Your Go-To Guide to Getting the Most Return on Your Home Improvements Home Improvements That Improve Values
• • • By Raymond Kerege M.A., ePro, GRI, ABR, GREEN, Associate Broker
Published by Legacy Media Networks Copyright © 2019 Legacy Media Networks V: STAN
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Table of Contents
PART 1: Getting Started One | 2 REMODELING – IS IT WORTH IT? Two | 5 WHERE TO SPEND THE MONEY Three | 10 IMPROVEMENTS THAT COST MORE THAN THEIR ROI Four | 16 DESIGN & FEATURE TRENDS TO AVOID; IMPROVEMENTS THAT ADD VALUE PART 2: Your Area and Outdoor Improvements Five | 28 DON’T OVERDO IT — KEEPING YOUR MARKET AREA IN MIND Six | 32 OUTDOOR IMPROVEMENTS PART 3: Remodeling Seven | 42 FLOORING, WALLS, AND LIGHTING
Eight | 49 COOKING UP A NEW KITCHEN Nine | 55 LIVING ROOM UPGRADES AND RENOVATIONS Ten | 59 BEDROOM AND ATTIC RENOVATIONS Eleven | 64 BATHROOM RENOVATIONS AND ROI Twelve | 71 REMODELING, ADDITIONS, AND ROI
PART 4: Prepare to Sell Thirteen | 76 TIPS FOR INCREASING YOUR HOME’S VALUE VIA IMPROVEMENTS
Part 1: Getting Started
REMODELING – IS IT WORTH IT? Remodeling. 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. It crosses your mind that maybe it would be better to just move and leave all the home’s faults for someone else to figure out. Then again, your job isn’t going to last forever and you may have to move in five or six years anyway. Maybe it would just be best to tough it out until then. After all, no one gets their money back on remodeling projects at the time of sale anyway, right? The truth is that deciding to remodel can be an extremely stressful decision. It affects your savings, your enjoyment of the home, and the property’s potential resale value. Yet, since the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession came along, more and more people have decided to take on the task of remodeling, frequently attempting the projects themselves to save money. According to the National Association of Home Builders, homeowners spent $152 billion on improvements to their homes in 2017. NAHB predicts remodeling spending for owner-occupied single-family homes will increase 4.9 percent in 2018 over 2017 and an additional 0.6 percent in 2019. That trend has only grown since. The home improvement industry was estimated to be worth well over $600 billion by 2015. While that number likely includes routine maintenance, that still represents only
one year. This has been driven largely by the effects of the recession, which led many people to try to cut costs where they could and take on projects themselves rather than hiring costly contractors. Even in the current market, with home prices going back up and homes moving off the market quickly in many places, remodeling can still be a wise decision. The improvements may help set your home apart from the pack if and when you choose to sell. Or you may find that while your home will already sell quickly and for a good price, you still can’t quite afford the upgrade home you want, and it would help both your current standard of living and the future resale value to improve the property. It makes sense that if your home is increasing in value, the values of the homes you are looking at will also be rising; you are not alone in deciding to remodel. However, then comes the hard part — deciding what to do and howmuch to spend. There are myriad factors to consider. How long do you plan on staying in the house? What is your budget? What kind of projects do you need done the most? Or rather, what about your house drives you the craziest? How long you plan to remain in the house is perhaps the most important of those questions. The less time you expect to spend there, the less time you have to spend enjoying the fruits of your hard work. It also means that you are going to need to have some money left over when the time comes to move. In such a case, you are going to want to focus on the projects that give you the biggest Return on Investment (ROI). For example, simple and relatively inexpensive things like replacing old doors and windows can have a return of 100% or more in the right market. Amajor remodel of a kitchen or basement will generally bring less than a 100% ROI. The goal of this book is to show you that it is possible to remodel for both personal satisfaction in your home and for increased value should you decide to sell, and to help you decide where and how to best spend your money so that you get the most out of your hard work. 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.
