Anastasia Kaufman - ABR, SFR, GRI, CDPE - RE/MAX Town & Country | Lincoln, RI Real Estate


According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, Americans spend $400 billion annually on home remodeling projects. Which of those projects bring the most joy? Which ones provide the best value?

To answer these questions, the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, published by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), offers insights from three distinct perspectives—consumers, real estate professionals, and remodeling experts.

First, to calculate a “joy score,” consumers were asked about their satisfaction and happiness with recent remodeling projects.

For perspectives on remodeling priorities and estimates of cost recovery at resale, NAR surveyed members (REALTORS®) who are engaged in residential transactions. 

Estimates on the cost of each project were obtained through members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).

Here are the top ten interior remodeling projects, ranked by joy scores:

1. Complete Kitchen Renovation (Joy Score = 10)

For many homeowners, the kitchen is the heart of the home, where meals are prepared and shared with loved ones. It’s a room that invites creativity but also takes a beating over time.

It’s not surprising that a complete kitchen renovation earned the highest joy score. It’s also the most expensive remodeling project, estimated at $68,000 with a 59 percent cost recovery rate ($40,000).   

2. Closet Renovation (Joy Score = 10)

A brand new kitchen may top your wish list, but many homeowners were equally satisfied with renovating a closet. Improved functionality, livability, and storage organization are top drivers.

Among remodeling projects, closet renovations are relatively inexpensive, but they also had the lowest cost recovery rate (40 percent).

3. Full Interior Paint Job (Joy Score = 9.8)

Over time, homeowners’ tastes change, especially if they are dialed into HGTV, Houzz, and other outlets featuring the latest design trends.

A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to update rooms. Paint companies are happy to offer suggestions. Each year, for example, Benjamin Moore reveals its latest color trends

The top reason for tackling a full interior paint job was “time for a change” (49 percent). Upgrading worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials was another top priority.

4. Individual Room Paint Job (Joy Score = 9.7)

Painting one room brought homeowners nearly as much satisfaction as a complete interior paint job. The top motivating factor was adding individual personality to the home.  

5. Kitchen Upgrade (Joy Score = 9.7)

Even if you aren’t ready for a total kitchen overhaul, smaller upgrades are nearly as satisfying, and there are plenty of ways to make budget-friendly updates

A kitchen upgrade ranked highest among REALTORS®, in terms of tips for successfully marketing a property. One out of five surveyed NAR members said kitchen upgrades helped close a sale.

6. Basement Conversion to Living Area (Joy Score = 9.5)

For homeowners eager to add livable square footage to their home, renovating space in an unfinished basement can be an optimal solution. 

Additionally, this upgrade earned one the highest cost recovery estimates, at 64 percent.

7. Refinish Hardwood Flooring (Joy Score = 9.5)

Whether homeowners want to repair worn-out surfaces or update the look of their home, refinishing hardwood floors yielded a 9.5 joy score. 

It’s a project that’s also expected to provide full cost recovery.

Over a quarter of REALTORS® (27 percent) have suggested sellers complete this renovation before attempting to sell their home.

8. Bathroom Renovation (Joy Score = 9.3)

Similar to kitchens, bathroom surfaces, finishes, and materials wear out over time or require updates. 

Bathroom renovations are also strongly encouraged by REALTORS®, with one in three saying they have suggested sellers tackle this project before listing their home.

9. Insulation Upgrade (Joy Score = 9.3)

When you walk in the door of your home, you may not “see” an insulation upgrade, but you will probably feel it. 

Improved energy efficiency is the overwhelming reason to tackle this project. Plus, unlike cosmetic updates, the cost recovery benefits of upgrading insulation improve over time.

10. New Bathroom Addition (Joy Score = 9.2)

If your family’s daily routines get bogged down by bathroom traffic jams, you may be a prime candidate for this renovation project. Bathroom additions are predominately undertaken to add features and improve a home’s livability. 

Bathroom additions are also relatively cost-effective, with a 50 percent recovery estimate.

Learn More

The 2019 Remodeling Impact Report provides more details on these and other renovation projects, including additional interior projects, as well as the most valuable exterior renovations.

