such as new cabinet doors, wood or tile flooring, tile backsplashes and granite countertops are popular ways to freshen a kitchen, Freudenthal said.

Randy Korn, president of Kingfield-based House Lift Remodeler, said granite countertops have dropped in price as they’ve become a kitchen standard. Counter islands are also popular, he said. 

If looking to sell, the kitchen is the most important room in the house to update, said realtors Beth Lindahl-Urben and Laura Tiffany, who work for Coldwell Banker Burnet’s Lakes Office. They said they once convinced a seller with a pink kitchen to repaint, purchase stainless steel appliances and install granite countertops. The house sold quickly after the change. 

But, they said, not every home needs granite and stainless and a clean kitchen with proper staging can get the job done. 

Siding Replacement

Cost (vinyl siding): $13,467

Resale value: $10,833

Money back: 80 percent

Korn said replacing worn-out siding is among the best investments a homeowner can make. Along with the roof and windows, quality siding is vital to the durability of a home. Plus, it’s generally the first part of a house anyone sees. 

He said prospective buyers are going to take note of new siding because it is an essential part of a home and replacing it is something they’ll want to avoid. 

Freudenthal said upgrading siding to fiber-cement or foam-backed vinyl can bump the return substantially. But the initial cost of those materials 

is greater.

Window Replacement

Cost (wood): $14,699

Resale value: $11,032

Money back: 75 percent 

An older house with original windows can be drafty and costly to heat and keep cool. Korn said installing new windows leads to big energy savings, benefiting the homeowner and the environment. Original single-pane windows can be charming, but Korn said it’s possible to replicate old designs, so the new glass will look good and function better. According to the Cost Vs. Value report, wood windows offer a slightly better return than vinyl. 

Bathroom Remodel  

Cost: $19,491

Resale value: $10,925

Money back: 56 percent  

Bathrooms have become the second most valuable rooms to renovate in recent years, after kitchens. 

One growing trend, Freudenthal said, is to remove traditional bathtubs or Jacuzzis and replace them with custom walk-in showers. He said medicine cabinets are coming back. 

Other tips include using old closet space to expand the bathroom, adding “his and her” sinks, installing new plumbing and fixtures, replacing cabinets, retiling floors and walls, and adding bathroom access to adjoining rooms.

Korn said adding a bathroom will also prove to be a valuable move, especially in older homes that start out with only one. His company recently installed a new bathroom connected to a master bedroom in a home in the Kenny neighborhood. Such amenities can make an older house stand out from its neighbors.  

Michelle Byers, co-owner of Minnetonka-based Structural Dimensions, said another bathroom trend is the installation of humidity sensing fans that automatically turn off and on as needed to regulate the moisture in the air. Byers said bathroom investments, just like any home project, should vary depending on the home’s layout, location and the owner’s intentions. 

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer[email protected]