This is courtesy of my friend, Anthony Monteleone of RE/MAX All Pro.
Making sound investments in your home can improve the “bottom line” when the time comes to sell your home. The trick is, knowing what to improve. Making home improvements prior to listing it is a common practice. However, improvements should be selected carefully if the primary goal is to increase the profitability of your property.
Return on Investment is a phrase that quantifies how much an investment returns compared to what you spent on the investment. For example, if a homeowner remodels a kitchen, and the home sells for a higher price (after covering the remodel costs), then they achieved a positive return on investment. If the property sells quicker because the new kitchen makes the property more attractive, additional benefits may be realized with the elimination of additional mortgage/interest payments. One way to maximize returns on your home improvements, renovations or other projects is to accomplish them prior to the sale, with the added benefit of enjoying the fruits of your labor. It is important to remember, though, that not all improvements guarantee additional profits.
General guidelines suggest that you should not spend more than 20% of your home’s value on an upgrade of the kitchen. And beware of “trends” – these are the fashionable upgrades that are popular in the moment, but may not be practical in the long-term. Media rooms, spas, and wine-cellars all seem like great features, but they tend to cost more to put in than you may get back in return.
In fact, experts generally agree that you will often see the highest return on investment for projects that simply bring your home up to the standard of those around it. When you keep the budget for projects in line with the overall worth of the home, you are more likely to get the most money back for the amount you put in. Finally, if you can keep exotic tastes in check and accomplish the work with durable, affordable and timeless materials, you will have the best chance of recouping that money you invest into the project.
Here are the 5 top projects that contractors and real estate professionals consider the best returns on investment:
Hiring contractors for a renovation, remodel, or improvement is the most common practice – you can chose whether to hire a professional for just part of the task or the whole endeavor. However, homeowners who enjoy and are proficient at “do-it-yourself” projects can realize even greater returns on investments by undertaking home improvement projects themselves. There is not a single method to achieve a positive return on your investment, rather you should look at the big picture and plan from there. Some jobs, especially easier ones with excellent cosmetic results can make a home more attractive with little money out of pocket.
The trick is, finding the balance between skill and expertise, time spent and tasks that you actually enjoy accomplishing. In addition to enjoying the work, remember that poorly accomplished projects can become detractors to potential buyers or cause other issues, so ensure you have the skill before you begin a project.
What you select to refresh, renovate, remodel or upgrade will likely depend on budget constraints and overall needs. Property in need of repairs to systems that directly affect the well-being of the home and its inhabitants should be completed first. Roof, foundation, water, sewage, electrical, heating and cooling systems fall under this category. While not as “satisfying” to behold, these systems must be in good working order for the home to function well and not deteriorate or fall prey to rot, mold or fire. The good news is that while you are upgrading or updating electrical, you might be able to add some additional well-placed sockets or lighting fixtures for minimal additional cost. When replacing water or sewage pipes, you might be bringing in someone who can aid you in updating toilets, sinks and/or faucets.
Once the basic needs of the home are met, consider areas that are persistent eye-sores or functionally important.
If you are living in the house and intend to live there for a longer than a year, look to your own lifestyle for the answers. If you are fixing up to sell, consider the most likely buyers of your home and pick your projects accordingly. In a home that is far from restaurants, with multiple bedrooms, the kitchen may become more of a priority. Bathrooms that are dated, with poor lighting or storage, or with other issues often come next in line.
Sometimes less is more: If the yard and landscaping are overgrown, consider simply “bringing it under control” rather than jumping right in to a major renovation of the yard, especially if you have interior work to do as well. In fact, consider whether spreading the budget over several areas of your home makes sense rather than working each area top to bottom and rotating around. Sometimes small, cosmetic upgrades in multiple areas are enough to change a “sense of home” and are easier to tackle, providing energy for the larger, more daunting tasks. Play with the budget and the areas you wish to improve – how far can the budget go?
For example – rather than spending your entire budget in the kitchen on a complete overhaul, it might be possible to update countertops, flooring, sinks, faucets, and appliances with part of it and allocate some for improvements on the landscaping or exterior that will boost the curb appeal, as well. Don’t become attached to ideas too quickly. Survey other homes in your area and consider options before committing to one project or another.
Understanding your budget, skills, and timeframe in which you hope to accomplish (and enjoy) the improvement, and knowing the value of your home is a key to successfully maximizing your return on investment when improving your home. If your home needs to be updated to bring it up to the values of those around it, you probably stand to get the most back for your investment, so don’t put it off – accomplishing improvements while you are still in the home to enjoy them is the best reward of all. And, when you sell your home, your realtor will be able to highlight your improvements and how you cared for the home.