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Small home-improvement projects can yield big rewards

First impressions count. The curb appeal of a home can make all the difference in the world on whether a prospective buyer might consider entering that home or not.

The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, compiled annually in collaboration with Hanley Wood’s Remodeling Magazine, compares changes in home-improvement project costs with realtors’ perceptions of what those projects contribute to a home’s price at resale. This year’s report revealed that small exterior projects continue to be rated by realtors as the most valuable home-improvement projects.

Some small projects need not break a budget, but they can make a difference in the look and feel of a home. Following are the top 10 projects in the report in terms of recouped cost.

• Steel entry-door replacement was identified by realtors as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 101.8 percent return on investment (ROI). The steel entry-door replacement is the least expensive project in the annual Cost vs. Value Report, costing little more than $1,230 on average, and the only project on the list to recoup more than 100 percent of its cost at resale on a national level. The replacement enhances curb appeal and boosts energy efficiency.

• Manufactured stone veneer (92.2 percent ROI) has an average cost of $7,150 and offers a top return in remodeling dollars. Lightweight stone veneer is easy to install and enhances curb appeal.

• Siding replacement with fiber cement (84.3 percent ROI) is long-lasting because it protects the house from termites, moisture, rot and fire and does not need frequent repainting. It has an average cost of $14,014.

• Garage door replacement, especially one that is insulated, adds value to a home. The national average cost for midrange steel is $1,595 (88.4 percent ROI).

• Vinyl siding replacement is lightweight, low maintenance, easy to install and energy efficient. The national average cost for midrange vinyl is $12,013 (80.7 percent ROI), $15,184 (77.6 percent ROI) for insulated vinyl.

• Wood deck addition (80.5 percent ROI), with a national average cost of $10,048 (approximately $30 per square foot), extends the homeowner’s living area at a fraction of the cost of an enclosed addition and is good for dining, relaxing and entertaining.

• Minor kitchen remodel with new cabinet doors and drawer fronts, appliances, countertops and flooring has had one of the highest average returns over the past 10 years. The national average cost for a kitchen update is $19,226 (79.3 percent ROI).

• Foam-backed vinyl siding replacement (77.6 percent ROI) is another option for homeowners who prioritize energy savings and fuel efficiency. At an average cost of $15,184 – and installed directly over flat wall sheathing – this type of siding replacement leaves no space for water to escape.

• Replacement windows are great for energy efficiency. The national average cost for 10 midrange vinyl replacement windows is $10,316 (77.5 percent ROI), $11,341 for 10 midrange wood replacement windows (78.8 percent ROI).

• Attic conversion (77.2 percent ROI) is a remodel that can also expand living space by providing an extra bedroom, if insulated. This remodel has a national average cost of $51,696.

Chris Isaacson is president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors. For more information, visit

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