Remodeling recently estimated costs of 35 popular home-renovation projects in 81 major cities, then polled some 3,900 Realtors to calculate how much each upgrade would add to a property's value. That allowed the magazine to create the Remodeling 2012-13 Cost vs. Value Report -- national and local rankings of which projects offer the best and worst ROI when homeowners later sell their properties. For example, the study found that you'll recoup 102.9% of the $3,014 that adding upscale garage doors costs in Los Angeles -- but only 32.9% of the $29,370 you'll pay for a home-office remodeling in Detroit. "You don't want to put something in that a buyer isn't going to want to pay extra for," Moore says. None of the projects studied offer a 100% or better return on their average nationwide price, meaning most U.S. homeowners will theoretically lose money on any job. But some projects do provide at least a 100% ROI in certain cities, while Moore adds that you "have to look at the total package" when calculating an upgrade's overall value.
"If I walk into a house that has and old kitchen or an old bathroom that needs a ton of work, that might be a problem to sell 'as-is,'" she says. Here's a look at the five best projects Remodeling found offer the best nationwide average returns on investment. (The Remodeling 2012-13 Cost vs. Value Report is copyrighted by magazine publisher Hanley Wood, but data from the study can be downloaded for free at www.costvsvalue.com.)