Aside from the need to upgrade worn out features, two of the biggest reasons owners put money into remodeling are to increase the home’s value and to improve their enjoyment of the home. But according to a new report from the National Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), there’s not a lot of overlap between those two goals.

Interior projects the study examined:

New master suite

Kitchen upgrade

Complete kitchen renovation

Bathroom renovation

Add new bathroom

Basement conversion to living area

Attic conversion to living area

Insulation upgrade

Closet renovation

New wood flooring

Hardwood flooring refinish

HVAC replacement

The first-ever “Remodeling Impact Report” looks at the resale value and customer satisfaction of 12 interior and eight exterior projects. The projects range from upgrades (a new HVAC system) to full-scale remodels (a new master suite). Members of NARI reviewed specs and provided cost estimates for each project.

Projects with Greatest Cost Recovery

REALTORS® reported that three interior projects and two exterior projects—all estimated to cost under $10,000—provide the greatest cost recovery at resale:

Exterior projects the study examined:

New steel front door

New fiberglass front door

New garage door

New vinyl siding

New fiber-cement siding

New roofing

New vinyl windows

New wood windows

Projects That Make Owners Happiest

By contrast, owners who had actually completed one of the 20 home improvements being tracked in the study were asked how much the work increased their sense of happiness at home.  With one exception, it was the big-ticket items that brought the greatest sense of joy.

The resulting data was used to calculate the “Joy Score,” which combined the share of respondents who reported they were “happy” and “satisfied” when seeing their completed project and divided the share by 10 to create a ranking between 1 and 10. Higher Joy Scores indicate greater happiness from the project. Here are homeowners’ top five:

Projects That Appeal to Buyers

REALTORS® were also asked, regardless of cost, which improvements were most appealing for buyers. Not surprisingly, the top five interior projects were very similar to those that give owners the greatest joy—but REALTORS® said these big-ticket items aren’t the best in terms of payback when the home is sold. By contrast, REALTORS® said owners will likely recover more than 80 percent of the cost on four of the five exterior projects with the greatest buyer appeal.

The overall winner? When you look at intersection of buyer appeal, cost, return, and owner joy, a new roof appears to be the smartest remodeling investment. A home, after all, is first and foremost a shelter.

You can access a summary of the report, including methodology, at

REALTOR® Magazine