Top Home Improvement Things to Do Before You Sell Your House

Selling your house gives you a list of things to do: pack up your belongings, forward your mail, vow to your kitchen sink that you’ll never forget it. While all these things are important – you don’t want your kitchen sink’s hopes going down the drain – the importance of home improvement weighs heavier. After all, before you can leave your house you might need to sell it, and before you can do that, you might need to improve it. The following is a list of the most important things to do before placing your house on the market.

Get a Paint Job: Few things make a house look worse than chipped paint. Whether it’s on the exterior of the house or behind a bedroom door where you think no one will notice, chipped paint is a quick way to find yourself chipping down the asking price. Instead of presenting a house that looks neglected, leaving potential buyers to think that old paint is just the beginning, buy a few buckets, take a few days, and paint whatever in your house needs to be painted. If your house doesn’t need an entirely new paint job, then simply touch up the areas that need some tender loving care.

Remember the Small Things: We often overlook the small things in favor of looking at the bigger picture, but it’s the small things that make up the bigger picture. Not only is it amazing how much an attention to small details can improve the appeal of your house dramatically, but it’s also amazing how affordable this kind of improvement can be. From something as simple as buying a new shower curtain to redoing the mail box, from planting flowers in the front yard to putting new drapes in the living room, the small changes you make can help make the entire home look detailed in more than one way.

Repair What Really Needs to Be Repaired: Improving your house before you sell it doesn’t mean you should go around fixing everything in sight; chances are, everything in your house can use enhancement: it is, after all, used. Instead of trying to improve everything from the floor to the ceiling, focus on the things that really need repairing. If your carpet doesn’t look brand new but good enough to last a few more years, leave it alone and instead replace the cracked bay window in your living room.

Pay Particular Attention to the Kitchen and Bathrooms: The kitchen and the bathroom are two places where we spend a lot of our time, though for very different reasons. Because we spend so much time in these rooms, we also spend time focusing on them. A dirty bathroom or a kitchen on its last leg will quickly ruin a potential sale. This isn’t to say you should neglect every other room in your house, but put twice as much effort into them than you would, say, the basement.

Use Your Green Thumb or Hire Someone Else Who Has One: We don’t all have a green thumb; in fact, some of us have an odd ability to kill anything with roots. If you don’t have a green thumb, or at least some talent with gardening and landscaping, hire someone who does. Making the outside of your house look nice is as important as the inside’s appeal. The landscaping is what potential buyers will first see and first notice and, as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Top Home Improvements That’ll Boost Your Home’s Equity

So you’re looking to build your home’s equity and you’re wondering what will be the best way to go about recouping renovation investments and maximizing your home’s sale price. Look no further, here are the top ten upgrades that can promote your house to a top dollar sale.

1. Paint: A fresh coat of paint and ideally in the neutral color palate, can do wonders to enliven a space. Think about how color can tie in your entire home design. Think about using one one color of paint, or painting within the same family of neutral colors.

2. Flooring: Hard wood flooring has garnered a very general popularity that doesn’t seem to be going away and it is a great way to go, especially in dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms and even bathrooms. A less expensive alternative is laminate. There are many laminate products on the market to choose from that offer a great look and for a small price.

3. Lighting: Go ahead and replace dated fixtures with new ones – maybe even consider making a statement with a fixture. The dining room fixture is one that you can be creative with. Find a beautiful chandelier or something funky and modern. These touches go a long way to light up your home. Also, upgrade switch plates and electrical outlet covers with the latest versions and install dimmer switches in the main rooms. Energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs are all the rage.

4. Entrance: Make your entrance bright, clean and sleek. Clear away all excesses and hang a nice light fixture. For accents you might consider a long bench, or demi-lune table.

5. Updated Hardware: If you can’t go for the gusto and re-do an entire kitchen or bathroom, replacing old, dated hardware is a good start. Stainless steel is a very popular choice, and goes well with many styles and colors of cupboards.

6. Curb Appeal: Don’t leave this important aspect of your property unattended to. This is what will draw folks into your home. At the very least have your lawn as green as can be, clipped and tidy. Your garden should be free of dead or decaying growth and should ideally have some annuals planted for a burst of eye-popping color.

