No. 3: Insulation upgrade
No one comes out of an open house excited about the insulation. But an insulation upgrade does add value. On average, it will cost about $2,100, and homeowners can recoup about 95 percent at resale, the study finds.
"We're headed in the direction of homes being evaluated by energy efficiency as a matter of routine," says Severance.
And upgraded insulation would be something that real estate agents would highlight, she says. "It would be something that would improve the value."
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Buyers simply expect some parts of a home -- such as plumbing and heat -- to work, she says.
But it's also important to look at the "emotional return on investment," says Mike McGrew, 2016 treasurer for the NAR and CEO/chairman of McGrew Real Estate in Lawrence, Kansas.
So evaluate potential projects based on how they'll affect your enjoyment and your feelings about your home and the time you spend there, he says. "You don't want to dread coming home every day because you get a bad vibe."