How to improve &mdash but not over-improve &mdash your home by Lisa Getson
As a real estate professional people often ask me what improvements they should make to their home in order to increase its value without over-improving. The answer to this question usually depends on how long you plan to stay in your home. The longer you plan to live there, the more sense it makes to invest in bigger improvements.
The front entrance to a property is always the first thing that is seen upon arrival. Spending time and money on good landscaping will always enhance your home. However, beautifying the entrance doesn't have to be expensive. Although the landscaping around the entire perimeter of your home is important, if a monetary choice has to be made, I recommend doing the front first. Visit your local home improvement or garden store and talk to the nursery staff about picking the right trees, bushes and flowers for your entryway. Planting expensive exotic shrubbery will not increase the value of your home any more than basic landscaping. Make note of the light and drainage of these areas, your home's color scheme and - most importantly - your budget to help choose the right foliage. If you don't have a green thumb, many garden centers offer landscaping services to do the planting for you. New outdoor light fixtures are a quick cosmetic upgrade and many styles cost less than $200. For city-dwellers, container gardens are often a good option for a patio, window space or entry, and most garden centers have a wide range of container styles. I recommend a classic terra cotta or simple glazed option if you plan to sell soon. Fill them with fragrant herbs like rosemary and thyme, easy-care annuals like impatiens or quick-spreading colorful perennials. In a clean, simple entryway that doesn't get natural light, an elegant silk flower arrangement is a great alternative.
Fresh paint is perhaps one of the most inexpensive ways to spruce up a house. If you are planning to stay in your home awhile, then choice of color does not matter. Pick what you like best. If you are preparing to put your house on the market for sale, I suggest painting the walls in neutral shades and painting the trim white. This will freshen up the entire house, keeping it clean for potential buyers to move in and decorate with their own colors. Wallpaper is questionable. In general, buyers today prefer paint. With my own house, I used a mix of mostly paint with some accent wallpaper in the same color family. I branched out with a pattern in the kitchen, but I did it for my own enjoyment and not for resale purposes. Some wallpaper, in good condition and in neutral tones used sporadically in a kitchen or bathroom will not detract from the value of a home, but wallpaper that is dated or covering most surfaces will turn off many buyers.
Removing old carpet is another economical way to spruce up your home and increase its value, particularly if the carpet is covering hardwood floors. The number one selling feature in a home today is hardwood floors. By using area rugs in neutral colors that complement your freshly painted walls, the space becomes more welcoming and valuable, and you can take the rugs with you when you move. If you don't have hidden hardwood floors, new neutral carpet in heavy-traffic areas will help freshen up those rooms. Adding a large classic area rug on top of a carpet can define a large space such as a family room, while introducing color and texture in a temporary application.
Remodeling a kitchen is certainly something that will add to the value of your home. However, there is a limit as to what you can put in if you are expecting an economic benefit in return. For example, a client of mine recently consulted me in regard to redoing her kitchen. Her biggest dilemma was that her space was very tiny. Her husband suggested building an addition. However, given the location of their home, it was my opinion that such an addition would be an over-improvement to their home and would only be beneficial to them if they were planning to stay there for years and enjoy it themselves. If they were thinking of selling, then they were better off to work within the confines of the exterior walls. One solution I offered was to open the interior wall between the kitchen and dining room, something that many buyers actually prefer for today's casual living. Inexpensive flooring options are available in many home improvement stores for an easy resale upgrade. And kitchens also benefit from fresh paint, and not just on the walls. Painting your cabinets a neutral white or cream and adding new hardware are easy updates that will have a big impact for potential homebuyers looking for a clean slate to decorate with their personal touches.
You can update bathrooms for today's modern taste with many of these same tips. Paint walls depending on your situation and replace dated lighting and faucet fixtures with simple, elegant ones. The most important bathroom to consider is the master bath as it attracts buyers first, and it's probably the one you spend the most time in. I also recommend adding neutral tile or stone around a shower or backsplash to give it a modern look.
Remodeling also has a lot to do with the location of your home. How much you will increase the value of your home through remodeling and improving without over-improving depends on the location of your home and whether your location in your neighborhood justifies your improvements. Now that you have taken some steps to improve &mdash but not over-improve &mdash your home, please look for my article next month on pricing your home in today's market.
Send your real estate-related questions to Lisa Getson at firstname.lastname@example.org.