7. Screening: This means privacy. Installing a fence that creates a screen and some privacy from neighboring properties definitely adds value to your home. Likewise adding a deck can be a great use of yard space by extending living space into the outdoors.

8. Main Bathroom: Although many older homes have a bathroom on the second floor, a current day essential is a small bathroom on the main floor.( toilet, sink and mirror) See what you can do about converting a main floor closet into a small washroom.

9. The Ensuite: More and more, a full-service spa like bathroom off the master bedroom is a real draw for buyers. Think jet tubs, heated tile flooring, granite, marble, plush white towels, and great storage features.

10. New Kitchen: Last but certainly not least is the renovated kitchen. The most preferred features include stone countertops, stainless-steel appliances, ceramic sinks, and an over-all neutral to earth toned color scheme.

Home Improvement Trends In 2016

Nearly everyone desires a low maintenance home, but the millennial generation is at the top of the list. Many home improvements today focus on making a home lower maintenance for all generations while other home improvements look to add a more modern design or increase energy efficiency. Let’s outline the eight top home improvement trends for 2016.

Kitchen Trends

Do you think plain old stainless steel appliances are top of the line? Think again. Many home renovations are including stainless steel in new looks with attractive features. Take, for instance, the slate appliance line that GE recently introduced in a graphite finish. Kitchen Aid, Samsung and LG have also introduced new types of stainless steel finishes that offer special features such as hiding fingerprints better as well as providing a more modern appearance. Luxury appliances have also become more prevalent in homes with top brands like Jenn-Air, Thermador and Viking being used.

Quartz countertops, accent walls, white cabinetry and unique backsplashes are all top kitchen design trends this year. Other top kitchen trends to watch for include two-tone kitchen cabinetry, upper cabinets versus lower cabinets in different colors or a different color cabinetry used on the island as opposed to the main kitchen cabinets. Drawers are also being used more prevalently into kitchens instead of the traditional cabinetry with shelves.

Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters continue to be in high demand as they appeal for not only delivering water as needed, but also increasing the overall energy efficiency of the home. Additionally, smart water heaters have also hit the market which allows for water consumption to be tracked in real time.

Living Rooms Made for Family Time

Instead of a technology-infused living room that has the big screen TV and surround sound, many people are opting for a place to ditch the technology and curl up with a good book or engage in conversation with family members or friends.

Reflecting on Bathrooms

Medicine cabinets have become a dated trend and statement mirrors have become popular. From a vintage piece to ornate wood frames, the sky is the limit in choosing a unique bathroom mirror. Large format tiles are also being utilized more in roomier bathroom spaces.

Lighting a Fire

Fire features and fireplaces are making their way into more and more homes across the country. From electric to gas to wood burning, there are so many options to choose from and all create the unique warm ambiance.

Bedroom Upgrades

Converting the attic into a bedroom space has become a top home improvement trend for many homeowners. Additionally, statement walls where the bed is centered are also becoming more common. From switching up the paint color on one wall to installing rustic wood or wallpaper, the possibilities are endless.

Opening up Spaces

If an open floor plan doesn’t currently exist in a home, then homeowners are opting for taking out walls to create an open concept floor plan.

Replacing Doors and Windows

Energy efficiency is one of the top reasons to look into replacing doors or windows. Last year, homeowners that replaced windows received 75 percent of the total cost back. While a 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report showed that steel entry door replacement had the best return on investment. Replacing the garage door is also a top renovation project that has a high ROI. On average a garage door replacement will cost around $964, with $848 expected to be recouped at the time of resale.

Finding the Balance Between Budget and Home Improvements

Whether you are revamping your own home or working on an investment property, renovating can be very expensive.

Weigh up your home upgrade options

There are not many homeowners with an endless home improvement budget to upgrade everything they want to in their home.

A good starting point is to sit down and evaluate the property as a whole and then decide on which parts are most significant and the parts most in need of upgrading. Then think about where you will need to spend the majority of your home improvement budget.

In the majority of renovations, the bathroom and kitchen offer the best investment, but they are not always the areas that require the most work. Analyse your kitchen and bathroom to see what you can keep and salvage from the materials that you already have and see what needs upgrading.

Look around the rest of your home to identify other areas that would impress potential buyers after being upgraded with a decent home improvement budget.