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71 PROGRESS STREET Street, Lincoln, RI 02865

$369,900                    $372,000   
List Price                    Sale Price

Beds         Total Number of Rooms      Full Bath    Half Bath

  3                      6                   1                2


Excellent One Level living, pristine ranch with incredibly beautiful details throughout, meticulously kept, open floor plan. Lovely eat-in chefs kitchen with granite,butcher block island, gas stove, carrara marble backsplash, and newly tiled flooring - lovely!Open floor plan with large sunken living room, gleaming hardwoods and open to the Dining room. Lots of sunlight abounds with sliders to a huge deck overlooking complete wooded privacy. The hallway offers several closet spaces. The main bath, recently updated with lovely tile and stonework, has a jetted bathtub and radiant heated floor. The Master Bed with a beautiful view of the wooded backyard, has a nice walk in closet and half bath. Wonderful walkout lower with finished family room, wood-like ceramic tile floor, and fireplace and half bath. Laundry room and cedar closet also on this level. Oversized 2 Car garage includes workshop space in rear. There is plenty of room for parking with a nice curve around driveway to integral garage spaces. Attached to rear of property is a potting/storage shed for your convenience. This property has Central AC and Central Vac, Gas Heat, and is connected to Sewer and Water. Home Warranty included which covers electrical, plumbing, kitchen appliances, roof,heating, water heater for 1 year after closing!

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Following the sale of her company to L’Oréal, makeup mogul Toni Ko spent five years and roughly $10 million turning two Los Angeles homes into a compound

When NYX Professional Makeup founder Toni Ko sold her company to L’Oréal in 2014, the bank wire hit her account on July 30th. The price: an estimated $400 million to $500 million, according to Fulvio Cazzol, analyst for Berenberg Capital Markets. But it wasn’t like winning the lottery, said Ms. Ko, 46.

“I earned that money. I spent my life on that company,” said Ms. Ko, who, like L’Oréal, declined to disclose the terms of the sale. Once the deal was done, she fell into a six-month long depression, she said.

When she emerged, she started to build the symmetrical and unreservedly feminine 18,000-square-foot compound in which she lives today. She bought two lots—both previously owned by the same family and on the market at the same time—within Fremont Place, a gated community of 73 early 20th century homes in the mid-city area of Los Angeles. A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America, once owned the property, according to Patricia Lombard, a board member of the Fremont Place Homeowners Association. The lots cost $3.75 million each, Ms. Ko said.

The Home That Makeup Built

Toni Ko’s estate was part of her plan to retire. It didn’t work out that way.

One of several sitting areas in Ms. Ko’s yard with beachy, blue accents.
Toni Ko, 46, founded NYX Professional Makeup, which L’Oreal bought in 2014 for an estimated $400 million to $500 million.
The front door of Ms. Ko’s estate. This facade was created to reference the original home; the actual facade of the original house is now the side of this house.
The foyer of Ms. Ko’s mansion in Los Angeles. She spent about $18 million to buy the lots and build.
A sitting area off the kitchen. Ms. Ko decorated with soft, feminine colors and art featuring women’s faces.
The front hallway, flanked with photo-realistic paintings of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, both blowing bubblegum bubbles.
The dining room, featuring bright green chairs and a retractable wall.
The kitchen, featuring brass light fixtures, marble, and a pink Le Creuset casserole.
The formal living room, with a rose quartz fireplace mantle. “The only downside is it gets really hot when I have a fire going,” said Ms. Ko.
A pink sofa in the living room, where Ms. Ko likes to curl up with books. The small framed piece is an oil crayon drawing by Gloria Vanderbilt; the large face is by Anja Van Herle, a Los Angeles-based artist whose work Ms. Ko collects.
Ms. Ko’s office. The door was the original door of the main home; Ms. Ko was required to keep it as part of the original facade of the building, which is now the side of the house.
An upstairs hallway, lined with textured art.
A soaking tub in the master bathroom.
Ms. Ko’s bedroom, with chairs oriented toward a large window and view of the gardens.
Ms. Ko in her walk-in closet, facing a wall lined with a 400-pair shoe collection.
Ms. Ko’s closet, with shoe collection, clothes, a jewelry case and a sitting area.
Part of Ms. Ko’s shoe collection. She favors sparkly, spiky, high-heeled shoes.
A detail of Ms. Ko’s spiky heel collection.
The pool and a front view of the guest house. The home was lifted by crane and placed onto this site.
Toni Ko, 46, founded NYX Professional Makeup, which L’Oreal bought in 2014 for an estimated $400 million to $500 million.
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would have paid any price,” admitted Ms. Ko. The location was strategic, she said, putting her within a roughly 20-minute drive to downtown, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. While she built, she lived in a nearly 5,000-square-foot penthouse in Santa Monica, which she sold this year for $12.5 million, she said. The condo accommodated her initial early retirement plan—“to sit on a beach and drink margaritas for the rest of my life,” she said. It didn’t take much beach sitting (“about two days,” she said) for her to realize she needed a new life plan, she said.

