Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Renovation projects that payoff

The second most asked question (behind "how's the market?") of a real estate agent is "where should I invest in my home for the best return?". When it comes to home renovations, the key is choosing projects that pack potential payoffs like bringing your home up-to-date or lowering energy bills.

Major renovations won't pay you back the way they used to. Adding a bathroom or family room, for example, might return just two-thirds of its cost when you go to sell. But the following projects, in general, can make your home more livable for your family, and increase its value when it's time to sell. 

no. 1 Kitchen

The hub of the house - 'grand central station' is always numero uno. But instead of spending a bundle turning this room inside out, think smaller. Think counters, sinks, plumbing, lighting, and appliances. They can change the look and cost much less than a major upheaval. Kitchen face lifts pay back about 80% of their cost. 

Be thoughtful about your kitchen redo. Don't overdue it with granite and top-of-the-line appliances. Instead, think about other solid surface materials or options for counters and research Consumer Reports for rankings of appliances - you'll be surprised to see that it's not the most expensive one that ranks the best. When replacing counters you might be compelled to replace the back splash....think twice as back splashes don't get the wear and tear counters do and can add $2,000 to the cost of your upgrade. If your cabinets are tired and outdated but still in good shape try painting them or reface them with new doors. 

Existing cabinets painted in an off-white
 enamel create that fresh look.

A stainless steel sink and faucet convey that high end look without spending a fortune on that coveted English apron sink (even though they are fabulous).

no. 2 Paint
Few other fix-ups can give you so much power for their punch. Use a unified color palette - you can't go wrong with neutral shades. 

Neutral paint, like Pointing from Farrow & Ball,
shows off the millwork in this gorgeous entry.
Pointing by Farrow and Ball - a favorite!
Blue door, matching planters and flanking lavender are cheerfulaccents that contrast the milk-white trim and sunny shingles.

no. 3 Landscaping
Flowerbeds, foundation plantings, paths and borders can make a big difference in your  home's curb appeal. If you buy small plants and let them grow into their role, you get a particularly high value per investment. Try to stay with native plantings. Exotic plantings will not only look out of place and odd, and let's face it we don't like odd, but it will also cost you more when you go to replace the dying plants because they couldn't survive in our weather. 
The key is keeping the landscape simple and native...this converts to
a no fuss yard that any potential buyer can take on.
no. 4 Front Door

This cheery aqua door packs a big punch to this craftsman.
Make your front door special. Spruce it up with a coat of glossy paint in a color the suits the style of your home. A cottage style might look great in a country blue or a craftsman may be begging for a deep red. As long as it's fresh and not too trendy. 

Since my trip to Ireland, I've been in love this high gloss look -
expect to pay a professional about $500 to prep
and properly paint in this high gloss style.

If natural wood suits the house, than make sure it's clean and has a nice shine. If your hardware sticks or jams, installing new hardware makes sense.  

no. 5 Baths
Generally, adding a bath to a home that has only one or one and a half will pay off at resale, and when those daughters turn into teens. Elements that prove most popular include adding storage, natural light and ceramic tile on the floor and tub and shower surround.  

Adding specialty items, like double rain shower heads
provides a big design to an otherwise modest renovation. 
You can expect to recapture around 75% of the cost of a minor bath remodel. If you have a small tub replace it with a spacious shower and multiple shower heads. Similarly, adding a decent sized shower to a half bath makes your home much more desirable. You can get a big rainfall shower head for about $200, or you can spring for a fancier handheld and other gadgets for $500+. 

Don't bother building a niche in the shower wall to hold nick knacks - this will save you $300 in tile and labor costs.

Adding new fixtures and a mirror updates
this half bath in just a day.

no. 6 Outdoor Living Spaces
Well designed outdoor living areas such as porches, decks and covered entertaining spaces that match your home's style, scale and traffic flow add value, especially in our area with generally smaller homes.  

It doesn't have to cost a fortune to create
a special outdoor area.

no. 7 Floors
Replacing dated and scuffed, wood floors can give your house a new sheen and make small spaces seem larger. Figure on a payback as high as 75%. If you plan to do it yourself plan on spending between $2.50 to $3.00 a square foot for the hardwood flooring and $3 for a pro to install it. If your hardware floors are just scuffed, or you would like a different stain, professional refinishing costs between $3.50 - $4.50 a square foot. 

If you would rather lay down tile. Ceramic sells for as little as .50 cents a square foot. With patience and the right rental tools, you can install it yourself. Don't bother with vinyl tile, it costs the same as ceramic, wears poorly, and looks dated.

no. 8 Closets
Few things make a home more unbearable than chintzy closet space. And roomy, organized closets are a big draw for prospective buyers. Fitting a walk-in master closet with drawers, shelves, shoe racks, hooks and poles can cost $500 to $2,500 or more depending on the quality of the materials and the complexity of the design. Wood is the most expensive material and delivers the best return. 

This is a project where it's easy to overspend. So decide exactly what you want and need before you buy the supplies or bring in a pro, who will charge $50 to $150 an hour. Make sure you really will sort socks into separate drawer dividers before spending the money.

no. 9 Faucets, Knobs, Pulls and Fixtures
Add style to kitchen and baths with good quality knobs and pulls, fixtures and faucets. These easily installed off-the-shelf items boost style and provide big impact with relatively little expense and time.

Knobs found at Anthropologie perk up this cabinet.
no. 10 Energy Saving Upgrades
Energy saving amenities make a house more attractive to buyers. New windows return 77% of the project cost, according to Remodeling's Cost vs. Value Report. Many utility companies offer incentives on installing insulation, windows, doors, furnaces and water heaters. You may need to wait years to recoup some energy conservation moves. So if you are more worried about money than your carbon footprint, run the numbers to ensure you'll be there by the time the cost gets covered.

Replacing floor and wall insulation usually delivers the fastest payback for the lowest price. Putting in new attic insulation can pay for itself in just a year. 

When you're ready to sell, spell out your energy improvements for prospective buyers. Create a worksheet showing what you spent, plus the before-and-after utility bills. If you are unsure where to start, get an energy audit; local utilities often offer them for free or nearly so. The floor-to-roof X-ray will diagnose the most expensive problems and determine the most cost-effective upgrades. 

Surprisingly, this old bungalow has very low energy costs due in part
to the addition of double paned windows and blown-in insulation.

Until next week, 

la chasse au bonheur

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