The Pursuit of Happiness

The latest happiness index for remodeling is out...

The latest happiness index for remodeling is out and the top three projects might just surprise you.

This isn’t ROI (return on investment) we’re talking about here, although that is no doubt a very important driver in the decision to remodel. No one wants to spend a bunch of money to make his or her home less valuable—although that can happen if you pick the wrong remodeler.

But if you can make it more valuable and more enjoyable—win/win, right?



We use ROE (return on enjoyment), which is a completely different calculation, if you can call it that at all. It’s about happiness, which is kind of hard to measure—especially in Minnesota.


Watch yer step there fella.

When asked, “How ya doin'?” (How happy are you today?) most of us would reply, “Not bad.” Which means what exactly? Are we just that stoic? Is it the perpetual mental shadow of winter’s inevitable return? Or are we just afraid we’ll jinx life if we admit we’re doing pretty good? I guess it’s better than “not good.”


You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure— Lord Kelvin


Lord Kelvin (William Thompson) or Willy to his friends, knew a few things about measuring. He developed the absolute temperature “Kelvin” scale, formulated the second law of thermodynamics, and invented the Mariner's compass and astronomical clock.


Fortunately, the ROE quotient is a national measure, created by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). For years now, the NAR has surveyed homeowners after a home remodeling project to measure their “joy score on a scale of 1 to 10.



It’s really about the enjoyment of your home—how it makes you feel, how it looks to you and others, and how its functionality improves the way you live. The higher the score, the happier and more satisfied homeowners are with their newly remodeled home.

Here are their 2019 survey results of 2,100 homeowners covering 20 project types:


In case you were wondering about the other scale, the ROI (return of investment), here are the top three projects in 2019 that have the highest return on investment according to the NAR:


My what you ask? While it’s fun and useful to measure the return on enjoyment in the pursuit of happiness in the home, we’re missing half the picture. What about measuring how dysfunctional your home is specifically and the pain those deficiencies cause you every day?



In other words, we also need a HDI, or home dissatisfaction index. For example, on a scale of 1-10, how dysfunctional is your kitchen? How embarrassing is your bathroom? How tired is your paint color or the condition of your front door? Is that laundry room HDI a 5 or a 10? Is it time to fix it all or move and then fix what's left?


We've got a "Move or Stay Guide" that might help you decide.


In conclusion, there are really only two reasons to remodel. One is purely financial—to secure, build or protect your home investment and the other is for emotional well-being—as in the pursuit of happiness and enjoyment of home life.

Since life is short and you only go around once and you can’t take it with you and…well you get the picture. You don’t get any points for enduring a high HDI. Just sayin'.


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