The Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects For The Best Returns
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The Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects For The Best Returns

The following is a guest post from Andrea Davis from HomeAdvisor, a company that helps find homeowners home improvement pros. 

Before winter arrives, you should think about the crucial maintenance items for your home. If you don’t take care of these ahead of time, you could face expensive repairs in the spring. Rather than spend thousands of dollars next year, spend some money now so your house is safe and prepared.

How do you know which projects to tackle? Some areas may need more attention than others, and you can hire a home inspector if you’re uncertain. If there aren’t any glaring problems, at least care for your doors, windows, roof, lawn and chimney.

If you plan to sell your home soon, have an awareness of buyers’ desires. You don’t want to spend money on a project buyers will ignore. We found the top five fall home improvement projects from our database of millions of projects that stand out among the rest to help you out.

Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects, 2008 – 2013

#1 Install new windows: average cost $4,876

Installing new windows comes with many benefits, especially if your home has single-pane windows. They risk leaking air and letting in the sun’s rays, which fluctuates the indoor temperature and causes the HVAC to turn on frequently. This increases your utility bill, so why not replace them?

Double-pane windows offer substantial energy-efficient benefits, last for a long time and pay back quickly in utility bill savings. They easily replace your single-pane windows without much hassle or added expenses. The investment brings your home into the 21st century, helps the ecosystem and appeals to homebuyers.

#2 Remodel a bathroom: average cost $8,800

Kitchens and bathrooms are major areas of interest for homebuyers, so keep them in top form year-round. The extent of your remodel depends on its needs, which will also influence total costs. Short of gutting it and starting from scratch, some suggestions include:

  • Refacing cabinets
  • Refinishing bathtubs and sinks
  • Installing new flooring
  • Replacing faucets
  • Installing a new shower
  • Adding more storage
  • Repainting the walls

#3 Clean and inspect chimney: average cost $308

Chimney maintenance saves the expensive trouble of a fire and a cold home in the winter if it’s your only heat source. Some steps to take to keep it in top condition are:

  • Checking the masonry: If there are any cracks or loose joints, chimney professionals will fix them with cement so the chimney remains sealed.
  • Looking at the damper: Traditionally, dampers close and open without issue. If it gets stuck or has cracks, pitting or rust, you need a new one.
  • Examine the flue: If the flue liner has any cracks or defects, loose or bumpy joints, then it needs repair so the fire and heat can’t damage it and cause potential hazards.

More extensive signs your chimney needs repair include: blockages, flashing and water damage. If your chimney has creosote or soot deposits, have them cleaned out immediately to avoid further damage and fire hazards.

#4 Install electrical switches, outlets and fixtures: average cost $213

Since you’re going to use electricity a lot over the winter, your electrical outlets and fixtures might be too few or outdated. Older homes especially have this problem with only two prongs, whereas most newer electronics have three. Take this opportunity in the fall to call out an electrician and audit your outlets, switches and fixtures and update any if needed. It’s also an opportunity to check for wire damage or stress on your power breaker. Otherwise you could run into outage issues during the winter.

#5 Install, repair or replace plumbing or fixtures: $347

If you have a water heater working overtime this winter, your plumbing fixtures need to withstand below-freezing temperatures. Older homes might have fixtures susceptible to rust, bursting and other problems. You should check your pipes for any signs of wear and aging. If you’re uncertain about how to proceed, check with plumbers in your area to see if they can look at your pipes. You don’t want a flooded room halfway through the winter and go without water while waiting on repairs.

While these are the top fall projects, how do you decide which ones you need done versus what to set aside? One foolproof measurement is return on investment–some investments have short-term returns, while others pay back in the long-term. Depending on whether you plan to sell your home or live in it for many years, this could be a major factor.

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Top 2014 ROI Projects

Return on investment (ROI) relates to how much you invest in a project versus what comes back in the buyer’s offer. So which projects best increase the value of your home?

According to Remodeling Magazine’s assessment of 35 popular projects in 101 cities this year, some top projects to consider are:

  1. Entry door replacement (steel): 96.6%
  2. Deck addition (wood): 87.4%
  3. Attic bedroom: 84.3%
  4. Garage door replacement: 83.7%
  5. Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7%

Energy-efficient improvements also have high resale value. This includes cheap investments like LED and recessed lighting to more expensive improvements like efficient appliances, double-paned windows and solar panels. If you need to calculate which ones work best for your budget and have the most value, use a cash flow opportunity calculator, which determines cost against how much it pays back in utility bill returns, tax breaks and other savings.

Specific Fall Home Maintenance ROI

So what is the return on investment for the top fall home maintenance projects? Some have proven resale value statistics, and others don’t. Here are some statistics and tips:

  • Installing windows will not only save energy, but you could see investment returns of anywhere between 70 and 90 percent.
  • According to Remodeling Magazine, bathroom remodeling yields a resale value of anywhere between 64 and 73 percent, depending on whether it’s midscale or upscale.
  • Perform your chimney cleaning and inspection on an annual basis, and you’ll likely see an 80 to 100 percent return on investment as your fireplace continues to keep your house warm over the winter.
  • Updating your electrical switches, outlets and fixtures prepares you for the winter, defends against any possible outages and keeps you safe from electrocution. While it’s hard to measure the ROI, the one-time investment could pay back over many years.
  • Updating and installing new plumbing fixtures as needed is also immeasurable in ROI, but doing so protects your home from pipe freezes and flooded rooms. It’s also prevents expensive emergency expenditures.
  • Focus on depersonalization and energy efficiency. For example, painting the walls white and installing affordable energy-efficient appliances will pay back in home offers.

You should also factor in necessity, urgency, energy efficiency and location when determining which of these projects to work on this fall. For example, your chimney might be top priority if you live in the Northeast but less of a priority in the deep South.


Whether you invest in one or more of these projects out of necessity or for their resale value, practice safety and consider hiring a professional for the more complex projects. Winter is coming!

Related Reading: Why Real Estate Should Be Part Of Your Retirement Strategy

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The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Catha Mullen is passionate about helping people make healthier financial decisions, which is why she joined Personal Capital. Personal Capital helps people live better financial lives by providing technology-enabled advisory services, in addition to free financial software. She's got an MBA from Stanford and AB from Princeton.
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