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December 15th, 2008
Home improvement and you

President’s Column, Texas Association of REALTORS®

What’s it worth to you?

All homeowners have one thing in common – home improvement and maintenance projects. Whether something breaks, becomes outdated, or you’re ready for a change, certain projects are just a part of owning a house.

Should I stay or should I go?

So what makes for a successful home-improvement project? The answer depends on your intentions. Are you making a change because you plan on living in the house for a while? Are you upgrading so you can sell soon? Your plans should affect your priorities and make certain improvements more appealing.

Where to start?

Whether you’re staying for a while or selling soon, structural and mechanical improvements should come first. Plumbing and electrical systems should be sound before you go for a hot tub and modern appliances. What good are new wood floors if your roof is leaking. Get the point? Is it necessarily interesting or rewarding work? Not really. Frustrating? Maybe. Trust me, though, it’s the right move.

When you’ve gotten the infrastructure up to snuff, you can start on more exciting and gratifying improvements.

Home sweet home

If you’re planning to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, the nature of your improvements is not so much about recovering money as it is about a higher quality of life. Want to get rid of a small bedroom and create a big master suite with two walk-in closets and a hot tub? Go for it!

Even if you’re not planning on selling anytime soon, though, keep in mind that the longer you stay in your home after a project is complete, the less likely you are to recoup a high percentage of the project’s cost.

Make buyers want your home

If you’re improving the house with a goal of a short-term resale, some improvements are more appealing to buyers and, as such, offer a higher return on your investment.

It’s also worth noting that while you may not get a dollar-for-dollar return on the sales price, a quicker sale can save you thousands of dollars.

Now, there are no guarantees on recuperating costs when you sell, so I strongly suggest doing lots of research. Use the Internet to see what other homeowners are doing and what their experience has been. Go to open houses in your neighborhood. Consult with your Texas Realtor. The more information you have, the better off you’ll be. In general, I find that most buyers value kitchen upgrades, bathroom upgrades and increases in livable space. It’s not only my years of experience that lead me to believe this … data from various sources shows that people want these areas to be comfortable, functional, attractive and durable.

How much you’ll recover in costs depends on several other factors, as well. These include the big-picture condition of the housing market, the value of the homes in your immediate area, when you plan on selling and the type of projects you undertake.

How much is too much?

For a short-term sale, make sure you don’t overdo your improvements. If you put in top-of-the-line appliances or light fixtures, you’re most likely going to recover a lesser percentage than the seller who went with brand new mid-range appliances or fixtures.

Guidelines for remodeling

Curb appeal is important, and easy fixes like fresh paint and exterior improvements like landscaping are simple ways to instantly improve the appearance of any house. First impressions stir potential buyers’ emotions as they evaluate homes. Curb appeal also encourages prospective buyers to come inside to see your new wood floors, updated kitchen and remodeled master bathroom.

Who, me?

After you decide what kind of improvements you’re going to do, the next step is deciding who’s going to do it. Some people are adept at home improvement, some are not … you probably know which category you’re in.

Safety is a factor, as well. If you’re going to tackle the project yourself, exercise caution – working on a ladder or dealing with electricity are not jobs to be taken lightly … if you lack confidence, find an insured and bonded professional.

Just do it

Whether you want to increase your living space, avoid the expense of moving to a pricier neighborhood, make a needed or wanted upgrade, prolong your home’s life or achieve a good return on investment, there’s no time like the present – start your research today.

I also encourage you to visit TexasRealEstate.com – the online source for consumer-friendly information about real estate in The Lone Star State

by Amy DuBose, RCE
Texas Association of REALTORS®

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