The single best thing you can do to help direct your home renovation project toward improving its sale value is to contact a real estate agent, especially if you are planning on selling within the next few years. While we will be going over several examples of where to spend your money that transcend markets, each market is different in important ways. An agent will know your specific market and what sort of improvements, colors, and styles are most sought-after in your area. A real estate agent will also be able to suggest simple fixes with low costs, as well as contractors who are able to perform the work. Another simple rule to follow is to make sure you get whatever permits your municipality requires. Trying to skirt the permit systemmay 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 inmind, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of home remodeling, beginning with a more detailed look at where you should spend your money and how much you should expect back from your investment. • • •
WHERE TO SPEND THE MONEY Full-scale remodeling projects don’t generally offer the best ROI. Rather, the best approach to getting full value for your expense and effort is to refresh or replace existing items like windows and doors, usually with a mid-range upgrade. We are going to take a quick look at several of the best places to spend your money for the greatest return. We’ll also dive into details of where and how much you can expect to recoup when you decide to place your home on themarket. Let us begin by going over some of those replacement projects and continue with an overview of some of the other big-hitters, particularly the kitchen and bathroom remodel. REPLACEMENTS These projects are relatively simple and low-cost, placing themwithin the reach of most homeowners. The top four improvement projects in terms of ROI, according to Remodeling magazine, are the following:
• Garage door replacement: 98.3% • Manufactured stone veneer: 97.1% • Deck addition (wood): 82.8% percent • Minor kitchen remodel: 81.1%
As you can see, these are not sweeping, spectacular changes. So why are they so valuable? You should first consider where all these changes are. Every one of these changes is on the visible exterior of the home, creating a positive first impression in theminds of potential buyers—an impression that helps set the value of the home in their minds. Other replacement projects with a good return include replacing old windows with new vinyl or wood window frames and trim and installing a new roof, with returns of 71% and 62%, respectively.
It is also worth noting that the ROI numbers will vary depending on what market you are in. The Pacific Northwest (including Alaska and Hawaii) tends to show the best return on home remodeling and home improvement projects, withAlabama, Kentucky,Mississippi, andTennessee also showing strong returns according to the 2015 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine. REMODELING Much can be gained fromwork on the inside of the home as well. One chief benefit of redoing a room or two inside the home is that it will increase your own enjoyment of your home. Another benefit is that if you are selling, it is important to carry that good impression from the exterior through to the interior with further improvements. As with all other aspects of home improvement, there are better andworse ways to spend your money. And, as the adage goes, kitchens sell houses. Citing Remodeling magazine, kitchen remodels average a return of 79.3% nationwide, making it the best investment for a total remodeling project. Other good remodel projects to consider include: • Attic bedroom: 53%
• Bathroom: 62% • Basement: 63%
Be warned that these projects can prove costly, with the national average cost for jobs on this scale running in the tens of thousands of dollars. Be sure to carefully consider just how much you are willing to spend and what is in demand in your market to maximize the return on such a large investment. ADDITIONS Another considerationwhen looking to add value to your home, as well as make itmore functional for yourself, is to add entirely new rooms. Clearly, this is a large step with an even larger investment involved in nearly every possible case.
Room additions are not cost-effective if you are planning to sell within the next few years. That said, if you plan on staying where you are for a while to enjoy your additions, they can result in a reasonable ROI. Some are more financially worthwhile than others, as below: • Master suite: 52% • Deck: 70% • Bathroom: 62% As you can see, there is a fairly large range in the ROI involved, though not as large as a less ambitious remodel. A careful reading of the data shows that some of the most expensive projects (a sunroom addition averaged over $72,000 nationwide) provide the lowest returns. Of course, there is wide variance in building costs. According to Remodeling magazine, a 200-square foot sunroom addition with footings and slabs-on-grade foundation can cost up to $70,000, while a survey conducted on HomeAdvisor.com found the average cost on sunroom additions ran around $16,315. You must also take into consideration that buyers may not have the same taste as you—and even if they do, they only see the finished product and will have little understanding of or interest in what went into creating it. That brings out the need for a slightly deeper understanding of the way these statistics play out in real life. For example, a roof replacement is often cited as having a high ROI. While this can be true, it is important to understand this in context. After all, others assert that a new roof does nothing to add market value to a home. How do you square these seemingly contradictory statements? A roof is a bit like a bass player in a rock band; you should only really notice it when it isn’t doing its job.That is, a roof is not something you think about unless it is leaking or has a colony of moss growing on it. Therefore, while a bad roof can certainly detract from a home’s value, a solid, trouble-free roof is simply expected. Its chief value as a seller is how it may favorably compare with other, similar homes with older roofs that are showing clear signs of wear. Do not replace your roof with an eye toward selling unless your home clearly needs it.
