HOME IMPROVEMENT 101
You’ve been thinking about it for a while now. That choke point in the kitchen is maddening, the wallpaper in the bathroom is a crime against good taste, and the basement has looked like a dungeon for years. Not to mention the upgrades to the doors, windows, and landscaping that have been the subject of so many dinner table discussions.
Now, before you go off and start planning that $20,000-bathroom renovation, it is important that you do your research beforehand to make sure that you are going to get the best possible results.
Another simple rule to follow is to make sure you get whatever permits your municipality requires. Trying to skirt the permit system may seem like a good idea in the short term, but it can lead to far more anxiety and expense in the long run.
With all of this in mind, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of home improvements, beginning with a more detailed look at how to initiate the process and plan, where you should spend your money and how much you should expect back from your investment.
Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value via Improvements
- Get a professional perspective. Engage a real estate agent or interior designer to examine your home with an eye to improving sale value. Many real estate agents will do this as a courtesy, but an interior designer will likely require a consultation fee. Check with area designers; the hourly fee is normally less than $100. In that time, they can give ideas for necessary or desirable improvements. Even small improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the salability of your home.
- Inspect it first. Not all home improvement projects are cosmetic. They may be less obvious than red brocade 1970s wallpaper in the bathroom, but deteriorating roofs, termite infestations, or outdated electrical systems will play a major role in your house sale. While a new roof will not add appreciably to market value, as a serviceable roof is expected by home shoppers, a dilapidated roof can quickly squelch the deal, or at least cost the seller the amount of a new roof off the listing price and cost you the trust of a buyer who now suspects you won’t have maintained other parts of the home as well. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken, so hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you do not normally see. An inspection can alert you to unseen issues that could negatively impact the value of your home. Small problems (like minor water leaks) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you delay repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.
- Paint, paint, and paint some more. Among the most visible, yet simplest and most cost-effective improvements in preparing a home for sale is fresh paint. A freshly painted room looks clean and updated — and that adds value. When selecting paint, use neutral colors to appeal to the greatest possible number of people, making your home more desirable to a wider audience. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you money to buy rollers, painter’s tape, dropcloths, and brushes. Get out the ladder and get busy!
- Get inspired. Instead of spending $100 on a decorator’s opinion, do it yourself and search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in home design magazines, books, television shows, and websites. Keep it simple — DIY projects are great for remodeling on a tight budget.
- Get energy efficient. Many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers’ homes that will demonstrate how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, and touting that energy-efficiency in sales marketing will appeal to economically and socially conscious buyers.
$100 TO $200 IMPROVEMENTS
- Add a water-filtration system. To add an inexpensive bit of luxury while saving money over time in the kitchen, install a water-filtration system. These systems purify your water and save on buying bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive improvement and the type of luxury touch that attracts home buyers.
- Plant a tree. Trees add curb appeal. A longer-term strategy to add value to your property if you are not soon planning to sell your house is to plant a shade tree. Mature trees make your home more desirable, while a fully grown, properly placed tree can save you as much as 40% in cooling costs. Mature landscaping is also beneficial for the environment, providing a habitat for wildlife.
- Add low-maintenance landscaping.Shrubs, bushes, and colorful plants will add curb appeal to your home, so “think green.” Purchase greenery that is native to your region, or plants that can survive in drought-like conditions — which means they’ll require less water and maintenance.
- Improve the air in your home. If you have older carpets in your home, they could be housing contaminants and allergens. To determine if carpeting need replacing, hire a company to test your indoor air quality. If results show that your carpets should be replaced, use environmentally friendly natural products like wood, tile, or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to clean, don’t hold odors, instantly update your home, and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.
- Remove textured or “popcorn” ceilings. Popcorn ceilings date a house as few structural elements do. Remove the dated look and add to the value of your home. Beware that ceilings might contain asbestos — have yours tested professionally. Then use a solution to soften the texture, and scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys to adding value to your home is to repair, replace, or remove anything that could turn buyers away, no matter how small a change it might seem.
$200 TO $400 IMPROVEMENTS
- Engage a lawn service to clean up the yard. The key to curb appeal is your front yard. Carelessly mowed grass, patchy brown areas, and untrimmed bushes or hedges are a fast turn-off to prospective homebuyers. A lawn care service can be engaged for a few hundred dollars to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. The curb appeal will go from messy to maintain.
- Clean even where it’s not seen. Expect people to be picky when they are shopping for and choosing a new home. Cleanliness counts — and you only get one chance at a first impression. So make the interior of your home sparkle from the moment buyers walk through the door! For about $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even a well-maintained home has overlooked nooks and crannies. For about $200 more, get all the windows in the house professionally washed.