First impressions are vital in real estate, so think about spending some of your home improvement budget on the porch and front foyer.

Splashing out and reigning in spending

Look at every room in your house and identify the stand out features that will catch the attention of potential buyers. This will help you know where you should splash out and where you should save.

If you are renovating the kitchen, you could splash out on expensive marble counter tops, but you could save by being selective and only using marble for some of your counter tops. If you are splashing out on expensive counter tops then a stainless steel island can considerably save your home improvement budget.

In the bathroom, you don’t have to break the bank on the most expensive tiles on the market for the whole of your bathroom. A neutral tile for the walls of the shower and the floor can save you a bundle, and still provide great results.

You can give your bathroom some style by adding a strip of the expensive tile that surrounds the shower wall and borders the floor. This will give your bathroom a great look and cost a fraction of the overall home improvement budget.

Think about your flooring

Hardwood flooring is popular with everybody, but stylish wood flooring can make a large dent in your home improvement budget.

Laminate flooring has improved drastically over the years and can the most cost-effective way to get a stylish hardwood flooring look that doesn’t break the bank.

If you do decide to go with real hardwood flooring, which lots of people still do, then you can create an elegant look by being selective where you decide to use it. Do you really need to replace the floors in all of the rooms?

Your kitchen and bathroom should be tiled to avoid water damage, so what about the bedrooms? You can save by using carpet instead of expensive hard wood flooring.

Keep things in the yard nice and simple

Be advised that is not a good idea to go crazy landscaping in the garden, particularly if you are trying to sell the property. Consider some low maintenance options instead of investing in expensive plants and flowers that will need to be looked after and maintained regularly.

Instead of spending big on an expensive paved walkway and blowing your entire home improvement budget, consider an appealing gravel path that surrounds your home. It will give a nice consistent look without the large cost of a paved walkway.

The best advice when it comes to landscaping and the outdoor features of your property is to keep things simple. A nice neutral look is appealing to potential buyers and gives them the space to view themselves living in the property before they even walk through the door.

Don’t break the bank on the garden, but ensure that everything is neat and tidy, save your budget for the important interior that buyers will see when they enter the property.

The best piece of advice when it comes to renovation that stays within a budget is to be selective and know where your money is best spent. Decide on the areas that require something special and a larger chunk of your budget. Then save on the areas that won’t drastically affect the value or appeal of your property, and not affect the your enjoyment of the day-to-day living in your home.

Home Improvement for The Ladies!

Your Own Homes Improvement Outline

(One for the Ladies)

Let me begin by saying what a home improvement plan will not do! I have seen this happen more than once, so I will say this now. A home improvement project, addition, upgrade, remodel, or makeover will not make up for a troubled marriage. So for those that think home improvement may save a marriage, I’m telling you now that it will add more stress and it is a poor substitute for proper counseling.

With that said, when you see a home being sold due to a divorce, take a good look at the house because you may see evidence of a great remodel job. However, the marriage still failed. The scenario above leads into other areas of home remodel, acquisition and selling points. Gentlemen, pay attention here! It is generally recognized that women are responsible for 80% of all decisions on whether or not to purchase a particular home.

So what influences the ladies in their decisions concerning home purchases and remodeling? By far the two biggest items are the kitchen and the bath. If I had to choose one or the other, I believe I would look at which area was in need of the remodel more, while at the same time looking at the costs of both options.

As for the men, what do they want? They would be happy with a large garage/workshop plus a secluded den or office to carry on with business or to retreat to the solitude of a “cave.” Men, as we can see, really don’t spend as much time feathering the nest so as a result we see that contrary to popular belief, men really tend to follow the female’s lead.

Generally speaking, you’ll find that men don’t pay much attention to draperies, window treatments, flower boxes, state of the art appliances, Jacuzzi tubs, well-lit bathrooms, large closets or floral patterns of any kind. They often prefer brown and gray everything, with a big garage, a shed, a sprinkler system and a privacy fenced back yard for barbeques and lounging in private. Men also like low maintenance houses so they aren’t constantly being asked to fix or repair things. If left up to the men to decide, you would find that faucets, toilets, sinks, baths, floors, mirrors, cabinetry, appliances and furnishings would tend to be favored by their industrial strength qualities as opposed to beauty.