One caveat to include is that roofing items like energy-efficient architectural shingles with a transferable warranty may be highly attractive to the right buyer. Also remember thatmoremoney spent does not necessarilymean a bigger return. Going back to the kitchen example, a relatively minor remodel of $20,000 yields a much higher ROI than a $55,000 remodel. While buyers certainly love a large kitchen complete with island and shiny stainless-steel appliances, theywon’t be as quick to assign significant value to whether it has the best hinges, customstained cupboards, and importedWolf appliances that money can buy. At some point, very high-end appliances can even be a turn-off either because the buyer is not familiar with them, or is too familiar and knows just how hard it is to get parts when they fail. Basements are also tricky. A nice big recreation room is certainly a draw, but often will not be counted as living space in an appraisal, nor in the square footage when the home is listed. People also tend to have their own ideas of exactly what a rec room should be. If you have not finished your basement already or are planning on leaving in less than five years, it is best to either leave it alone or to put up walls along the outside of the basement and install cheap but decently attractive carpet and inexpensive drop ceilings, allowing the buyer to customize to his own tastes. It is also important that you not overlook the basic systems. When people are looking at a home, they do not expect to find leaky pipes, a non-working furnace, or electrical outlets that pop a breaker as soon as something is plugged into an outlet. These and other issues like mold, a leaky roof, or stained and damaged carpet will generally turn off a buyer, regardless of howamazing the kitchen and bathrooms may be. Some of these, especially less visible issues like an aging furnace or water heater, may seem like a waste of money if you are planning on selling soon but are actually of critical importance. Abuyermay not notice such issues on an initial walk-through. But even if an offer is made and accepted, that is not necessarily the end of the story. Appraisers and inspectorswill almost certainly be coming through the home as part of the process and either of these can derail a sale. An appraiser will
notice such aging equipment and other factors like old carpet and flooring and adjust the home’s value based on the current market. Home inspectors are less concernedwithmarket value but they will point out that even if it is running flawlessly now, a 25-year-old furnace can give out at any time, often leading a buyer to want the value of a new one subtracted from the sale price of the home. Even if you are intending to move in the near future, it is worth the cost to replace or repair the basic systems of your home. These systems do provide a good ROI, at least in terms of salability, and at the end of the daywill at leastmake your remaining time there more comfortable. The furnace and air conditioning units can be a selling point if they are the new, energy efficient models. An additional bonus here is that there are often tax credits associated with such models, lessening your initial investment. Do not forget that even if some of these repairs do not add additional value in the eyes of a buyer, they do not subtract value either and will help your home sell faster than it would without them. • • •
IMPROVEMENTS THAT COST MORE THAN THEIR ROI
Over the course of many years, we have been conditioned to view almost any home improvement or repair as something which automatically increases the value of the home, as something that will guarantee a great ROI upon selling it. This is not always true.
When deciding whether or not to add a new addition, fix up the basement, purchase new appliances, or other home improvement projects, it is important to ask yourself: do I know that this project will addmonetary value tomy home? Is this repair a necessity or a nicety? Are
these new appliances going to fill my needs and make me happy, or am I buying thembecause I think that they will add value to the home when I sell it in a few years? There are certain repairs, renovations, and upgrades that just will not help you make a sale. Let’s take a walk through your home and look at things more closely. New carpeting? While this could appeal to some people, home buyers are often turned off by it because they will feel like they need to have carpets professionally cleaned before moving in. They also might be conscious of health hazards due to allergens that gather in carpets. These thoughts and more will cross the minds of home buyers making their decisions. If you have good flooring, show it off. You’re much better off with hardwood flooring that can be topped with area rugs or carpeted over later if the home buyer chooses to do so.
It’s a bedroom, not a zoo. If you want to have pets, have pets, but be careful to avoid making structural changes like adding built-in cages or aquariums. This is an example of “improvements” detracting from the value of your home because unless you find another Dr. Doolittle to purchase the home, you are going to have to convert it back to normal before anyone else will buy it. The same goes for other highly personalized conversions such as a cold pantry or wine cellar. Anything you do that is truly unique to you needs to be done in such a way that it is easily undone before putting your home on the market. Otherwise, potential buyers may view these personal extravagances as expensive projects to undo, or instead make it part of the deal that you undo them yourself. Where is the garage? If it looks like a garage, potential home buyers are expecting it to be a garage. If they walk in and find that it’s been completely changed into something else that can no longer have a car stored in it, they will not be too excited. Home buyers enjoy not having hail damage their vehicles, not cleaning off ice or snow on winter mornings, not leaving their car at the mercy of night-time pranksters — or worse. Instead of a “man cave,” you will find greater success with a real garage. That does not mean that you cannot create that family room, theater, or gym in your garage. You can — if you set it up in such a way that the garage can become a garage again with minimal cost. For example, don’t carpet it. If you want to cover the garage floor, do so with large area rugs, or if you want to use carpet, roll it out onto the surface without attaching it with glue or permanently installing it in any other way. If you have built-in storage cabinets, leave them as such instead of dismantling them to hang up the big screen. The famous kitchen. If you plan to live in your home for many years and you want to enjoy an updated kitchen, go for the greatest kitchen you can afford. However, if you plan to renovate the kitchen in hopes of raising the home’s value and increasing your profits at its sale, be warned. On paper, kitchen renovations are usually only worth about half of what homeowners spend on them— even less if you go too gourmet.
