If you have been in your home for a while, you might be thinking that perhaps it’s time to add a couple of upgrades. This might be especially true if you think you might like to sell in a couple of years (after the housing market has recovered a little bit). Or, perhaps you are planning on buying a fixer-upper for a great deal. No matter your reason for a remodel, you should realize that the chances of actually getting back what you paid, dollar for dollar, is slim. Therefore, it helps to remodel your home the smart way. Here are 5 tips that can help you maximize your return for your remodeling dollar:
1. Don’t turn your home into the neighborhood castle
It can be tempting to add a bunch of upgrades in the hope of making your home more attractive. However, this can backfire if you live in a modest neighborhood. Many people live by this bit of old real estate wisdom: “Buy the least expensive home in the best neighborhood you can afford.” Having the fanciest, biggest or “nicest” home in a neighborhood can make it harder to unload later at a price you feel reflects all your hard work — especially in a buyer’s market. While you want your home to attractive and comfortable, going over the top when you remodel could limit your ability to sell within the next four years.
2. Tackle structural flaws first
If your home has structural or mechanical problems, fix those first. Whether you plan to stick around for a few years, or whether you plan to sell, it is vital that you take care of these problems that can turn into safety issues. Unchecked, a leaky roof or an electrical issue can cause larger (and more expensive) problems down the road. Plus, if you try to sell, you will have a hard time. Tackle the essentials before you start on other home improvement projects.
3. Focus on things your family needs
Remodeling should be practical. Figure out what bothers you the most about your home, and fix those things. Also, consider items that can lower your overall costs. Some green home improvements, such as adding insulation, better windows and upgrading your furnace, can provide you with monthly savings — and you can get a tax credit too. Think about practical things that will make your home more comfortable for your family first, and then add bling later if you think it will enhance your quality of life.
4. Enhance your home’s curb appeal
Look at your exterior, and see if you can make improvements to how your home looks from the outside. In many cases, you can do some of these things with little cost or effort. Keeping things tidy, cleaning the siding (or adding a fresh coat of paint), or planting some perennials can help. While having a tidy house on the outside can improve your own feelings of comfort in your home, enhancing the curb appeal of your home is especially important if you are trying to sell. First impressions do matter.
5. If you plan to sell, make inexpensive home improvements
For the most part, if you plan to sell, you will get the most bang for your buck with small, low cost improvements to your home. Have the carpets shampooed, de-clutter and clean. Add fresh paint or wall paper. In fact, even if you don’t plan to sell, you might find that your home feels almost new if you just make some improvements to the overall cleanliness. The only exception to this low-cost remodeling rule is if you only have one bathroom. Your family will probably be more comfortable — and you’ll be more likely to sell — if you put in at least one more bathroom.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to go crazy with expensive remodeling in order to improve your home. Some careful thought will help you identify which changes are likely to be most beneficial, and you can direct your efforts to those areas first.