Cost vs. Value: Two Ways You Can Make It Better

By Stacey Moncrieff, Editor in Chief, REALTOR® Magazine

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey Moncrieff

We’re on our way to producing the 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report. So far, 1,544 REALTORS® have completed the Cost vs. Value survey that’s in the field. Another 1,153 have started the survey but not completed it. That’s a great start, but I’d love it if more of you–brokers, salespeople, and particularly appraisers–would take the survey (

The Cost vs. Value Report is one of the most popular features we run every year. It gives an estimated resale value for various remodeling projects (33 this year). In REALTOR® magazine, we present an overview of the report (typically in December, but because of our reduced publication schedule, watch for this year’s Report in January 2010). Our partner, Remodeling magazine, provides complete metro area reports free (in PDF format) to those who register at

Chances are, if you live in one of the 80 metro areas covered by the report, you’ve already received an e-mail message (or two, or three) from me asking you to complete this year’s survey. I apologize for the redundancy, but the broader the participation, the more reliable our data. So the first way you can make the report better is by completing the survey.

Here’s what the survey requires of you: You review the specs and cost estimates for each project (this year, you’ll also see an artist’s rendering of each one), and you estimate what percentage of the cost would likely be recouped if the house were sold in today’s market.

It’s not an easy survey to complete. That’s why we always offer an incentive. This year, if you qualify (essentially, if you live in one of the 80 metro areas covered by the report–see below for more details) and you complete the survey by midnight on Aug. 17, 2009, your name will be entered into a drawing for one of three $500 American Express gift cards.

Despite its popularity, the Cost vs. Value Report has its limitations. Over the years, Sal Alfano, the editorial director of Remodeling, and I have offered up a number of caveats to readers. For example, neighborhood returns can vary greatly, as can the scope and quality of remodeling projects and the value individual buyers place on them.

Last year, several readers chimed in with another concern: They said the remodeling cost estimates given for their market were higher–in some cases much higher–than customary.

That brings me to the second way you can make the Cost vs. Value Report better: by bringing your market knowledge to bear when you share it with homeowners. We don’t pull the estimates out of thin air–they’re produced by Hometech Information Systems, a Bethesda, Md.-based estimating software developer–but we recognize that costs can vary greatly.

A lot of real estate pros I talk to say the Cost vs. Value Report is a great starting point, a chance to initiate a discussion with homeowners who are thinking about a remodeling project. As with any tool, the value you get from Cost vs. Value depends on what you put in.

(Details on the drawing: There’s no purchase necessary to enter the drawing. There’s a limit of one entry per person. The sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the United States who are 18 years or older, have Internet access and a valid e-mail account, and are current members of NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in one of the 80 qualifying metropolitan areas listed in the official rules. Void where prohibited by law. To read the official rules, click the following link:

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is vice president of business-to-business communications for the National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association's key communications with NAR members and REALTOR® association executives.

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  1. Many of the ads I see for remodeling talk about increasing the home value. Of course that is true but it is never as much as the project cost. Especially in today’s market where people seems even less willing to pay for upgrades than they did a few years ago. The main value I see if that it will make the home sell quicker or just sell at all as opposed to not selling at all in some cases.

    I think appraisers should be the ones to fill out a survey like this as they have more data than Realtors. They are much more used to dealing with adjustments for different items.

  2. Adelle Shaw

    Always find the results of this survey useful and helpful for my clients

  3. Many of the improvements while they add some monetary value, make the home sell at a faster pace compared to those without the improvements.