New granite countertops, new tile flooring, a new brushed stainless steel sink, and a sophisticated cabinet system with a hideaway refrigerator — these things and more might be your dreams coming true, but that doesn’t make them the appraiser’s nor potential buyers’. If remodeling is a must, treat with caution and avoid overspending. In general, the kitchen is the heart of the home, so it will impress potential buyers to have a nice one. However, you will not realize a 100% ROI on a kitchen remodel. No one is telling you to hang onto the plaster or old ceramic sink, but it would be smart to tread with caution. Take a dip elsewhere. It could save you thousands, sometimes even tens of thousands. Before installing an in-ground pool prior to sale in the hope of adding value to your home, think this through. Pools are for homeowners who want to enjoy them— and maintain them, and service them. They are not a particularly strong draw to home buyers. There are some possible exceptions, of course. Do you live in Southern California or Florida? In that case, a pool might well be an important element for more than a few potential buyers. If you live in a state that experiences real winters, though, an in-ground pool holds less value than in the states where the sun hardly sleeps. Youmay argue that you can have a heated pool in an enclosure, but then it becomes a question of adding the pool for your own enjoyment. Regardless of whether you choose to install an indoor or outdoor in-ground pool, or even a permanent above- ground pool in a deck, heavily weigh the pros and cons. Are you going to enjoy the pool yourself for a few years or are you installing it to improve the home’s sale value? Are you prepared to fill in an in-ground pool or dismantle an above-ground pool at a buyer’s request? Many potential buyers view pools as a hazard, especially if they have children or grandchildren who will be in the home with them. They will also be aware of the extra costs attached to the pool for maintenance and water bills. If your wallet will be just as happy paying for all the expenses attached to installing a pool, keeping up withmaintenance, and potentially losing out on tens of thousands of dollars when you can’t recoup your investment
at the sale, then go ahead and have fun with a pool. Do not, however, do it for the resale value of the property. I know that sounds harsh, but it is unfortunately true. Taking it up a level? Do you need more room to fit your family for a fewmore years? Is your mother-in-lawmoving in so you need to build a special suite for her?There are valid reasons to build additions onto your home, but if you are planning on moving out anyway and the addition will only be a temporary bandage, hold off onmaking expensive changes. If your house is the smallest in your neighborhood and everyone else has a second story, you have a better chance of recouping your costs than if it is the other way around. Home buyers want to be comfortable in the home and with their surroundings. If you are adding onto your house in good taste so that it does not stand out like a sore thumb, the appraisal will likely be more in your favor. However, covering 100% of the cost of any addition is very unlikely, so don’t get your hopes up. Don’t go chasing waterfalls. It is lovely to see yards that are beautifully landscaped with colorful plants, mini-hills, and the little trickle of water flowing down amidst the flowers. It’s just the kind of picturesque setting that pleases the eye and relaxes the mind. However, while good landscaping is important for the general enjoyment of any home by its residents, there is no need for you to invest in extravagant creations in an attempt to bring up the home’s resale value. Instead, a sprinkler system is a practical investment of several thousand dollars. There is greater perceived and real value in this addition than in a miniature babbling brook that will attract birds and butterflies. If you are thinking of ways to upgrade your yard, the sprinkler system would be the wiser choice. The lower level. The question of the basement raises much conversation among homeowners. There are cases in which finishing a basement has proved to be a great financial loss to the homeowner at the time of sale, and cases in which the appraisal value showed an increase, with buyers happily willing to pay the increased price.
Finishing your basement as local code allows can be done in different ways, and if you can manage without completely altering the structure — such as adding walls or creating extra rooms — it is possible to come out a winner. What about the bathroom? What about the bathroom indeed. A necessary component of any household is the toilet, and a home without one wouldn’t be much better than a particularly fancy tent. Renovating a bathroom could cost you only a little or a fortune, depending on your plans. Like upgrading kitchens, while a modern, efficient bathroom is expected, do not expect to increase the appraisal or sale value of the home substantially with a large investment. Replacing the floor covering or the wall color will not cost as much as a full-blown renovation that replaces and rearranges the toilet, the sink, the shower or bathtub, or that expands the room size. Installing a spacious doorless shower, a hot tub, or an extra-large vanity topped by an over-sized mirror in addition to new walls, flooring, and lighting will put your price tag on the opposite end of the spectrum. Do you need a new toilet? Get it. Is your vanity too small? Then replace it. Is the tile cracked or linoleum peeling back? It is time for a floor makeover. Be practical. You do not want potential buyers cringing at the sight of an old toilet or rusted shower head, but you want to recoup as much money as you can at the sale. If you overspend on luxuries, you may still make the sale, but not at the full amount needed for you to at least break even for your efforts. The point of much of this walk-through is that making permanent alterations that are extremely unique to you can cost you at the sale. Prospective home buyers won’t necessarily view the expensive solar system painted on the ceiling in the dining room as a benefit, and some may even want to have it removed at your expense for them to consider buying. If you’re upgrading an older, 100+year-old home to include basic systems such as air-conditioning or upgraded electric or if you are updating the ductwork or entirely replacing the heating and air units in a more recent model home, do not expect home buyers to be willing to pay the cost or for the appraisal to reflect what you spent.