Those are general observations and many times they will not apply. However, by keeping them in mind and using the 80/20 rule, they may help in the decision making process. So now using what we know, it would be wise to slant your remodel towards the light and bright feminine side of life. It seems to make sense that if the women are the decision makers then we should let them decide on what really needs attention first!

Let’s look at the kitchen first. Can you paint or refinish the cabinetry and change the knobs and handles to get the new look? Would new Formica laminate over the old counter tops with a matching backsplash do the trick? Maybe a white ceramic sink with a new faucet will achieve the desired effect. Quite possibly you may decide to rip it all out. If that is the case, then paint the walls and consider tiling the floor also. Often times, adding some minor electrical and lighting upgrades will help transform and modernize the entire effort. Don’t forget the new built in dishwasher and plumbing as well.

Custom cabinets, if designed, built and installed by a local reputable cabinetmaker with references and a picture book of previous work done, are often very attractive in price and quality. I use craftsmen with low overhead who work on one job at a time. Often I will ask them to make, in addition to the kitchen, a base cabinet for the bathroom to match, all for one low price. When working with kitchens I always look to see if a wall can be opened up to create a pass through or bar stool counter top. This lets in more light and allows the person in the kitchen to talk with and see the people in the adjoining room. It also creates the effect of a more spacious kitchen.

The bottom line is that a well-lit, light, bright and spacious kitchen, well equipped with modern appliances, plenty of storage space and decorative tiles, paint and window treatments, will add value and appeal to any home’s remodel plan.

Next, lets look at remodeling the bathroom. Here again, we look to the feminine side as the women seem to spend more time here then the men. So with the ladies in mind concerning the upgrade, I will often bite the bullet and rip it all out, the tub being the only exception! If I can leave the tub in, the job is easier, faster and cheaper. However, if I am looking at an olive green or yellowed chipped up and rusting ceramic eyesore, than a new fiberglass insert with a sliding glass door is going on my list of items to buy at the local Home Depot.

Jet tubs are the in thing, so I won’t rule them out as a possible upgrade. This decision again is based on the female as most men don’t take candlelit bubble baths or require a pulsating massage. Walls are painted with Sherwin Williams semi-gloss paint which creates an excellent moisture barrier to the walls. With regard to walls, by adding tile or laminate half-wall wainscoting to the lower three to four feet of the wall, you’ll add a nice touch. Since you have torn out the old toilet and base cabinet, now is also the perfect time to rip up the old vinyl and put down ceramic floor tile before the new fixtures are installed.
New lighting, mirrored vanity cabinets, G.F.I. electrical outlets, wallpaper borders, towel rings and bars are usually the finishing touch. Even a man can appreciate coming home to a spacious, clean, modern, functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen and bath. One final note here: Be sure to caulk everything when you’re through. You’ll want to protect your new investment from rotting, from the inside out. Dampness and wood eating insects are your homes worst enemies.

Now with the kitchen and bath out of the way, what do you feel is next? I myself spend on average about seven hours a day in the bedroom, so I tend to go there next. Once again, the closet is of importance to the ladies so I will look to paint that bright white, upgrade the lighting and install a closet organizing system to maximize the space that is available. A tip for the guys! Put in a shoe rack for the ladies, as most of you wouldn’t even think about that little upgrade.

Once the closet is done, I’m back patching and painting the rest of the room. Another smart thing you can do is to let the female decide on what color of Sherwin Williams brand satin super paint they would like to have applied. I always make sure I get enough paint to do the ceiling as well because when you’re on your back, you will be looking at it. Once the walls and ceiling are done, the ceiling fan with light kit and dimmer switch go in. Then the baseboards are prepared for installation before the carpet goes down. Usually I paint them a shade darker than the walls and tack them to the wall about one-half inch above the floor.

Now that the paint is put away, it’s time to install the plush carpet and a dense quality pad beneath it. In order to really bring the room together you will need to take a paint swatch or chip to the carpet dealer to choose the carpet color that really sets off the walls and base board trim. As for final touches, those include mini blinds, a curtain, and decorative switch plates and receptacle covers. A solid core door represents today’s modern standards with a keyed lock set for security, so I will add that factor in too. Just add candles and you’re done!

