Mature man using a spirit level and marking the wall with a pencil in his kitchen.

To get the most value, you should update your kitchen for yourself rather to boost your home's appeal to potential buyers. (Getty Images)

You’re ready to sell your house this year, but your real estate agent has pointed out a few areas you need to address before your home is ready to hit the market. First and second on the list are your kitchen and master bathroom. Admittedly, both have an alarming amount of oak, and that laminate countertop isn’t doing you any favors.

But before you overhaul your kitchen and master bath to fit with all the current trends, make sure you’re aware of the reality of the cost and what you’ll get back. An $80,000 kitchen upgrade isn’t going to add $80,000 or more to the value of your house.

Remodeling Magazine released its annual Cost vs. Value report in early January, which compares the cost of 21 major home renovation projects in 100 major markets throughout the U.S. to the value increase of those homes. The report notes the cost of all tracked home improvement projects in the report, but only two-thirds of the projects saw home values rise at the same time.

While they're common choices for remodeling, upscale kitchen and bathroom renovations were among those projects with an increase in cost but either no increase or even a decline in value added to the property.

[Read: Upgrading Your Floors? The Pros and Cons of 5 Popular Flooring Choices.]

Before you jump into plans for an overhaul of your kitchen to catch a buyer’s eye, consider the current market for renovations and proceed with a realistic expectation for your return on investment.

Who’s Remodeling? You and Everybody Else

Whether it’s to sell your home or to give your kitchen or bathroom an updated look, remodeling is the name of the game for many homeowners in 2018 – and that's been the case in recent years as well.

Holly Tachovsky, CEO of BuildFax, which operates a database of property conditions and histories, says renovations became a significant focus for homeowners in the aftermath of the recession.

“Remodeling has just gone off the charts and it remains off the charts. … People want to live in urban centers, and they want to live in a modern house,” Tachovsky says. More than 3.8 million residential remodels took place in 2017, according to BuildFax data, compared to just over 2.9 million residential remodels in 2013.

There’s more than one explanation for why people are opting to renovate rather than put their home on the market. It’s to stay in the neighborhood in many cases, and in others it’s helping to keep homeowners from having to dive into a tough market for buyers.

“With as tight of a housing market as we’re seeing today, switching homes is just not an option for many of us,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz, a home remodeling and design information company.

Of course, interest in renovating kitchens and bathrooms came about before the housing market fully recovered. Whether it was for themselves or in hopes of attracting potential buyers in search of move-in ready conditions, homeowners have focused on the potential value in those major parts of the house.

“When it comes to kitchens and bathrooms – which are sort of the projects you put on hold when the bottom falls out – when things finally recover … those are the priority projects,” Sitchinava says.

However, confidence in the upscale kitchen and master suite renovation appears to be waning. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report notes real estate professionals surveyed put some of the highest gains in these parts of the house in 2017, only to see a negative shift for the same renovations for 2018. Minor and midrange remodels in kitchens and bathrooms still see a greater increase in value over cost. It may be that the market’s so hot that an upscale remodel is unnecessary, or it could be that renovations aren’t the big drivers to drum up buyer interest as they have been previously.

[See: 6 Home Renovations You Think Will Pay Off – But Won't.]

Re-evaluate Your Motivation

This isn’t to say kitchen or bathroom renovation is always fruitless. A complete makeover to your 1998 kitchen would certainly be worth it if you’re doing it for your own benefit. Upgrade the white appliances from the previous owner not because you’ll get that all that money back when you eventually sell (and you won’t), but because you’ll enjoy better efficiency and a sharper look with a fridge and dishwasher from this decade.

In the 2018 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, just 6 percent of respondents reported planning to renovate their kitchen to improve resale value for an upcoming sale. The leading motivators for renovating homeowners, according to the study: “Can no longer stand the old kitchen” (41 percent) and “Want to do it all along and finally have the means” (36 percent).

