Redoing a home’s exterior outperformed larger interior home improvements in 2020, according to the 34th annual Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine.

Tom Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder

Redoing a home’s exterior outperformed larger interior home improvements in 2020, according to the 34th annual Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine.

The trend of exterior projects outperforming larger discretionary indoor remodeling projects was likely spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, as people sought to improve their outdoor environments and were reluctant to have contractors inside their homes.

Eleven of the 12 projects with the highest return on investment (ROI) were exterior replacements. At the top is the replacement garage door (No. 1), and siding at Nos. 2 and 3. The indoor exception, sitting at No. 3, is the minor kitchen remodel – a modest face lift of kitchen surfaces that offers a relatively high return when done prior to the sale of a house.

While you might expect decks to be at the top of the list, the cost of materials like pressure-treated framing lumber skyrocketed in 2020, which negatively impacts the ROI.

The effect on ROI of rising material costs is shown across the board for all projects with a decrease of three percentage points on average.

Another reason exterior projects have a strong ROI: curb appeal. The impact of a positive first impression affects the offer price buyers are willing to make.

If homebuyers “start out thinking the house looks good – is in good shape, has good bones – they begin to fit all the new information they learn once they walk through the front door around these positive impressions. As for the reverse – driving up and seeing a dilapidated garage door or a house in need of a paint job – has the reverse effect: Buyers start to downgrade what they are willing to pay for it,” reports Remodeling Magazine.

Larger interior projects such as kitchen, bath, and master-suite remodels typically impact home price less. While there are design trends that have broad appeal, many of the fixture choices are subjective. Differences in decorating tastes mean one person’s elegant modern kitchen is the next person’s unappealing, overstated design in need of a re-do.

In Colorado and the Mountain Region states, homeowners recoup considerably more of their costs for specific projects. Across the Mountain region, a garage door replacement returned 93.7%, nudging out manufactured stone veneer – 92.1% – as the project that brings the highest return.

Lowest ROI projects are a master suite or bathroom addition in upscale homes – 47.1% and 51.7% respectively – and in midrange homes a bathroom addition returns 50.7%.

Here are the remodeling projects that topped this year’s report with the Mountain Region’s best ROI.

Garage door replacement
A stylish new garage door makes your home pop with curb appeal. That’s probably why this $3,885 investment returns an estimated $3,642, or 93.7%. The project analyzed is for the removal and replacement of a 16 x 7-foot garage door and tracks made with high-tensile-strength steel with two coats of factory-applied paint. Windows in top panel are ½-inch insulated glass. This doesn’t include a new motorized opener.

Manufactured stone veneer
A natural for Colorado, this trend delivers $9,349 on a $10,147 investment, or 92.1%. The estimated cost is for a 300-square-foot adhered manufactured stone veneer, including 36 linear feet of sills, 40 linear feet of corners, and an outlined entry archway.

Vinyl siding replacement
New siding made of vinyl makes your entire home look new and returns 73.5% of the money spent to do the job. Project cost is $15,532 for 1,250 square feet, and returns an estimated $11,413.

Minor kitchen remodel
A simple kitchen refresh returns 72.7% of the cost on midrange homes – exactly the same return as in 2020. The project analyzed put new Shaker-style wood panels and new hardware on cabinet and drawer fronts, replaced the cooktop, oven range and refrigerator, and put in new laminate countertops and resilient flooring. Project cost is $25,400 and returns $18,470.

Complete data from the Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

By Tom Kalinski. Tom is the broker/owner of RE/MAX of Boulder.For questions, e-mail Tom at [email protected], call 303.441.5620 or visit