Homeowner improvements 

 April 1, 2019

By  Scott Teesdale

Home Improvements — Adding to Your Basis

An important part of the ownership of a home is the preparation for its eventual sale. A good example of this is maintaining records of any capital improvements that you make to the house, since the value of these add to the basis of your house. When it comes time to sell the home, your capital gains will be based on the difference between the sales price (less any selling expenses) minus the adjusted basis. The IRS lists the following as increases to basis:

1) Improvements – Freshen up your front yard with nice address numbers
2) Additions – add a new sun-room to bring the outdoors inside
3) Special assessments for local improvements, and
4) Amounts you spent after a casualty to restore damaged property.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses. You add the cost of improvements to the basis of your property.”
Examples: Putting a recreation room in your unfinished basement, adding another bathroom or bedroom, putting up a fence, putting in new plumbing or wiring, putting on a new roof, or paving your driveway are improvements.

The chart below lists some other examples of improvements





Storm windows, doors

Septic system


New roof

Water heater


Central vacuum

Soft water system


Wiring upgrades

Filtration system


Satellite dish



Security system

Built-in appliances



Kitchen modernization


Heating system



Central air conditioning

Wall-to-wall carpeting




Retaining wall

Duct work


Sprinkler system

Central humidifier

Walls, floor

Swimming pool

Filtration system

Pipes, duct work

Paying For Your Improvements. The most popular way of financing home improvements is through a home equity loan or line of credit. Interest rates are generally lower thatn other types of loans, you will usually have more flexibility in repayment terms and interest charges (since they are considered mortgage interest) may be tax deductible.

 You should keep records to prove your home’s adjusted basis. Ordinarily, you must keep records for 3 years after the due date for filing your return for the tax year in which you sold your home. But if the basis of your old home affects the basis of your new one, such as when you sold your old home before May 7, 1997, and postponed tax on any gain, you should keep those records as long as they are needed for tax purposes.
The records you should keep include:

1) Proof of the home’s purchase price and purchase expenses
2) Receipts and other records for all improvements, additions, and other items that affect the home’s adjusted basis
3) Any Form 2119 that you filed to postpone gain from the sale of a previous home before May 7, 1997
4) Any worksheets you used to prepare Form 2119, such as the Adjusted Basis of Home Sold Worksheet or the Capital Improvements Worksheet from the Form 2119 instructions.

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