As for the rest of the house, I will choose one-color paint and use it throughout all the remaining areas that are to be lightened and brightened. Earth tone, eggshell or tan sand colors are a neutral favorite of many, so unless you have a floor that is going to clash with it, earth tones are a safe bet. Speaking of floors, I will follow appraisal rules that tell me wood is better than carpet, except in bedrooms. And tile is better than vinyl. With that in mind, I will use tile and Pergo flooring everywhere else. Once the tile and wood are installed, I never have to replace it and maintenance is a breeze. The appraiser also looks upon wood and tile as an upgrade, so at the earliest opportunity, they are getting incorporated in my plans.

There you have it! A general Joe homeowner remodel job, but what about the infamous addition? With this consideration, you’ll have many more options to weigh, so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of adding square footage.

When does it make sense to add square footage?

#1. Is it physically possible, legally permissible, and financially feasible? Will the new addition serve your intended purpose to the maximum extent?

#2. Does the current floor plan, layout or design of your home allow for a smooth flowing traffic pattern in, out and through the proposed addition?

#3. Will your lot size accommodate a larger dwelling and will the neighborhood surrounding your home support the higher value that you expend?

#4. How long do you intend to stay in the house that this upgrade is planned for? Five years from now, will the addition return, dollar for dollar, the money you have spent to the sales price of the home if you sold it?

#5. Are you prepared to deal with draftsmen and plans development, contractors, building officials and permits? Will you mind living on a construction site for about 6 months? Are your finances in place with an additional 10% set aside for cost overruns? Has everyone agreed upon what this addition should look like and the purpose it will serve?

Let us say you have considered the above and would like to continue towards the improvement. From here, we should consider the economic principle of what is called progression. Example: You have a 2-bedroom, 1-bath home, located in a neighborhood of more expensive 3-bedroom, 2-bath homes. In this case you could, with more certainty, add another bedroom and bath and expect to be able to realize or achieve the value from the addition’s expense as the more expensive homes around you will tend to pull the value of your home up along with theirs.

Now the reverse is also true, so you must consider the opposite case that is called the principle of regression. That says that if you over-improve beyond the value of the homes that are surrounding you, then those lower value homes will tend to keep the value of your home in the lower price ranges. So putting it another way, try not to pass the point of diminishing returns. In essence, saying that you can only improve so much before you reach a point where, for every dollar you spend, you will receive less of that same dollar back when you sell.

A good rule of thumb to use is to try to get at least two dollars of increased value for every dollar you spend. Once you begin to approach “break-even,” then you should consider maintaining what you have as opposed to adding to it. A simple way to say it: Don’t over-improve!

Another watchword to know is super-adequacy. That would be like putting gold faucets in a mobile home. It’s overkill and too high-end for the properties overall value, so the final decision on remodeling and additions comes down to balance and a happy medium being reached. Also, take into consideration the cost, aggravation, the net gain, the need for improvement, the improved quality of life, the suitability to all occupants taste, needs and desires and in the end the ability to receive a higher sales price.

I choose to remodel more often than add-on because it goes much faster and the profits role in quicker too. If I need more space to live in, I simply remodel the house I’m in and rent it out for top dollar, and then get an equity line to buy a bigger house! When remodeling my own home I will attempt to do everything myself, aside from building cabinets or rewiring electrical circuits. As with everything else, if I get in over my head, I will concede defeat and call in an expert to finish what I started while I learn where I went wrong by watching them finish it up.

Here are a few parting shots that you may or may not know:

Painting everything inside and out is the greatest value producing improvement that you can make on a dollar for dollar return basis. When painting, ensure you buy the absolute best paint available, as it is true that the expense of painting lays in the application of the paint not the paint itself. So if you have to apply two coats because of an inferior watered down paint then the cost just doubled in time and the added paint needed to get the job done.

This next tip alone will save you the cost of this entire book and here it is. Without naming any names, whether it be the manufacturer or the distributor of the product, there is a problem out there with what used to be considered top brand, quality paints. It has been said that some manufacturers have thinned out their paint and left their good name on, all in the name of allowing certain retailers the ability to sell hundreds of thousands of gallons a month at what appears to be a bargain price. Unfortunately, the consumer is fooled by the name and ends up coming back for more paint when they find that it takes more of the thinned out product to get complete coverage.