Her initial concept was to knock down the two existing homes and build a roughly 8,000-square foot modern house. The homeowner’s association nixed that idea, however, and obligated Ms. Ko to keep a Spanish-style home on the property and to retain the original facade of the main house.

The solution, orchestrated by BAR Design and Construction, was to wedge off the facade of the primary home, build a new house in its place, and reapply the face when construction was finished. The Spanish-style house was moved by crane to the back of the property. The result: a six-bedroom, seven-bathroom main house and a two-bedroom, three-bathroom guesthouse, plus a pool, several outdoor lounging and dining areas, vegetable garden, chicken coop, and abundant fruiting olive trees and rosemary. Construction cost about $10 million, Ms. Ko said.

Her first priority was symmetry. Standing at the front door, she sliced her arm in a downward direction, pointing through the dining room, outdoor lounge, pool and to the back wall of the garden. Peering up at the ceiling, Ms. Ko said she could swear the chandelier isn’t smack dab in the middle. Builder Asher Alfasi said it is bolted at dead center.


Next came color: “For so long, I lived in black and white environments, like Coco Chanel,” she said. In this home, Ms. Ko opted for bright green dining chairs, pastel pink sofas, and a rose-quartz fireplace mantel. Much of her art is by female artists and showcases bright flowers, red lipstick and chic icons, including Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot.

Ms. Ko herself cut a glamorous figure, sporting 4-inch heels, a wasp-waist and flared tulle skirt. Upstairs, she unlocked a door leading to a cavernous closet, home to about 60 Chanel handbags, seven Birkin bags, and about 30 pairs of Louboutin heels, plus scores of sky-high pumps encrusted with rhinestones and spikes. Makeup and fashion have always been big themes in her life: Her parents, who moved to Los Angeles from South Korea when Ms. Ko was 13, owned a beauty store and later, a cosmetics distribution company. She worked for her parents, who were successful business people and lived an “upper-middle-class” lifestyle, Ms. Ko said, until she was 25. Earlier dreams of a career as a writer were derailed by moving to the U.S. and struggling through years of English-as-a-second-language classes, she said. A relationship throughout her 20s with a wealthy boyfriend who bought her nice things taught her a key lesson: “Money really influences relationships and who has the power. With him, my roar was a meow,” she said.

With $250,000 in seed money from her mother, Ms. Ko launched her own line of eyeliners and lipliners in 1999. An early grasp of digital marketing helped propel the company to rapid growth. In the yearlong period prior to sale, NYX was on track to generate $120 million in revenue, Ms. Ko said.


A noncompete agreement with L’Oréal locked her out of the beauty business for five years, so she started a sunglasses company, initially called Perverse Sunglasses, then rebranded two years ago as Thomas James. She’s completing the sale of the company in January, she said. She also created Butter Ventures, which invests in female-owned companies, and built a portfolio of 500,000 square feet of commercial real estate in Southern California, she said.

At the end of July, her noncompete expired and she launched Bespoke Beauty Brands, a makeup company in which each collection is built around an internet influencer, celebrity or designer. The company’s first collection, Kimchi_Chic Beauty, is based around drag performer Kim Chi; since launching in August, the brand has “surpassed a quarter million in sales,” Ms. Ko said. Another line of products, which will be marketed to men, includes a powder for drying one’s nether regions. The line will be named “Mai Johnson.”

She never plans to build another house. “It was supposed to be 8,000 square feet. Where did the extra 10,000 come from?” she said, admitting that she typically uses about 2,000 of them.

She laughed, waving a hand at a pile of lightly used golf clubs, boxing gloves and other equipment for the hobbies she thought she’d use in retirement. Like her initial plan of sitting on a beach for the rest of her life, they have gone by the wayside. She’s gone back to work.