There are certain things home buyers take for granted, including central heating and air, functional plumbing, and electricity. If a home lacks any of these the value goes down drastically. However, value is not affected when these are present, even if you were to spend thousands on the best in the industry. You may get some bonus points for more efficient and environmentally friendly equipment, but not much else. This goes also for buying new gutters. On the other hand, improvements on necessities such as new siding or a new roof will often yield a higher return than the more important but unseen repairs to electricity, piping, or central heating and air. While you’re living in your house, enjoy yourself. Make yourself comfortable. You have a right to be happy. Just do not break the bank whenmaking improvements if you are doing it to increase appraisal or sale value. Making your money back is not guaranteed, and inmany cases the risk of loss is great. It is not easy to strike a balance between what makes you happy and what will make the buyer happy, because ultimately, it is very subjective. What you like and what the potential buyers like will differ, but you can do your best to avoid over-personalizing to helpmake the sale. After all, every buyer needs a place to call home, because we all know, there’s no place like it. • • •
DESIGN & FEATURE TRENDS TO AVOID; IMPROVEMENTS THAT ADD VALUE FEATURES TO AVOID
There are home remodeling or upgrade projects that, nomatter your own taste, never help at the time of resale. There are also outdated fashions that scream “update me.” These are some of them. Inconsistent Architecture Having your home contain a hodgepodge of architectural styles can be off-putting to a potential home buyer. For a ranch-style home, featuring columns on the front porch can be as jarring as a log-cabin-styled home with art deco accents. Each architectural style has its own inherent beauty, so be sure to emphasize these factors. If you don’t, it can be like eating
pickles on ice cream! Oversized Kitchens
Hold the rise of celebrity chefs responsible for this one. Kitchens with every appliance imaginable and too much space can be off-putting to prospective home buyers who do not engage in serious entertaining. Unless you are hosting lavish get-togethers with a team of cooks, it may be time to divide the kitchen into segments, like a cozy breakfast nook
and a sit-down family table. Faux “Old World” Design
By decorating or emphasizing a European style (for example, the region of Tuscany has a distinctive and popular style), we may hope to capture the elegance of the area, but bear in mind that unless you are sourcing
the materials (and a vineyard to boot), there will always be something inauthentic about channeling Europe in another region of the world. White Appliances If your appliances are white, it is time to upgrade. White may have been at one time a color of choice to emphasize a spotless home (everything shows up on white!), but that is precisely the problem. Home buyers will subconsciously feel the toil associated with wiping every surface down, or see lingering stains that will never come out. In addition, plasticmaterials fade over time, turning into a non-uniformyellow. Instead, choose black appliances or stainless steel. Wallpaper Wallpaper makes a bold statement in a home. However, that same boldness may put off buyers, especially if the wallpaper is cheap, old, or common. In addition, removing wallpaper is a labor-intensive process that can also put off potential home buyers, especially considering that the removal of older wallpaper may damage the walls and create more headaches. Moreover, wallpaper can be a source of undetected mold growth. Stick with paint instead. Carpeted Bathrooms There may have been a time when stepping across the master bedroom and onto an icy cold tiled floor made a carpeted bathroom seem like a brilliant idea, but that time is over. That’s what bathmats are for. Carpets and water in the same place is simply asking for mold growth or damage. Some modern homes have heated floorings, which is a huge selling point to potential home buyers and far preferable to the hygiene nightmare of a carpeted bathroom. Gaudy Gold Fixtures and Hardware Metallic finishes can give your home warmth and sophistication, but if you have shiny gold fixtures and hardware consider removing them. Gold carries a needlessly flashy and gaudy look that may appeal to nouveau riche buyers, but most home buyers find it as outdated as the ‘80s. Instead, opt to replace these fixtures with warmer metals, such as polished brass or brushed nickel.
Tiled Countertops Your kitchen and bathroom countertops play a huge part in the eye of a potential home buyer. If they’re tiled, consider removing them. At one time, this trend seemed modern, but the nitty-gritty involved with maintaining tiled countertops can be off-putting.Think about it —what do you do if a tile chips and needs to be replaced? Are you prepared to clean the porous grout regularly to prevent mold and bacteria growth? It just makes the already-unwelcome chore of cleaning the kitchen that much worse. Cheap Wood Paneling Wood-paneled homes are beautiful. If you have stunning wooden wainscoting throughout your home, leave it alone. However, if the walls of your house contain cheap wood panelingmeant for a church basement bingo game, remove it immediately. Lower quality wood paneling instantly dates your home and screams “cheap” to those looking. Worse, it may imply that the paneling was put up to cover up larger problems, like a lack of insulation or unfinished walls. Taxidermy Animal heads on display will not appeal to every home buyer, so it’s best to remove that moose head when selling. That said, it may not be a hindrance to a sale in certain regions of the U.S., where hunting is popular. On the same note, similar items, like a bull’s skull strategically placed over a mantelpiece or in a garden, will only be appealing to certain types of home buyer. Remember that your goal is tomake your home an open template so a prospective home buyer can envision living in the house. Linoleum Flooring No one likes walking across sticky linoleumbarefoot. Simply put, get rid of linoleum flooring. At one time, it was a popular option, especially in the case of patterned linoleum that could mimic wood or tile flooring. Nowadays, linoleum is almost synonymous with inexpensive apartments and a careless sense of decoration. Instead, opt for flooringmaterials like hardwood that are not only comfortable, but also visually appealing.