I, for one, as you can well see by now, am a real fan of Sherwin Williams brand, super paint. This blend is so superior in my mind to any other paint available to the little guy, that I refuse to use anything else. I have applied it to exterior walls located in the worst conditions and climates and ten years later its still as good as the day I put it on. The elasticity, color and protection are still in place with absolutely no chalking, cracking or deterioration of any kind, The same goes for interior paint as well. The coverage and wash ability are unmatched!

I also would like to say Sherwin Williams has not paid me to say one word of this. It is for your sole benefit that I harp on it to the degree that I do, as it burns me to no end to see trusting people get ripped off and not even know it!

But wait! It gets even worse. As if to add insult to injury, the retailers don’t really even shoot for the highest profit margin on the paint. They make their profit when you start buying all the tape, rollers, trays, brushes, handles, scrapers, sand paper, buckets, screens and new fangled gadgetry along with a host of other products that may be required to finish all phases of the job at hand.

Has anyone ever told you that? If you doubt it, take a viscosity cup and run the super paint through it and then do the same with the other paint. After this test, you will need no further proof of which paint is going to save you time and money in the long run.

Well, enough said. I hope you get the point on paint. Now another thing you can do to improve your home substantially is landscape it. Landscaping, if done right, can add up to 30% to the value of your home. I prefer to plant shrubbery and low maintenance hardy plants and trees of all types. A few flowers to add color and my job is done.

Back to the addition. If you decide to add a room or two, it has also been proven that you can save about 30% here too by being your own contractor. I would encourage you to get a book titled, “How to Be Your Own Contractor,” as it will often take an entire book to give you a proper grounding on the subject. Just know this! It is entirely within your realm of ability to tackle the over site and scheduling that you would pay that 30% to the general contractor to do. If you feel up to the task, get a book and be vigilant. In the end, you will have that new addition at a significantly lower price.

Dan Auito is a dual-licensed real estate agent and appraisal assistant. Founder of a non-profit drug prevention corporation, a real estate consulting group and is the author of “Magic Bullets Real Estate.” This 300-page power-packed book (due out in late Sept 2004 comes with a website that further supports its readers.

Simple Modern Kitchen Home Improvement Project

Many families today are spending more time together in the kitchen. With more emphasis on good healthy cooking, more families use this time to be together and bond. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, then this simple modern kitchen home improvement project might be just what you are looking for. Many homes are bought today because of what the kitchen looks like. Size of the kitchen is very important if you do a lot of cooking and especially if the whole family is involved in the process. There are some fairly simple upgrades you can do to make your kitchen home improvement project not only simple and fun, but will make it a more modern and comfortable space to cook in.

Sometimes a simple thing like moving a picture can give a room a whole new look, so look around your kitchen and see what kind of changes you would like to do for your kitchen home improvement project. Do not tackle a project that might be too much for you. Save that for a contractor to bid out at a later date. One kitchen home improvement project that is fairly simple, is to add tiles to a counter that may be just old counter top. You will need to take up the old counter top and if necessary replace the wood with new wood. You can now select the tile and grout you would like to use and believe me, there are many choices available so this could be a lot of fun. The next faze to your kitchen home improvement project would be to use spacers and lie the tiles down on the glued wood. You can get books and tips that can walk you through each step of this process.

The next kitchen home improvement project might be to add a center island in the middle of the kitchen. If you already have one, you may want to tile it to match the counter tops. There are so many gadgets today that make life easier in the kitchen, but you will need to visit a building supply store or a specialty store that focuses on kitchens and kitchen supplies. You can get different things that hang from the ceiling, in which you can hang pots and pans, and or utensils. It’s all about convenience, so when planning your kitchen home improvement project, keep that in mind.

If your appliances are old and in need of updating, you can replace them for another kitchen home improvement project. There are many options today in this field of appliances. You can choose from electric to gas, and even wood. They come in different sizes and colors now, so you can match your tiles if you want to. Since you have completed these other jobs, you might want to replace the flooring if it needs it, for one of your last kitchen home improvement projects. Once you have finished, you will be proud to say that you did it by yourself, and it will be so beautiful, you will want to spend more time in the kitchen. You may want to reward yourself with one final kitchen home improvement project of a small television you can install under the cupboard. Just imagine, you and the family can enjoy a ballgame, or the news as you fix your meal.

