Home Improvement: Projects That Pay Off Over Time

By: Allison Millar, Contributing Writer
In: Necessary home improvements, Repair your home's value
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I’ll confess. Our driveway’s a mess and we’re worried about making it through the winter without major remodeling problems. The old asphalt driveway is starting to flake off and is in need of a total overhaul. It’s tough to just call a contractor and add it to the home improvement list, however.

The problem is the cost, of course. It’s a little pricey and not nearly as much fun as buying new drapes or paying a contractor for bathroom remodeling.

We essentially deferred our decision until the spring, figuring our asphalt driveway can take one last beating from our Chicago winter and then we’ll have to call a contractor next year. A new driveway is one home improvement project that makes a big impact, but provides a slow return.

One reason it’s hard to rush to pay for it is that the payback takes awhile. If we wanted to sell our house in a year, would the new driveway pay for itself? No way. It would help with curb appeal, but not with the housing price.

When you debate which home improvement project to tackle, it helps to look at resale value, even if you plan to live there for awhile. Here’s a look at other necessary projects that might not pay off quickly:

  • Replacement windows–great for look and comfort, but they are a long term investment. Let’s say you spend $10,000 on windows. It takes 5 to 7 years or so before you recoup that cost in reduced energy usage.
  • Chimney replacement–a labor intensive job that takes awhile to pay off. This is viewed by buyers as a home improvement project that simply brings a home up to snuff.
  • New furnace or air conditioner–it may take up to 9 years to pay for this upgrade with what you save in energy bills but you should also factor in what repairs might cost you if you keep your old equipment.

Home improvement can be tons of fun, and some projects may be absolutely necessary but not everyone can appreciate the value of projects that don’t provide an immediate return on your investment.

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