These Home Tweaks Are Worth It

By Hannah Wente

If you’ve undertaken a home improvement or renovation project, you’ve likely considered the return on your investment — and if the project will boost the value of your home. It’s an important question to consider, and some makeovers are worth more than others. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2021 home remodeling survey, in Madison, the best home improvement projects to take on for the best return on investment (ROI) at resale are:

  • Replacing a garage door (recoups 98% of a $4,000 door)
  • Adding a stone veneer to the exterior of a house (makes up 90% of a $10,000 stone veneer install)
  • Doing a minor kitchen remodel (74% of the cost of a $25,000 remodel can be made up)
  • Replacing entry doors (a $2,000 door can generate 70% ROI)
  • Adding a bathroom (a $50,000 addition can make back 65% ROI, which is higher than the Midwest average of 50% ROI).

These projects are closely followed by replacing your windows, a bathroom remodel, major kitchen remodels and adding a deck. All of these put about 60% of the value back in the homeowner’s pocket at resale. (In case you’re interested, the worst projects in terms of ROI are installing a swimming pool and adding a home office — although the latter has become much more desirable in the past two years.)

There are many reasons why a homeowner may decide to renovate: to prep the home to sell, to create a more efficient space or to fix a fundamental problem with the house.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most common renovation projects people undertake with the goal of resale.

“It all comes down to kitchens and bathrooms — those are the most important factors for sellers or buyers,” says realtor Asher Masino of Lauer Realty Group. “You can always get value out of updating your kitchens or bathrooms.”

When looking for a new home, buyers tend to gravitate towards the kitchen. They ask themselves questions such as, is this functional? Is it big enough for one or two cooks? Can I imagine having friends and family in this space while entertaining?

The first question Waunakee Remodeling design manager Jenny Larson and her team ask homeowners is why the client is tackling a renovation. It helps to identify their goals and keep the project on track.

For people looking to stay in their home for more than several years, a full kitchen remodel could be warranted if the space is outdated or has a non-functional layout.

For those interested in selling, however, simple upgrades can suffice. Larson says that future homeowners may want to change the kitchen cabinets once they own the house — so it’s probably not worth replacing those (not to mention, it’s expensive). But updating the counters and backsplash is less pricey and easier for a new homeowner to change if they want to.

“You can do a simple countertop swap and backsplash upgrade,” says Larson. “Quartz materials are the best, maintenance-wise.”

Masino also stages homes for sale. She says, “There are a lot of little things you can do to get a home ready to sell, such as swapping out light fixtures, handles and plumbing fixtures.”

In the bathroom, that could mean switching out the vanity and countertops to refresh the space. You may even reframe a mirror to match the vanity.

“Bathrooms are a space for relaxation,” says Larson. “Consider how you start and end your day. Updating those spaces is important so [the homeowners] have that zen feeling of relaxation.”

Whether you do a small, medium or large upgrade to a bathroom or kitchen — the current housing market in Madison should allow you to recoup most, if not all, of the cost (which beats the statistics above). Even a small renovation could go a long way.

“People are seeing a huge return on investment right now,” says Masino. “Even people who bought a year or two ago are seeing huge gains without putting any work in.”

The majority of Madison-area buyers are looking for move-in ready and updated houses, says Masino. That’s true especially for older homes in walkable neighborhoods.

“We’re completely flipped on new home values in Madison,” says Lauer Realty Group owner Liz Lauer. “It’s location, location, location — older homes are in the most coveted neighborhoods. It’s a scarcity.”


If you’re doing improvements, use these tips to get the best bang for your buck when you sell your home.

    Use neutral tones to make the space appealing to buyers. Lauer Realty Group owner Liz Lauer recommends staying away from wallpaper and instead hanging statement artwork, as everyone’s taste can vary.
    Consider the home holistically, and make sure to match the renovated space with it. Similarly, stay in the ballpark of your neighborhood’s home values to ensure you recoup your money.
    Selecting new countertops, buying new appliances, replacing the faucet or light fixtures, and swapping out old cabinet hard- ware are all ways to update this space.
    Once everything is clean, stage your home for sale by bringing in side tables, lamps and artwork that will let it shine.
    Make sure the outside of the house looks as good as the inside. It will show buyers that you care for your home — inside and out.
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