Top 10 Home Improvement Projects

The results of the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report for 2010-2011 (Remodeling magazine) are out and I’m more convinced than ever that it really is what’s on the outside that counts (see last week’s post). The report ranks the most popular home improvement projects based on the return on investment. In other words, how much of what you spend on a project will you get back in added value to your home? Here are the top 10 home improvement projects according to the report, along with their national average return on investment:

Steel Entry Door – 102.10%
Fiber Cement Siding – 80.00%
Garage Door – 83.90%
Wood Deck – 72.80%
Minor Kitchen Remodel – 72.80%
Insulated Vinyl Siding – 72.40%
Non-Insulated Vinyl Siding – 72.40%
Vinyl Windows – 72.60%
Attic Bedroom – 72.20%
Major Kitchen Remodel – 68.70%

Notice that seven out of the top 10 most valuable home improvement projects are exterior home improvements. The authors of the report largely pass that off to the axiom that “curb appeal is king.” And while I certainly agree that what your house looks like to prospective buyers is important, it doesn’t account for those of us who plan to stay in our current home for years to come.

What I see when I look at the top 10 projects in the report isn’t a checklist of improvements I need to make for the next owner, but rather an economy-driven triage of upgrades that will make my home more efficient, comfortable, and secure for me and my family. And I really believe that’s what is driving the popularity of these projects more than a desire to spruce up a house for sale.

Better Than Average
It’s also important to point out that these numbers are averages. So the usual caveat of “your results may vary” applies here. Of course, one of the variables you can control is the quality of workmanship. You know you’re not going to realize the average return on investment with below average quality. In fact, a bad installation could actually hurt the value of your home. Conversely, if you hire a contractor who does above average work, it’s reasonable to conclude that you may enjoy an even higher rate of return than other homes in your region.

It probably goes without saying that I consider Buresh Home Solutions to be one of those above-average contractors, but I’d be silly not to mention it here!

Long Term Returns
One final point I want to make about this report is that it doesn’t take into account how much money some of these improvements can save you in energy costs. more than your initial investment. And, as an added bonus, you’ll get that all-important curb appeal!

Home Improvement Sales Leads – 4 Tips For Getting Leads in Your Area

As a business owner you obviously want as many home improvement sales leads as possible because leads turn into sales and sales equal income! There are lots of ways to market a construction type business in order to get consumers to call on you, but which ones work and which ones are a bit expensive for what they deliver in terms of generating quality leads? Well these 4 key points or tips can give you some insight of what resources are available and which ones are the most effective when you are looking to gain focused construction, siding, windows, plumbing, or other type of handyman leads for your company.

1. One item is clear and that is in order to have an effective sales and marketing campaign now days you need to have an online presence, regardless of what type of company or service business you are running. You may ask why this so crucial because you may be used to just always following the path of some small or large phone book ads and maybe a few radio advertisements. The fact is more and more consumers, potential clients, and other people in need of specific services search online everyday in order to find businesses and companies who can provide quality and proven service in their area.

2. Hopefully we can assume you have heard of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, the most powerful and widely used search engines on the internet. Some where close to 70% of all online users search Google for business services everyday and the other 25% use Yahoo or Bing! And to take that a step further, it has been said that more than 50% of consumers will do some research online before choosing a construction company to work with and pay for before they call them. The reason for the large number of online searches as opposed to the old, some what out-of-date, yellow pages is that consumers and prospects can find out so much specific information about a company before they decide to call and speak with them. The internet is a way that can save people lots of time searching for exactly what they want where as with a phone book or yellow pages they can only see a small portion of information and in most cases just a your company name and phone number! When someone in need of home improvement help goes to Google and types in “home improvement companies in their area” Google will only show the top 10 most relevant results (same for Yahoo! and Bing). With the yellow pages there can be hundreds of choices to pick from and it’s tough to know which one has the exact services that you are looking for, you can see the internet cuts out lots of wasted time filtering services including wasted time on the phone.

