Photo: James Bombales, design by Claire Jefford

When you’re in the midst of a kitchen renovation — heating up yet another microwavable meal while surrounded by a thin layer of construction dust — it can be difficult to feel any joy whatsoever. It’s a stressful time, and those soggy chicken nuggets spinning around in the microwave become a direct representation of your mental state. 

But there’s light at the end of the renovation tunnel according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®. The 2019 Remodeling Impact Report ranks remodeling projects not only by return on investment, but also by how happy homeowners feel upon their completion. 

“The NAR report shows us that people often remodel for resale purposes, but it also reminds us that homeowners remodel, too, with the desire to make a home their own,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Based on the results, each home improvement project was assigned a “Joy Score” on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest). Here, we examine the top 10 interior renos that yield the most smiles and sighs of relief.

Photo: James Bombales, design by Sara Bederman

1. Kitchen renovation – 10

Tens, tens, tens across the board for complete kitchen renovations! An impressive 95 percent of homeowners say they have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home following this costly, but worthwhile project. Spaghetti and meatballs just taste better when you’re eating them off a marble-clad kitchen island.

2. Closet renovation – 10

Investing in the functionality of your home always pays off. And when it comes to closets, that means adding shelving, clothing rods, pull-out drawers, hooks and lighting. Not only will a closet renovation increase your home’s value, it will simplify your morning routine and get you out the door faster.

Photo: James Bombales, design by REDESIGN4MORE

3. Full interior paint job – 9.8

Real estate agents say you should ignore cosmetic issues like the paint color on the walls when you’re touring an open house, but once you’re all moved in, you’ll want to get right to work correcting the design mistakes of past homeowners. A full interior paint job feels like a fresh start, and it’s well worth that noxious fresh paint smell.

4. Kitchen upgrade – 9.7

A kitchen upgrade is less expensive and less time consuming than a full-gut reno, but the payoff can be huge. In fact, 40 percent of Realtors® suggest sellers complete this project before listing their home. Repainting the cabinets, replacing worn-out surfaces, and swapping out dated hardware will give your kitchen a modern look without the hefty $68,000 price tag.

Photo: James Bombales, design by Karin Bennett

5. Individual room paint job – 9.7

If you opt to do the job yourself, repainting an average-sized room will set you back about $50 and take up one or two days of your weekend. Not a bad price to pay for an all new aesthetic. Twenty-three percent of homeowners who tackled this easy DIY project say they did so to add more individuality and personality to their home. Go ahead, paint your bedroom that moody navy blue color!

6. Basement conversion to living area – 9.5

If you’ve got an unfinished basement, you’re sitting on untapped potential. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) puts the estimated cost at $46,900, but homeowners will likely recoup 64 percent of those costs when they decide to sell. Just think of all the movie nights, ping pong games and jam sessions you could have in the meantime.

Photo: James Bombales, design by Rebecca Hay

7. Hardwood flooring refinish – 9.5

Interestingly, refinishing hardwood flooring earned a higher Joy Score than replacing hardwood flooring. Home stagers often recommend this service to their clients, as it gives the flooring a more reflective quality, repairs unsightly scratches and corrects discoloration. Although the project costs $2,600, on average, homeowners can expect a 100 percent return on investment.

8. Bathroom renovation – 9.3

Bathroom renovations are second only to kitchens in terms of popularity. These spaces are highly susceptible to changing design trends — remember the 70s when carpet in the bathroom was deemed perfectly acceptable? *shudders* It makes total sense that 19 percent of homeowners say they took on a bathroom renovation because it was ‘time for a change.’ Carpet out, mold-resistant tile in!

Photo: James Bombales

9. Insulation upgrade – 9.3

While you can’t appreciate upgraded insulation from a visual perspective, you will appreciate the improved thermal comfort and lower utility bills. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 93 percent of homeowners upgraded their insulation to make their homes more energy efficient.

10. Add new bathroom – 9.2

No one likes sharing a bathroom, but at $60,000 it’s a steep price to pay for added privacy and counterspace. Thirty-one percent of homeowners chose this project to increase functionality and livability, which is actually code for ‘my significant other takes too long in the shower.’

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