You've just moved into a new house. Congratulations! Does it look and function exactly as you want, or are you planning on making some improvements?
If you're going to stay in the house for at least 15 years, you don't need to worry about getting a return on investment or ROI. But if you know you'll move in the next two to five years, you should know that some projects pay off more than others.
And don't plan to wait until you're about to sell to make improvements. "Upgrade and live with the benefits," recommends Len McAdams, owner of McAdams Remodeling and Design outside Seattle. "Doing nothing is not an option. The penalty for doing nothing is very high when it comes to your sales price."
One of your biggest investments should be in everyone's favorite room: the kitchen.
According to the 2015 Cost Vs. Value Survey prepared annually by Remodeling, a trade publication, and the National Association of Realtors, a mid-range, minor kitchen remodel that costs, on average $19,226, will bring 80.6 percent of your investment back to you.
A major kitchen remodel with mid-range finishes and products comes in at $56,768 and brings a 67.8 percent ROI.
"Kitchens are so important (at resale)," says Mike Gaughan, a broker-owner for REMAX in Nashville, Tenn. "You should put about 60 percent of the costs of your fix-ups into the kitchen."
There's plenty you can do on your own, says Kate Albrecht, aka "Mr. Kate," an interior and jewelry designer and DIY guru.
Refresh cabinetry with paint. Keep the kitchen a neutral color and change cabinet knobs. Other, lower-cost fixes include retiling the backsplash or refinishing wood floors — but you may need professional help with these, cautions Albrecht.
Truly the biggest bang for your buck comes from fixing up the outside of your home. In fact, nine of the top-10 remodeling projects in the Cost vs. Value survey are exterior projects. Think entryways, garage doors, siding, window replacements and decks.
The project with the highest ROI? Installing a mid-range 20-gauge steel entry door (117.6 percent ROI). While the door may cost about $1,200, you can install it yourself to save money.
If the front entry sees high traffic, think about storage — as in a mudroom. And, although it's not as sexy as purchasing a granite counter top, vinyl siding brings a great return at resale.
Finally, spend some time out back fixing up your deck. You can probably DIY this at a low cost, and the resale value is worth it, especially in regions with outdoor enthusiasts or a temperate climate. "A deck in poor condition is a real negative," says McAdams.
To figure out what works for you, consider your market. You don't necessarily have to keep up with the Joneses, but you need to be comfortably in range with your neighborhood.
That advice goes for any of your updates: "If you have a $3 million home in Beverly Hills and it doesn't have a master suite then you should add it," says Coldwell Banker realtor Pat Vredevoogd Combs of Grand Rapids, Mich. "But if you have a $250,000 home in Grand Rapids and it has no master suite, well, then, that's just it."
This article was originally featured on USAToday.com.