- Minor bathroom updates return big dividends. Even if you can’t afford a full bathroom renovation or remodel, small changes such as repainting, removing dated wallpaper, and replacing old lighting will update the room without hurting your budget. If there is no ventilation system in the bathroom, have a wall-fan installed.
- Upgrade to energy-efficient fixtures.A ceiling fan can provide light and, in warmer months, produce a soft breeze that can reduce the need for expensive air conditioning. But an outdated, chipped, loud, or broken ceiling fan is a useless distraction. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable as a homeowner and to increase the bottom line if you decide to sell.
- Update the bathroom for a big ROI. A bathroom update with a budget of $750 can return a fine ROI while attracting buyers. One cost-effective change, such as replacing an outdated vanity, older plumbing, and lighting fixtures, or installing a tile floor, will improve home value and sales potential.
- A kitchen update adds value. As with bathroom upgrades, almost any kitchen update will add to your home’s value and garner the attention of buyers. Kitchens and bathrooms are key for buyers. To maximize your home’s value, start by swapping out one item — such as an old sink — for a shiny new stainless model. Even small updates will add big value to your home.
- Replace worn carpets or rugs. If your carpets and area rugs are stained or worn, it is worth the investment to replace them. Buyers are turned off by the thought that they will immediately need to replace all the flooring in a home. Ideally, you want to replace them all, but if a more limited budget constrains you, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as finances permit.
- Keep up with maintenance.Compile a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair in your home. Note the cracks in the walkways, the chips in the wall paint, and the outdoor faucet that doesn’t really work. Considered individually, minor repairs might not seem that important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small issues will add up to give the impression that your home hasn’t been taken care of. If you don’t feel comfortable taking on the repairs yourself, hire a professional. Staying on top of maintenance today can eliminate problems tomorrow if you should decide to sell.
MORE TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR HOME’S VALUE
This list of ten improvement projects is from www.homes.com:
- Landscaping is extremely important to present the house to other people. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but maintaining it is crucial.
- Fix minor repairs; don’t give the next owner a laundry list of chores to deal with.
- For a refreshed and updated look, paint the walls. A simple and easy fix!
- If you plan on making major enhancements to the home, consider updating the kitchen.
- Consider updating a bathroom, as those usually have the most bang for your buck.
- Increasing storage options is always a good choice, like adding built-in shelves or more closet spaces.
- Installing good windows.
- Make improvements energy efficient to keep home current on trends.
- Don’t forget about curb appeal!
- Of course, a well-appointed master suite will give the illusion of luxury and relaxing Saturday mornings.
TOP GARDENING TIPS FOR INCREASING VALUE
What is outside will often heighten the desire to see what is inside. It is important not to overlook landscaping and gardening in your efforts to improve your property’s value and salability.
The best plants for adding the most curb appeal will depend on the type of house you are selling, its desired price point, and the condition of your front yard. In an “As Is” sale, you don’t have much to do except clean up any obvious mess; however, if you are looking for top dollar, pay attention to the details that will garner your home more positive attention:
- Get your lawn into its best possible condition, or add a new patch of lawn with sod for instant green. Lawns are plants, too.
- Cover exposed foundations and utility boxes, and add privacy from your neighbors with fencing, shrubs, or bushes.
- Add color with annual flowering plants set out on your porch or entry. Seasonal annual plants add instant color to garden beds as well.
- Add an inch or two of mulch after putting in new plants. It makes your garden bed look cleaner, makes the color of flowers pop, and covers unsightly dirt.
In addition to flowering plants, plant trees in your yard to increase your home’s value. Mature trees are the most valuable in a landscape, followed by well-placed, newly planted trees that contribute shade, ornamental value, and fruit or nuts. In general, a well-designed landscape with beautiful trees will increase the value of your home.
Taking advantage of the latest in gardening trends will also make your home stand out to prospective buyers by giving your property an up-to-date look outside. Miniature container gardens continue to grow as a popular garden idea, and growing your own food is enormously popular. On the edible gardening front, gardeners are creating “Cocktail Gardens,” “Smoothie Gardens,” and even “International Cuisine Gardens” with their favorite Japanese, Indian, and Thai herbs and vegetables. Also, anything that is a “vertical garden” is top on the gardening charts. Adding any of these items to your landscaping will enhance buyer interest.