Popcorn Ceilings If a home contains a popcorn ceiling (also known as a “textured ceiling” or a “stucco ceiling”), it instantly communicates to a home buyer that it has not been modernized. Popcorn ceilings were popular from the 1950s all the way to the 1980s as an inexpensive, ubiquitous alternative to cover up imperfections and unadorned drywall. To modern eyes, it looks more like a dreary Motel 6 than a warm home. Removal of popcorn ceilings, like wallpaper, is a labor-intensive affair, so be sure to get it done before your open house. In addition, be sure to look for asbestos, which can make or break a closing if detected by a One of the most common trends from the mid-2000s is a glass mosaic backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom. While it may have looked good then because of its relative scarcity, today it is nearly everywhere. Consider replacing it with marble tiling or plain white subway tile to obscure your home’s last appointment with an interior designer. Bold Paint The first thing that a home buyer sees when viewing a house for the first time is the color — first the exterior and then the individual rooms. Essentially, this first impression of colors sets the stage for the home’s other features, including furnishings, decorations, and architecture. If a bold color is applied to the exterior, like a light pink, potential buyers that like to blend in may be put off. If a room is too dark, such as dark red, or too bright, such as chromatic yellow, the features of the home may be muted or obscured as they compete for visual attention. Neutralizing your home is the best option (see “Neutral Colors” below), as buyers can project their own color palette to their tastes without being influenced home buyer or inspector. Glass Mosaic Backsplash
by your preferences. Converted Spaces
It is a modern notion to have our spaces fit our personalities, lifestyles, quirks, and interests. That works just fine when you’re living there, but
you may want to reconsider the current usage of each space that you have repurposed when it comes time to sell. Having a garage converted for another purpose besides storage and parking a vehicle may be fine for your needs, but home buyers may just want a garage for what it was originally intended. If you’ve converted your garage into a place to run your small business, exercise room, or music practice room, be sure to bring it back to its normal garage-only state to appeal to the largest number of home buyers. This is especially true for cities that have limited parking. Similarly, a bedroomconverted into a small office or storage space can be off-putting. This happens because it puts the intended purpose of the room into the mind of a home buyer and that’s not your goal when selling your home. Carpeting Most home buyers prefer hardwood floors when purchasing a home, even if you have recently taken the trouble of installing new carpet. People may assume that the germs, pet dander, and dirt of the previous residents are still present within the carpet. Furthermore, the carpet color choice for the room may clash with their sensibilities or decorating ideas, leading to another item on their mental “To-Do” list when the time comes to customize the home. Hardwood flooring is a happy medium of natural hues and the ability to customize. Should the home buyer want carpet, then all they have to do is install it on top of the wooden surface. Too Much Landscape There has been a trend in recent years of introducing the “outdoor living room” to holistically connect nature with the home. Trimmed bushes in ornate shapes, carpet-like moss walkways, elaborate gardens, and ponds are all visually appealing, but there’s a catch. Aproperty requiring constant maintenancemaymake potential home buyers hesitate, especially if their future finances are uncertain.
This also includes the recent trend of urban farming. While you may enjoy fresh eggs, honey, and chevre daily, others may be put off by the daily upkeep that animals require and the implications about your home’s cleanliness, so it’s best to leave no signs that your home was once a farm. Hot Tubs and Pools There may have been a time when a pool was considered a selling point for new homeowners, but many home buyers realize how much of a maintenance issue and eyesore it can be.This is especially true for above- ground pools, which tend to take up a large amount of space, create a safety and liability hazard for children and guests, and leave an ugly spot of dead grass when removed. This is true for hot tubs, too. Hot tubs are notorious as a breeding ground for bacteria, can be difficult to maintain, and removal from a deck or backyard may lead to even more expense down the line (e.g., rebuilding a portion of your deck where the hot tub once was). Whirlpool Bathtubs Whirlpool bathtubsmay once have been considered an itemof luxury and a major selling point, but tastes have changed in recent years. Those who have owned or used themmay have enjoyed the luxury, but realized how much water they use (between 80 – 100 gallons) and how much space is taken up that could be used for other bathroom features such as a bigger shower space or a dual-vanity counter. Minimalist Design Outfitting your home like an urban loft space has long been a trend in interior home design, but this may not be your best option for selling your home. Minimalist design in this style canmake homes seemunnaturally empty, without emphasizing the natural personality of the home that’s attractive to home buyers. Instead, you should aim to add accents without creating a barren look. Subconsciously, an overly minimalist design communicates to buyers that the home shouldn’t house furnishings and decorations, something that may be at odds with the buyer’s intentions.
