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The 3 Home Improvement Projects That Cost Way More Than You Think

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Replacing a roof, installing a pool, remodeling the kitchen: There are certain home upgrades you know will cost you. But then there are the smaller ones—the ones often guaranteed to yield a high ROI down the road, if only you invest a little now—that can creep up, especially amid the pandemic, where supply chain shortages and inflation have made pricing even harder to predict. Suddenly, that infamous Lucille Bluth quote (“I mean, it’s one banana, Michael. What could it cost? $10?”) feels eerily applicable to anything you’d find at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

In fact, when HomeAdvisor polled more than 900 people this past October on home maintenance costs, most underestimated three projects in particular. And we’d be willing to bet you’ve been considering tackling at least one of them in the year ahead. Before you do, here’s what you should know.

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1. painting A Room

If it seemed like your TikTok and Instagram feeds were filled with room reveals over the past two years, you’re not wrong. One in three people repainted a room in 2020, HomeAdvisor found…and for one in four people, it cost double what they estimated.

If you’re having a professional paint the room, plan to spend about $2 to $6 per square foot, with most projects averaging $3.50. That’ll give you a ballpark range before you start getting quotes. If you’re going the DIY route, know that it typically takes six to ten hours to paint a room, and that you can probably score all of the materials you need for $200 to $300. (Should you tackle multiple rooms, HomeAdvisor recommends comparing the prices for one and five-gallon buckets. Buying paint in bulk can really reduce your costs and having a similar color scheme can make one room flow to the next, making the space feel larger.)

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2. replacing Windows

Up to 30 percent of your heating and cooling costs are leaking right out through your old, drafty windows, the U.S. Department of Energy reports, and you’ve heard countless times that upgrading them will save you money, reduce outdoor noise and make you 9 percent less likely to want to scream into your pillow at the end of the day. (Or something like that.) But most of us have no idea what that will cost us.

Thirty-nine percent of people thought it’d cost $199 or less per window, when it’d actually cost at least $120 for the window itself—up to $1,200, depending on the size and type you choose—with another $200 to $800 per window for labor. (And yes, it's worth hiring a pro; replacing your windows is no DIY project.)

When you're ready to replace your windows, get at least three quotes from contractors, so you can see how the price varies in your area. (HomeAdvisor's data is an average range based on nationwide costs, so things might be higher or lower in your neck of the woods.) Beyond that, the folks at Rocket Homes recommend looking for models with an Energy Star seal and a low U-factor, aka how much heat is lost through a window’s glass. This can help you save the most on energy bills long-term.

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3. landscaping The Yard

Strong curb appeal can help your home sell for 7 percent more, but how much will it cost you to get there? Well, that depends on what needs to be done, but we already know our gauge on painting is off…and it turns out most people underestimate the cost of landscaping by 67 percent. (When asked how much it’d cost to plant five trees, many people said “$300 or less,” when the range is more realistically $300 to $700.) You can save some money by planting the trees yourself, but to stay within that $300 budget, you’d probably have to stick to young—like, less than three-foot-tall bbs—and play the waiting game.