“Over the course of the last five years, what we’ve seen in our research is that resale value is just not as big a consideration,” Sitchinava says. Homeowners are more motivated to invest the money in a remodel when they'll be able to use the space for some time.


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What’s Best for ROI?

If you’re looking to make updates to have an easier time selling your home – and for a higher price – consider a smaller renovation or only minor updates. The Cost vs. Value report notes that more markets see renovation costs recouped completely for minor kitchen remodels and midrange bathroom remodels. Still, that’s only 12 markets in the U.S. where homeowners get 100 percent or more back on a minor kitchen remodel and only seven markets for the midrange bathroom remodel.

Which projects see the best return on investment? An upscale garage door replacement – as unexpected as it may sound – recoups 98.3 percent of the cost throughout the U.S., on average, according to the Cost vs. Value report. You’re not only ensuring a functional, safe entrance to the home and space for storage, but replacing a garage door can do a lot for your house’s curb appeal. Adding a wood deck to your home recoups 82.8 percent of the cost throughout the U.S., on average, and helps appeal to buyers' desire for outdoor living options.

[Read: How to Identify the Right Buyer for Your Home.]

Regardless of the updates you invest in, keep in mind that any construction is continuing to increase in cost as time goes on. Your best bet is to thoroughly research your options for materials to stay in your budget and plan ahead to avoid a higher price for a short time frame. Always inquire with three or more contractors to discuss your options and the cost of your planned upgrades, and check referrals to get feedback on those contractors' ability to finish work on time and stay within budget.

“Materials are not getting less expensive in general,” Tachovsky says. “And then with this many people doing projects, general contractors – especially the really good ones – are very hard to find and very expensive, because they’re in such high demand.”


9 Interior Design Trends to Look Out for in 2019

It may be time to update your decor.

Modern interior living room.

(Getty Images)

An October 2018 report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projected that remodeling spending is expected to grow to more than $350 billion in the third quarter of 2019. While it’s certainly an increase from the $331 billion of remodeling spending during the same period in 2018, the expectation shows a slowing in growth compared to recent years. Whether you’re renovating your home for yourself, updating your home to sell or looking to spice up a living space that you rent, you’ll see some new trends entering the interior design field this year – and others easing out of the spotlight. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Updated on March 8, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

living room or saloon interior design with big wall yellow seat or sofa and picture frames watch 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

An interior design trend, by definition, is the temporary popularity of a style, pattern, color or approach to decor. But as the cost of homes continues to climb and the cost of renovating spikes as well, trends are sticking around longer, explains Anna Starmer, U.K.-based author of “Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With” and founder of color and trend forecasting company Luminary Colour. “The interesting thing about trends right now is that they are slowing down,” she wrote in an email. “A colour family is popular for longer than (one) season. This is down to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that people are living real lives – they do not have enough time to redecorate every (six) months.”

Well-being comes into play.

Well-being comes into play.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

The Danish concept of Hygge – being cozy and content – has been popular in the U.S. for a couple of years, particularly in the cold winter months when people bundle up to stay warm. But Starmer suggests that the current social or political mood is also encouraging people to make their home a comfortable safe haven of sorts: “(I)t is no surprise that in recent times of uncertainties in the world, we are all starting to favour comforting shades and warming colours in the home.” That extends to softer textures in furniture, pillows and blankets, rich scents like pumpkin or citrus and a setup that encourages relaxing.

[See: Best Home Security Systems of 2019.]