IMPROVEMENTS THAT ADD VALUE AND HELP IN THE SALE Neutral Colors Agents, interior decorators, and potential home buyers —what do they have in common?They all prefer neutral colors. Whether it’s showcasing your home’s features without distractions or removing the “personality” from the house, the choice of colors is very important when selling your property. Picking a neutral color like beige or cream helps stoke the interest of those looking at online photographs. Just imagine a bright yellow house on your computer screen! Let’s look at some neutral color trends to help you sell your home: • Green: A mid-range green, not too dark and not too light, can be a versatile color to bring out the best in your home. Green has a cheery, homespun coziness when paired with yellow, but also brings out the rustic features of the home when paired with an appropriate shade of brown. This is especially true for wooden cabinets in a kitchen or bathroom, creating an inviting atmosphere. However, caution should be used for using green against shrubbery or bushes. • Gray: In terms of sophistication andmodernity, gray is an excellent neutral color. It can help accent colors stand out (like a bright green lamp or a red plush chair), or it can be the focal point when used as a darker shade to enhance urban-styled furnishings. Of course, gray can be a bit dull and business-like if not used with caution, so experiment with different hues to achieve the desired effect. • White: White is an excellent color to make your home’s features pop. White matches just about every color, whether it’s used on the wainscoting, awnings, or ceilings. However, it should be noted that many shades of white are available, and not all are created equal. Remember that while white IS a neutral color, it shouldn’t be overused. Painting your entire interior white makes it seem like an unfinished home, or it may be too bright. However, white is a perfect complement to other neutral colors, as long as you’re willing to keep it clean.
• Red and Orange: These colors are a bit of a gamble when it comes to finding neutral hues. A soft red or orange works well for kitchens or dining rooms, where they exude a natural warmth and a vibrant, festive atmosphere. However, a dark red or orange can seem too serious for rooms. • Blue: For many people, light shades of blue have a soothing, tranquil effect. Blues should be reserved for master bedrooms, bathrooms, or rooms with lots of natural light, as these conjure subconscious feelings of the beach or a pleasant vacation in one’s memory. Dark blues can have a stern, ominous effect, like storm clouds or night time, and should only be used with caution where there is plenty of light or where that atmosphere is not at odds with a room’s obvious purpose (e.g. a study). • Brown: Brown and its variants are excellent colors to choose for your home. From dark earthy browns to the ever-present beige, brown is a versatile hue that is a great replacement for places where white would seem like an obvious choice. Dark browns give off a cozy feel that can keep a room from feeling too big, but be careful not to overdo it, as home buyers may make a snap judgment that the size of the room seems too small. Once you’ve chosen which neutral colors best suit your home, don’t forget that adding a splash of color can bring a room to life. A light blue room with a splash of orange can open it up and play on the contrasts. Try to keep the color ratio at a maximum of 80% neutral, 20% others to avoid having colors clash. Craftsmanship Authenticity is a big factor in selling your home. Many can claim to have replicas, but to feature a genuine display of artwork or artisanal furnishings and features (e.g. a custom fireplace or ornate woodwork on the stairs and trim) can be a key factor in convincing a prospective home buyer that your home is the one they want to buy. Bold Front Door An easy way to snag buyers is to emphasize your house’s curb appeal with a boldly painted front door. A dark red door among neutral colors can have potential home buyers eager to see what else the home features.
