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Cost versus Value - the Statistics
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Cost versus Value – the Statistics

By John Thomas


Every year, Remodeling Magazine publishes an issue comparing the cost of a renovation to its end value.

This year, the magazine studied renovation jobs from 60 U.S. cities. They used a professional to write realistic specifications for the jobs, got three professional estimating services to compare costs, and asked real estate brokers from across the country to estimate the value added to the average home in their area, if it were to be sold within a year.

The criterion used is that the renovation jobs are high quality but not luxury-level, and that the work be done to professional standards. It should be emphasized that locale made a tremendous difference. A family room addition in Hartford, Connecticut, for instance, returned only 52% of its cost. Meanwhile, just down the road, in New Haven Connecticut, the addition returned 104%.

Although the study is from the U.S., and the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, the results are informative.

Topping the list of projects across the board was the minor kitchen renovation, which returned 94% of its cost. According to real estate agents, nothing sells a house like its kitchen. This renovation might include changing the countertop and sink and taps, tiling the backsplash, and adding a new floor and paint.

The bathroom addition was next on the list. Gone are the days when a single bathroom was fine with lineups in the hall. Modern families expect a second bathroom and this renovation returned 89% of its cost.

The major kitchen reno was next. I find this renovation often includes removing the upper half of the wall between the kitchen and living or dining area, creating the open concept. Most houses built in Kingston before the ‘70’s have the traditional kitchen/dining/living room plan which totally separates the three rooms. Our attitudes and the way we live have changed, and our architecture reflects that. The traditional style was mom slaving in the kitchen while her guests drank soda pop and awaited dinner in the living room. Nowadays the kitchen’s the most popular room in the house and the hosts want to chat and socialize while cooking’s in progress. Joining the spaces of kitchen and family or dining room is a natural result and a popular project. The major kitchen reno returned 87% of its cost.

Additions came in next at 84%. These include a single story family room or a two story. As the writers suggest, additions must blend in well with the existing house and be well done using good materials. A poorly conceived or executed project can actually detract from the value of the house and make it more difficult to sell.

The attic-bedroom reno was next. This usually includes a bedroom/bathroom under a new dormer. The pitch of your roof is critical. And you need to find room on the floor below for a stairwell up. But if you’ve got the space, this renovation returned 83% of its cost.

The flip side of the open concept is that we want privacy. Working people, especially those with kids, want some sort of sanctuary from the grind and high on the list of renos is the master bedroom suite, where you can shut the door, get away from it, and have a luxurious bath and a private soda pop in your own space. This renovation typically includes a remake of the bedroom, ensuite bathroom, and a dressing area and returned 82%.

Main bathrooms make-overs – as opposed to bathroom additions - were next at 73% and again, according to the real estate agents, this renovation is el primo for resale. One of the first things prospective buyers do is head for the bathroom, and they want to see sparkle. Using someone else’s used grungy bathroom doesn’t cut it.

The other categories were siding (77%), decks (70%), windows (68%), and home offices (64%). The authors caution, however, that home offices should be easily reconverted to living space with an eye to resale.

If you’re online, you can visit the website and read the complete details at There are specifications, details on the costs, and design tips.


John Thomas is Renovation Chair of the Greater Kingston Home Builder’s Association and President of Thomas & Co., a local Renovations firm. Call 547-6063, or visit the construction site at
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