A Close Look at What Home Improvements Bring the Greatest Happiness

There are a lot of reasons why you would want to renovate your home. People’s desires for home renovations can encompass a wide range of purposes and directions. Some renovate to boost resale while others renovate to make the space more livable.

A surprising study done by the National Association of Realtors Research Group found that there’s often another driving factor, one that many people don’t notice until after the project is done. This is the happiness and sense of satisfaction that comes after the project is complete. According to the study, there are 21 projects that can lead to a great desire to be home, a greater sense of enjoyment in your home, and a major sense of accomplishment when the project is complete.

We’ve compiled these 21 projects into an easy to read graphic, ranking them in terms of how they perform across all three categories. Now homeowners on the fence about a renovation can also see at a glance how that renovation may impact their lives beyond things like resale value.

A Visual Ranking of Happiness

To make it easier for you to see how the different projects rank, we’ve created this simple and easy to read graphic. Each of the 21 projects is ranked in terms of how they perform in total across all three categories, with those at the top having the highest total scores.

The graphic is also color coded; the higher the percentage, the darker the color. So you can see at a glance how something may rank like a bathroom renovation may rank at 70% for a desire to be home, and 80% in terms of a sense of accomplishment, but only at 58% in terms of increased enjoyment.

The different projects are also grouped into broad categories - Kitchen and Bath, Interior Renovation, Exterior Renovation, Cosmetic Interior, Windows and Doors, and Energy Efficiency, each designated with a symbol beside project. This can let you see at a glance that interior projects tend to rank more highly than exterior projects, and that energy efficiency ranks last in terms of home enjoyment.

Kitchens Bring Joy while Energy Upgrades Bring Less

There are several interesting things to note about these projects and how they rank. Because so many people tend to focus on things like value and savings when they renovate, it can be eye opening to see how projects rank in terms of satisfaction as well.

Kitchen renovations rank high in terms of both a complete renovation, which scores the highest in all three categories, and in terms of kitchen upgrades, which comes in at third place. While kitchens and bathrooms are frequently linked together with bathrooms being the second most common place in the home to renovate, bathrooms themselves did not score nearly as high, with a full bathroom renovation coming in at 10th place and a new bathroom addition making the list at 15th place.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s surprising how low energy efficiency projects ranked, coming in at 20th and 21st place. Given that energy efficiency is frequently named one of the most common reasons that people want to renovate due to the higher rates of return, the very low scores - particularly for insulation - seem to go in the face of this. It may be that people have the wrong idea or an overinflated idea of what an energy efficient upgrade may do for them.

Most other projects rank somewhere in the middle, but interestingly, interior finishing projects tend to rank higher in general, while exterior renovation projects tend to rank lower as a group. Windows and doors are more widespread as a group, with front doors ranking fairly highly and garage doors ranking toward the bottom.

Invest in Happiness

If you’re considering a remodel of your home, and you’re planning on living in your home for the next few years, then be sure to take the potential sense of happiness and satisfaction you may feel into account as well. While some projects are unavoidable, investing in those that may produce higher levels of satisfaction or happiness at the end may help you remain happier in your home, regardless of its resale value.


Yuka Kato

Industry Analyst