Write to Katy McLaughlin at

Photo by stux via Pixabay

If you're like many busy homeowners, you may not have a lot of time to cultivate a vegetable garden for the purpose of putting food on the family table. However, old-school culinary herb gardens are deceptively easy to grow, and they pull double duty by providing an exceedingly pleasing aesthetic. Not only do they add a flavorful element to any meal, but culinary herb gardens also present a picturesque appearance as well as perfume the surrounding air. If you plant your herb garden near a window, you'll be rewarded by a lovely aroma wafting through your home on warm days when you open the window. If you're thinking of putting your home on the market in the near future, an herb garden may increase its desirability to prospective buyers. 

As an added bonus, most culinary herbs require very little maintenance once established. Herbs are typically resilient plants capable of thriving in poor soils. They normally don't require extra summer watering except in times of drought, and their abundance of aromatic plant oils serve as natural insecticides. Here's what you need to do to get the most out of your culinary herb garden.

Consider How You Cook

The first thing to consider is which types of herbs you typically use the most in your kitchen. If you love using Mediterranean-sourced recipes when preparing fare for the family table, be sure to plant lots of thyme, oregano, and rosemary. If herbal tea is popular in your household, you can grow chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, and other herbs used for making teas in your garden. You can dry the herbs with a food dryer, by spreading them out on a cookie sheet and placing them in the oven on low heat, or by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry location.

Choose a Sunny Spot

Most culinary herbs used by modern cooks have their roots in the Mediterranean, which means they've evolved under sunny skies and prefer that kind of environment. Choosing the sunniest available spot in your yard for culinary herb gardens help ensure that they thrive. However, if you've got a few somewhat shady spots in the area you choose for your garden, some herbs, such as parsley and mint, do quite well with a partial sun exposure, especially in warmer climates.

Add Hardscaping

Adding hardscaping such as stepping stones, statuary, birdbaths, arbors, and decorative fencing provides a polished, pulled-together look that keeps the average herb garden from looking unkempt. Water features such as pools and fountains add classic accents, and a comfortable garden bench provides an ideal place to sit and read, dream, or just watch the world go by. 

Please feel free to reach out for more information on getting the most from your outdoor living space or other aspects of optimizing your homeowner experience. 

Image by annca from Pixabay

You’ve finally found the perfect home. It’s got the number of bedrooms you wanted, a spacious kitchen, updated bathrooms, and even a beautiful vegetable garden out back. Now comes the tricky part—how to pay for it.

Numerous home buyers find financing their mortgages through a credit union to be a good option. According to Magnify Money, approximately nine percent of mortgages are held by credit unions. These non-profit organizations essentially operate like banks, but are more laid back, less aggressive, and easy to work with. Here are some of the top benefits you’ll find when financing your mortgage through a credit union.

Experience a Simplified Lending Process

As a part of their philosophy, credit unions put a higher priority on customer service than they do profits. They don’t have to answer to external stockholders and put priority on profits the way traditional for-profit banks do. As a result, credit unions are equipped to offer easier loan approvals and decent mortgage rates. Even if you have a lower credit score or have saved a smaller down payment than traditionally required, you can usually find a credit union willing to work with you.

Enjoy Lower Fees & Put Money Back into Your Pocket

Credit unions are known to offer fewer origination fees and lower processing costs because they don’t have the same requirements banks do. For instance, credit unions don’t have to pay federal taxes and need to break every year due to their non-profit status. These savings are usually passed onto their members.

Build a Personal Relationship with Lender

Many mortgage seekers find they enjoy working with an entity that strives to treat them as a person, not as a distant account number. Since many credit unions are smaller entities than their for-profit banking counterparts, they typically offer a “small-town” feel, even if they are a large credit union. This is because their memberships are limited to specific affiliations.

Also, a consideration you might find of value is the fact credit unions don’t typically sell out to other entities. Chances are you’ll have one lender to deal with through the lifetime of your mortgage (although not a 100% guarantee). If you borrow from a bank, chances increase for your loan to change hands many times over the years.

There are many benefits to knowing who services your loan. If a problem or other issue arises, you’ll almost always know who you can turn to and where to send your payment.

How to Join a Credit Union

Ideally, you’ll want to be preapproved before starting your home search so you know how much you qualify for and don’t waste time looking at homes out of your price range—this is no matter what lender you ultimately decide to take out a mortgage with. But if you’re looking for low maintenance and high- quality lenders, a credit union might suit your needs.

If you’re not sure you can join one, be sure to consider all of your personal and professional affiliations, be they your college alumni, employer, HOA or church, to name a few. You can find out which ones you are eligible to join by checking your affiliations at