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If you’re considering a home renovation project, you don’t have to mimic what everyone else is doing. Instead, choose improvements that will make your time at home more enjoyable.
In April 2022, the National Association of REALTORSⓇ (NAR) published its latest Remodeling Impact Report based around this idea. After surveying homeowners, contractors, and Realtors about various home improvement projects, the NAR “calculated a Joy Score for each project based on the happiness homeowners reported with their renovations.” The report also shows your potential cost recovery for each renovation.
In this article, we’ll explore a few of those renovation options with a Joy Score of 9 or higher, where 10 was the best score.
Here are the renovations that brought the most satisfaction to homeowners:
- Add insulation
- Create living space in the attic
- Install or refinish wood flooring
- Paint interior walls
- Renovate your closet
- Paint your home’s exterior siding
- Convert your basement into livable space
- Hang a new front door
- Install a new roof
- Put in a new garage door
How to get the most satisfaction from home renovations
Most renovations, unfortunately, have a negative return on investment when you sell. That’s why it makes sense to focus on how much you’ll enjoy them instead of how much they could boost your home’s value. These renovations provided homeowners with the most joy, according to NAR.
1. Add insulation
- Joy Score: 10
Adding more insulation to your home may not sound exciting, but lowering your heating and cooling costs while being more comfortable at home brings people a lot of joy.
At the same time, you might be able to recover the full cost of what you put into this home improvement project if you sell your home at some point, according to the survey’s results. Savings on heating and cooling can also help offset this project’s expense.
2. Create living space in the attic
- Joy Score: 10
If you ever wished you had an extra bedroom, guest room, craft room, or hangout room but had no desire to move, consider renovating your attic. It could help you make the most of the house you’re already living in and may offer an ROI of 75%.
Remarkably, 100% of survey respondents who had remodeled their attic said that they want to stay home more since finishing the project. Most likely, relatively few people undertook this project, since it was one of the pricier options the survey asked about.
3. Install or refinish wood flooring
- Joy Score: 10
Many people dream of having beautiful hardwood floors throughout their homes. Additionally, 90% of people who’ve installed wood flooring have an increased desire to be at home, according to the report.
But did you know you might be able to recover all the installation or refinishing costs plus more if you sell your home in the future? Installing or refinishing wood floors were the only two projects in the report with a potentially positive return.
4. Paint interior walls
- Joy Score: 10
One of the easiest ways to refresh your home is by painting one or more rooms. The NAR report indicates most people who paint the inside of their homes are happier while at home and want to spend more time there.
While the report doesn’t mention the cost recovery of painting, showing a freshly painted home might increase the price if you were to sell it. Only 38% of Realtors said they’d recommend this project before selling, though, so do it because you’re ready for a change, not to please someone else.
5. Renovate your closet
- Joy Score: 10
If your closet is so cramped that you can’t find your favorite rare baseball jersey, you could renovate your space for improved organization and storage. Among survey respondents who’ve remodeled a closet, 61% feel it’s a major accomplishment and 79% say it’s given them a greater desire to be at home. (The other 21%were probably ready to go out and show off their favorite outfit.)
You might also recoup up to 83% of what you spent on the upgrade (and even more if you unearth that jersey and sell it).
6. Paint your home’s exterior siding
- Joy Score: 9.8
Painting the outside of your home is a good way to update it and improve curb appeal. But the top reason people paint their exterior siding is to upgrade worn surfaces, finishes, and materials.
This project isn’t just practical: A full 88% of homeowners who undertook this project said they have a greater desire to be at home since completing the project. We’ll assume those people spend a lot of time in their yards, admiring that paint job.
7. Convert your basement into livable space
- Joy Score: 9.7
Does your family need more bedrooms? If you have an unfinished basement, converting it into a livable space might bring you joy by improving your home’s functionality.
Granted, this type of renovation is more costly than some of the other updates we’ve mentioned. Still, you may be able to recoup as much as 86% of your project’s cost when you sell.
Shopping around for a mortgage can be stressful. Fortunately, Credible simplifies this process and makes comparing multiple lenders easy. You can see mortgage rates from all our partner lenders and generate a streamlined pre-approval letter in just a few minutes.
8. Hang a new front door
- Joy Score: 9.5
One of the first things people see when they visit your home is your front door. Hanging a new one could improve your home’s curb appeal and character. That’s especially likely if you’re making a dramatic change like going from a builder-grade door to one with decorative wrought iron.
While different styles of doors have different price points, you could get as much as 60% to 63% of the cost back when selling your home, according to this survey.
9. Install a new roof
- Joy Score: 9.2
When the sky opens up and buckets of golf-ball-sized hail fall out, there’s a good chance you’ll be replacing your roof — ideally, with help from your homeowners insurance.
But even if you’re lucky enough to avoid major storm damage, your roof will eventually wear out. Fortunately, if you replace it, it’s possible you’ll get all that money back if you sell your home in the near future. Only a third of Realtors said they would recommend a roof replacement before selling, however.
Most people do this project because they have to, not because they want to. The high Joy Score must come from peace of mind.
10. Put in a new garage door
- Joy Score: 9
Another home upgrade that may not seem exciting is a new garage door. However, the project could increase the price of your home enough to recoup everything you spent on the door, and it’s a relatively inexpensive project.
Of course, that’s not the only reason to replace your garage door. If it’s not functioning properly or it’s unsecured, replacing it could be more of a necessity. Your neighbor may have replaced their broken garage door with a tarp, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea — unless you like raccoons.
How to fund your renovations
Completing any of these renovations can make your home more livable and maybe even more valuable. If you don’t have enough cash for the project you’re considering, you might want to see if you qualify for one of these financing options.
A personal loan can be a relatively fast way to borrow money for home improvements. With a fixed interest rate and a loan term of just a few years, you may pay less interest on a personal loan than other forms of borrowing.
But use caution with this type of loan — the interest rates can be high if you don’t have good credit. Consider using Credible to shop for the right lender.
Although using a credit card may not be the best option to finance home renovations, it might be OK if the purchase is smaller and you can pay off the balance quickly.
In particular, if you pay with a credit card from a home improvement store, you might be able to get 0% financing for a few months. Be careful, though, because if you don’t pay off your balance during the introductory period, the interest charges could be very high.
Home equity loan
A home equity loan is another option that could help you complete the home improvements you desire. A home equity loan is a second mortgage, so you may pay a higher interest rate than you do on your primary mortgage, but the balance will probably be lower and you can take up to 30 years to repay the loan with fixed monthly payments.
To fund your home renovations, you could use your home equity to get a cash-out refinance. The new loan will pay off your current home mortgage and replace it with a new, larger loan. You’ll get the extra money, fewer closing costs and other fees, as cash that you can put toward your home upgrades.
Credible can help you compare lenders to find the best cash-out refinance rate. Checking rates with us is free, secure, and won’t affect your credit score.