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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How Homeowners Fund Home Improvements

Having money on hand makes things easy, but you can still renovate your home if you're short on cash.


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.”


10 Interior Design Trends for 2020

It may be time to update your decor.

A marble beige painting and a sunburst golden mirror on a gray wall with molding in a stylish living room interior with a velvet, powder pink sofa and retro furniture

(Getty Images)

You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.

Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.

Master suites expand.

Master suites expand.

(Getty Images)

As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Friends having fun at dinner party in backyard.

(Getty Images)

Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.

Organic elements are here to stay.

Organic elements are here to stay.

modern table scene restaurant urban style

(Getty Images)

Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Europe, UK, England, London, Belgravia: View Of Hand-Made Custom Fabric Couch With African Hardwood Flooring

(Getty Images)

Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Modern interior of living room with armchairs on white flooring and dark blue wall

(Getty Images)

Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.

Say goodbye to gray.

Say goodbye to gray.

London, England.

(Getty Images)

If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Men connected charger to tablet computer after four digital devices already charging

(Getty Images)

If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.

Minimalism moves over.

Minimalism moves over.

Living room with high ceilings and architectural featuresLiving room with high ceilings and architectural features

(Getty Images)

People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior decor photographs of stylish luxury bohemian style home

(Getty Images)

  • Zen dens break up open floor plans.
  • Master suites expand.
  • Inside and outside continue to blend.
  • Organic elements are here to stay.
  • Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
  • Velvet becomes a staple.
  • Blue is the color to incorporate.
  • Say goodbye to gray.
  • Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
  • Minimalism moves over.

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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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