When it comes to remodeling, Americans are thinking small. It’s a reflection of the times we live in, according to Remodeling Magazine, a trade journal that each year conducts an extensive study of the typical costs of home-remodeling jobs, compared to ballpark estimates of how much of those expenditures homeowners would recoup at sale time.

The short version: Economic realities have generally snuffed out over-the-top kitchen remodels and room additions in favor of more modest jobs.

In broadest terms, the average return on investment of a remodeling project this past year at sale time was 60%, vs. 64% last year. The magazine studied tightly defined jobs on a national and regional basis, as well as for many cities. The study was conducted in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors, whose members offered payback estimates based on resale’s in their geographic areas.

The top five “moderate projects” with the strongest payback at resale time, returning 72% or more of their cost: steel entry-door replacement (at a cost of about $1,200); garage-door replacement ($1,000); wooden deck addition ($11,000); replacing 10 insulated, wooden windows clad in vinyl or aluminum ($12,000); an attic bedroom addition ($51,428).

The best bang for the buck was garage-door replacement. It was the first time that project had appeared in the survey, though it made sense because consumers seem to have a strong interest in curb-appeal projects these days.

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