THIS OLD HOUSE’S WAYS TO BOOST HOUSE VALUE
The venerable This Old House home improvement television show weighed in on the home improvement and remodeling projects with the best ROI and interest-generation in buyers. According to these home improvement gurus, the ways to increase the value of your home at the time of sale include:
- Create space. Buyers want a wide-open floor plan and a living room right off the kitchen. They are into big spaces. Opening space and creating a sense of flow in the house generates a response from buyers. You might knock out a non-structural wall, or remove a kitchen island. For just a few hundred dollars, you can transform the feel of the house. However, a kitchen island can also be an asset, creating needed storage space. If the kitchen has enough cabinets, it could pay to haul the island away, but an alternative is to replace it with a moveable island.
- Prune, limb, and landscape. People forget about their trees more than almost any feature. Yet, landscaping is one of the top three investments that yields the biggest returns. According to a survey of 2,000 brokers conducted by HomeGain.com, an online real estate marketing site, an investment of around $400 or $500 dollars in landscaping can bring a return of four times that much.
- Let the Light Shine In. The number one item on the Home Gain survey, lighting — anything from a dimmer switch to the increasingly popular sun tubes — noticeably enhances a home’s appeal. For example, dimmers allow you to create a specific mood to fit different situations. Sun tubes are a new home improvement in lighting. Less expensive than framing in a skylight, sun tubes — also known as light pipes, sunscoops, and tubular skylights — use reflective material to funnel natural light from a globe-capped hole cut in a rooftop down through a ceiling fixture and into a room. With tubular skylights, sunlight is nice and moonlight is even nicer. A few other ways to light things up: fix broken panes, make sure windows open (and do so quietly and easily), and consider installing lights that use motion detectors to turn themselves off. High-wattage bulbs make small spaces feel larger, and soft lighting can warm empty spaces.
- Don’t put off maintenance. Before other value-enhancing improvements and remodeling projects, address the basics. Insulate the attic, repair plumbing leaks, replace rusty gutters, inspect the furnace, replace or repair leaky windows, install storm doors, and weed the flower beds. These kinds of fixes go a long way toward value. Investing in maintenance could also be crucial to a sale.
- Go green. If your heating or air conditioning systems are outdated, new ones are a much better idea, with energy savings of up to 30 to 40%. Another example: spending $7,000 for the unit and installation of a solar-powered water heater, with $2,100 back in green tax credits, could save you as much as 80% on your water-heating bills. Research published by The Appraisal Journal estimates that energy savings add twenty times the annual savings to the value of your property. Energy savers make your house more desirable.
- Make a “grand entrance.” Home sellers are advised not to underestimate the power of a front door. It is said that people make up their minds in the first seven seconds of entering a house. Buyers expect a working door bell. An overhang above the front door, such as an awning or portico, can also increase value. Buyers want a way out of the rain, or shelter from the sun while fumbling for keys, or somewhere for greeting guests. If you’re up for more exterior upgrades, move to the back or sides of the house. People get back dollar-for-dollar the costs of decks they put in. If the deck is completed with the right material so it will stay in good shape, it will hold value.
- Have flooring that stands up. Don’t undervalue flooring in a home sale; 94% of real estate pros recommend spending money on floors. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. For an estimated average investment of $600 to $900, brokers report that the return in value comes in at up to $2,000. You can spend even less than that — some well-placed nails can eliminate distracting squeaks. Other small projects with a big impact include repairing broken tile, patching damaged floor boards, and tossing out the wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Bath upgrades offer the best ROI. Almost all real estate agents and brokers say updating the kitchen and bath is the best bet for adding to a home’s value. It may not be economical to do a major renovation if you are trying to spend as little as possible before putting a house up for sale. However, some upgrades are cheap, easy, and fast, especially in the bathroom. Replace frosted glass in favor of clear glass, clean the grout, remove rust stains, apply fresh caulk, update doorknobs and cabinet pulls, replace faucets, and install a low-flush toilet. Even buying a new toilet seat can make a difference.
- Use neutral wall colors. If you’re getting ready to put a house on the market, don’t allow walls with chipped or cracked paint to go unmaintained. If you need to do more than a touch up, choose neutral colors. Sellers are well advised to get out of their personal taste. Buyers want to be able to project their own ideas onto a space, and sellers can help with neutral wall colors.
- Remove the “question marks” from your house. Some real estate agents call this the “what’s that?” factor, and whatever it is (1950s wallpaper, a broken front step or cracked threshold, green-and-blue vinyl flooring), fix it or remove it.
We hope you found our home improvement guide useful, no matter why you want to upgrade! Also, please keep in mind that our knowledgeable real estate professionals are available to assist you. Each of our agents is completely committed to their profession, which includes assisting you.
Contact us online today for a no-obligation, pleasant discussion.