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Warm, feminine living room interior with gray armchair, beige sofa and small, woolen coffee table

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re still holding onto your dream of a tiny home or you simply can’t afford a bigger apartment, interior design is trending toward emphasizing conscious design in all spaces – not just the palatial homes of the wealthy. For example, Pottery Barn launched its small space collection, PB Apartment, in early 2018 to cater to customers who have less space to deck out. You’re also likely to see a growing number of companies offer furnishings and design aesthetics that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of rooms.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

Everyone’s comfort level is different, but those who are willing should feel free to embrace a bold, eclectic look at home in the coming year. HGTV star and interior designer Taniya Nayak says to go for bright accent colors, such as jewel tones and colors that contrast – think blue and orange – and don’t be afraid to layer. “I love doing paint techniques, and I love wall coverings too, but some people are really petrified of wall coverings,” says Nayak, who partners with FrogTape painter’s tape. When in doubt, make your statement by adding color with different types of wall decor (not all photos and prints), painting an accent wall or layering throw blankets and pillows in bright, contrasting colors to create a new focal point in the room.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Green living room

(Getty Images)

Expect interior designs to pull more inspiration from nature in the coming year, bringing lively green into the foreground. Starmer is predicting different shades of green to be more visible not just in interior design, but in fashion as well. However, she warns that you should keep texture and light in mind any time you select a color for a space. “A shade of emerald may look fabulous on a velvet-covered chair but hideous on the wall of a bathroom,” she says.

Neutrals are warming up.

Neutrals are warming up.

3d rendering illustration of living room with luxury wooden wall panel and hardwood floor. Classic interior decorated with tree fashion vases of black, gold and white ceramics. Gorgeouos texture of squares.

(Getty Images)

Gray, stark white and the gray-beige combo color “greige” have been go-to neutrals for a few years. But Starmer says neutral shades in the home are going to warm up as people look to evoke the feeling of more natural settings in the home. “Neutral and natural colours now need to be soft and warm like a favourite cashmere sweater – or the colour of a baby deer,” Starmer says. Capturing these neutrals with natural items like wood, real stones and ceramic pieces help “counteract our very unnatural lifestyles,” she says.

Floors are getting more natural.

Floors are getting more natural.

Modern interior. Render image.

(Getty Images)

In 2018, dark wood floors have been on the decline, according to Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looking forward to 2019, wood floors should continue to stay on the lighter side, but many manufacturers are noting that a matte finish is gaining popularity, which makes the floor look more natural. Recycled and engineered wood remain a more sustainable alternative to the typical wood floor, and manufacturers are even increasing the variety of tile or vinyl floors that convincingly look like real wood.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Modern  luxury kitchen penthouse condominium home. Modern kitchen house interior.

(Getty Images)

Finding the perfect match to existing hardware in your bathroom or kitchen can be difficult, which is part of the reason why mixed metals started trending to begin with. But now it’s not just about convenience. With the right balance, you can bring multiple metals into a room and create a rich, glamorous look. Nayak notes that metals don’t have to be restricted to fixtures, lamps and coffee table legs; opt for metallic paint colors and incorporate geometric shapes on the walls to tie metals into other parts of the room.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Open plan apartment of family living-space with wooden kitchen countertop, purple radiator, communal table with turquoise chairs and spacious living room with beige couch

(Getty Images)

Some of the looks Nayak expects to see more in the coming year vary widely, from soft, romantic pastels and textured palettes to bolder jewel tones and metals. Rather than focusing on one widely accepted trend, you have the opportunity to embrace what works for you and keep it more unique than in years past. How do you know which trend to embrace? Look at your closet. “Whatever your wardrobe says about you is very much how you should approach your design,” Nayak says. If you’re big on patterns and bright colors, the eclectic trend can make your house feel like home again. If you’re a solids-and-neutrals kind of person, working in more of a natural look at home can provide the update you want and need.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

the modern living room interior.3d design concept

(Getty Images)

Interior design trends that will be big this year include:

  • Longevity of trendy pieces, colors and patterns.
  • Comforting shades and warming colors.
  • More furnishing options for smaller spaces.
  • Bold accent colors.
  • Shades of green on walls, furniture and in fashion.
  • Warmer neutral colors with less focus on gray.
  • Lighter wood floor finishes for a more natural look.
  • Mixed metals to make replacing kitchen or bathroom fixtures easier.
  • Focus on comfort in design choices.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing market, home prices, home improvements, existing home sales


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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