Painting, adding a home office, and new hardwood floors were among the renovations that brought homeowners the most joy in the past year, according to a new, joint study released Wednesday from the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The study, called the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, noted that Americans spent $420 billion in 2020 on home remodeling. In separate surveys, consumers and home remodelers gave accounts of whether the coronavirus pandemic impacted home improvement decisions.

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In the fall of 2021, NAR surveyed 1,182 consumers about the last remodeling project they undertook through NAR’s homeownership site HouseLogic.com. That survey found that 83 percent said they would have remodeled regardless of the pandemic, though 86 percent said that remodeling one area of their home then inspired them to remodel other areas of the home.

Also in the fall of 2021, NARI received 210 responses to a survey the trade group emailed to all of its 5,778 member companies. That survey found that 90 percent of NAR members experienced a greater demand for contracting remodeling work during the pandemic and 60 percent said the scale of the projects grew into either a bigger project or into remodeling more than one room due to the virus.

Dr. Jessica Lautz

“Our study revealed that homeowners tend to undertake a remodeling project for any number of reasons,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR, in a statement.

“In some instances, homeowners were content with sprucing up a room with a simple paint job, while in other cases, families decided to take on the task of renovating an entire attic or basement to add additional living space to their home.”

The consumer study calculated a “Joy Score” for specific interior remodeling projects by combining the share of respondents who were happy and those who were satisfied when seeing their completed project and dividing the share by 10 to create a ranking between 1 and 10, according to the report.

Here are the top 10 projects, nearly all with a perfect score of 10:

  • painting the entire interior of the home (Joy Score: 10)
  • painting one interior room (10)
  • adding a new home office (10)
  • hardwood flooring refinish (10)
  • new wood flooring (10)
  • closet renovation (10)
  • insulation upgrade (10)
  • attic conversion to living area (10)
  • complete kitchen renovation (9.8)
  • kitchen upgrade (9.8)

Regarding renovations in which homeowners were able to recoup all or most of their costs, there was some overlap between the top 10 most joyful projects and the top 10 projects in terms of cost recovery:

  • hardwood flooring refinish (147 percent cost recovery)
  • new wood flooring (118 percent)
  • insulation upgrade (100 percent)
  • basement conversion to living area (86 percent)
  • closet renovation (83 percent)
  • attic conversion to living area (75 percent)
  • complete kitchen renovation (75 percent)
  • bathroom renovation (71 percent)
  • kitchen upgrade (67 percent)
  • add new bathroom (63 percent)

“This report is the first one to measure the impact of the pandemic on the price and relative value of various remodeling projects,” said NARI President Chris Egner in a statement.

“We are glad that NARI members, who are among the most experienced remodelers, could provide realistic estimates of remodeling costs in line with the criteria specified in the survey.”

In February 2022, NAR surveyed its members on the value of certain renovations and received 2,287 responses. The Realtors estimated the likely dollar value each project would add to a home during resale and then the report’s authors compared that dollar value to the estimated cost of a project provided by NARI members in order to calculate the cost recovery percentages.

For instance, NARI remodelers estimated that the average kitchen remodel would cost about $45,000 and Realtors estimated that $30,000 of that amount could be recovered on resale, adding up to a 67 percent cost recovery.

The report cautioned that the actual cost of a remodeling project and cost recovery depend on project design, quality of materials, location, age and condition of the home, and homeowner preferences.

“Quite often, an added benefit to home renovations is the possibility of an increase in the home’s value, which is a reason why some people remodel,” Lautz said. “This is especially advantageous to a homeowner who may be considering selling their house or converting the home to a rental property.”

After remodeling, 35 percent of homeowners said the single most important result from their renovation was better functionality and livability while 22 percent said durable and long-lasting results, materials and appliances, and 14 percent said beauty and aesthetics.

“The pandemic has changed the way we use our homes, and many of those changes are here to stay,” Lautz said. “As a result, homeowners needed to reconfigure or remodel how they use their home and maximize space.”

While 22 percent of homeowners went the do-it-yourself route completing the work themselves from start to finish, most homeowners hired help. More than a third (35 percent) had a professional do the entire project and 28 percent hired someone to do the labor but purchased the materials themselves.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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