Embracing Textures It is widely believed—mistakenly—that a neutral homemust be a boring home. In reality there aremany neutral features that could work well with some creativity. Do not be afraid to experiment. Mixing wood grains with plain window dressing can work, as can faux fur with exposed brick.This can be especially interesting visually, as it emphasizes or deemphasizes different features depending on your color and texture combinations. Shape and Space Considerations Don’t forget about using the shape of the room to your advantage when selling your home. Instead of large wraparound couches, more elegant pieces of furniture can create a visual impression of space and utility, which is a proper use of minimalism. Emphasizing how organizational systems of the house like hidden closet space or functional artwork can open up new possibilities to potential buyers can have themalreadymentally unpacking all of their possessions before they even see another home. Open Layout If you have two adjoining rooms with a similar purpose, consider knocking down the walls to create an open floor plan. For instance, a kitchen and a dining room can be combined to create a more open atmosphere for entertaining guests and family, which is a great selling point for home buyers.The same can work for a dining roomand a living room, forming a “great room” space that can create a stunning impression for those that visit the home. Universal Designs Considering that a large portion of homeowners will be approaching their twilight years soon, having handicap-accessible features that can accommodate older families can be a huge selling point to sell your home. This can include roll-in showers, floating cabinets/sinks, wide doorways, and wheelchair accessible entrances, just to name a few. Of course, there are many features that are designed for this segment of the population and not disconcerting to ordinary home buyers, so consider
incorporating them if your home is located in a retirement-age area like Florida or Arizona. Make It Green The “Green”(environmentally friendly) remodeling trend is here to stay. From increasing energy efficiency, healthier indoor environments to using sustainable materials, making your home greener is an attractive feature to home buyers who not only want to save money (including federal/local subsidies for participating programs), but also feel good about contributing to the welfare of future generations. Smarter Homes Technology is bringing enhancements to homes and lifestyles daily, so expect potential home buyers to inquire about how “smart” your home is. Automation for appliances, utilities, and security at the touch of a smartphone can be attractive features for your home. It is important to find a system that can work in the future, so be sure to find a dependable company that has software that can be updated as newer features come on the market. Make sure to be careful if you plan to go all the way in making your home a “smart home” though, as many seemingly-reliable companies peddling such features have gone defunct, leaving the formerly-interconnected home features not only useless but vulnerable to security problems! Hardwood Flooring Hardwood flooring is a versatile component and an aid to selling your home. It matches with nearly any style, and also allows the potential home buyer to stain it with whatever color matches their current furniture. Stainless Steel Kitchens In almost perfect contrast to the white kitchens we discussed before, stainless steel can blend in with different colors to create a cohesive effect while still having the visual luxury of exposed metal. In addition, clean-up is much easier and stainless steel won’t rust over time, which is an attractive feature to home buyers.
Don’t Forget the Ceiling While we cautioned homeowners to get rid of textured popcorn ceilings, to create a look of timeless elegance consider replacing themwith planks or a grid-like coffered ceiling to give a room a fresh character. This is especially true for rooms like a den or a study. Crown Molding Crownmolding creates an instantaneously elegant look throughout your home, even in small touches. It can create a centerpiece as a mantle for a fireplace or as little accents around your home, creating an attractive feel for potential home buyers. • • •
Part 2: Your Area and Outdoor Improvements
DON’T OVERDO IT: KEEPING YOUR MARKET AREA IN MIND How much should you plan on upgrading during your remodel project? That depends on what you are trying to accomplish. You can, after all, spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands on the very same room. We are taking up
this discussion with the notion that your home remodeling has to do with getting a good return from your investment and assuming that you will be selling the house at some point in the future. If you have no intention of moving at any point in the next ten or more years, ROI does not matter as much as the return that comes from enjoying the finished product.
It seems intuitive that you would upgrade as much as your budget allows and make your home into the jewel of the neighborhood. Caution, however, is in order here. While you will no doubt enjoy knowing that you have transformed your humble ranch into an HGTV-ready show home, such a move could backfire in a big way when you put your home on the market. Look down your street. Observe the condition of the homes and yards in your neighborhood. Are they well maintained or a little run-down? What about the inside of the homes that you have been in? Are the interiors tastefully decorated and contemporary or do they reflect the fashions of generations past, sporting an array of burnt orange countertops, olive green appliances, and paisley wallpaper? Whatever the case, that should be your measuring stick. The reason is simple — no one who can afford a $200,000-dollar home is going to look in an area surrounded by $100,000-dollar
homes. Conversely, anyone looking in a neighborhood of $100,000 homes can’t afford the $200,000 you would like to charge, or they are looking for a deal. Therefore, if you go all-in and design and build the ultimate spa-getaway in your master bathroom or put in that home theater you’ve always wanted in the basement, you are not going to get that money back if you are the only home in the area with those kinds of features. Your home will sit on the market for months until you come down to a much lower price than you would have wanted. To avoid these kinds of mistakes, we recommend making use of a real estate agent to help determine the types of renovations you can pursue that will return a substantial amount of the investment cost. Your agent will already be familiar with the general standards of the surrounding area and what price ranges people are looking for. He will also be familiar with what improvements bring the best ROI, what styles are currently trending, and will have suggestions on how to accomplish them quickly, including recommendations for reputable, qualified contractors. While you may have been thinking about going full-bore and putting in granite countertops and all new kitchen cabinets — a renovation that would cost thousands — your real estate agent might talk you down to fresh laminate for the countertop and a new coat of paint for the cabinets to brighten up the room. Your remodel cost just went down from several thousand dollars and a week or two without a kitchen to a little more than one thousand dollars and a day or two of inconvenience. An agent will also go beyond your neighborhood, looking at how your home compares with similar homes in the larger area. This is important as your real competition extends beyond what you can see out your front window. Unless your neighborhood has a unique setting or is exceptionally close to parks, beaches, or a vibrant downtown area, there will generally be no reason for a person to buy a house on your street over one in another neighborhood on the other side of town. Your real estate agent will be able to do side-by-side comparisons of your home with others that are similar, making sure that you are able to compete effectively across a wide area.
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