3. If you own a home window replacement company in Des Moines, IA and a home owner uses Google and types in “Des Moines home window replacement” you can’t get a much more focused lead than that. And the cool part is if you have a good online marketing presence and have an easy to read website with you service information on it you could be one of those top 10 companies on the front page results for that prospect’s search! That consumer or lead is looking for what you have and because you have a home improvement website that lists all of your services and specialities you will get a call and have a much higher rate of closing a deal and making the sale than if they just looked up home repair or window companies in the phone book! Some home construction companies in the phone book don’t offer window replacements but the only way a homeowner knows that is to call and find out, if that same person types in “window replacement in Des Moines, IA” they know that any of those 10 companies have exactly what they want! That is why you need to be online and especially on the front page of Google results.

4. How can you start marketing effectively online and more specifically with Google in order to get these targeted sales leads? There are many options available, some more expensive than others. The main question you need to ask yourself is how much is one good home improvement sales lead or call worth to your company profits? Once you get a call what are your skills or abilities to close the deal and make the money instead of your competitors? The best way to get these types of sales leads for any type of business, whether it is windows, doors, home siding, or home remodeling services, is to get your company website on the front page of Google! If you don’t know how to get ranked on Google you should find an experienced and reliable company who can do it for you. Remember 50% of people search the internet these days (and that % continues to rise every year) instead of finding companies with out-dated forms like the phone book. The phone book ads can cost thousands of dollars a year and sometimes hundreds or thousands per month, getting results and a presence on Google or online in general can be much more cost effective and profitable in the short term but more importantly in the long term!

Keep tips in mind when thinking about your marketing campaign online or more specifically with Google or any sort of lead generation campaign. Find and talk to a company who can get you results for home improvement sales leads online so that you are one of the top 10 in your area. See if those same online advertising specialists can also make you a website, rent you one that already gets local home servicing leads, or if they can help your existing site. Having a website is only effective for getting new leads if it shows up during a prospects search. Find a company and call them up to let them know what kind of results you are hoping to achieve online and then ask if they can help or improve your chances of getting your piece of the online home improvement sales traffic!

A Home Improvement Project That Can Save the Roof

While many homeowners enjoy performing do-it-yourself projects around the house on the weekends, most of them choose to add paint to the interior or exterior of the home. Others elect to install new bathroom fixtures, change the flooring in the home, or simply work on the landscaping. However, there is a significant home improvement project that any homeowner can perform that can save the roof.

Independent of where the homeowner resides in the country, nearly every house has the same issues regarding the roof. When the gutter system becomes overflowed, or plugged up due to a clogged drain, it can cause significant damage to the roof. This is often a result of a buildup of leaves, branches, twigs and debris that gets lodged either in the gutter, or the downspout.

Significant damage can be caused to the roofing system when the gutter remains clogged with debris and leaves. It is quite easy for the water to get up underneath shingles or tile and cause damage along the fascia boards and the plywood residing just beneath the tile or shingles. The only way to ensure that the roof will remain in proper condition is to keep the gutter system operating as it is design.

Cleaning out the Downspout

Cleaning out the downspout is an easy process that requires the homeowner to work on both the top end and the bottom. By placing a ladder at the top of the downspout, remove all debris that is accessible. Do the same from the bottom, using some type of a hose, or hook to grab any of the clogged debris lodged deep into the downspout.

Next, take the garden hose in place it at the top, and turn on the water. This will help push the lodged debris down the downspout using a minimal amount of pressure. Work the hose up and down into the downspout until it is completely cleared. It may require a broom handle or other long instrument to dislodge some of the stuck debris. Be sure and use some type of a stick that has a large top, such as a broom upside down, to ensure that the pole itself does not get lodged if dropped in the downspout.

Akron’s Top Home Improvement Project – Six Things You Should Know About Window Replacement

Replacing the windows in your home is one the most popular home improvement projects in the Akron area. The reason is simple–homeowners receive multiple benefits from this one project. In addition to significantly lowering your energy bills, replacement windows will help increase your home’s value, improve the exterior and interior appearance, and eliminate maintenance. However, most people are overwhelmed with process of choosing the right windows for their home. Here are the top six things that will make the process easier.

1. Choose a reputable company-There are lots of resources to help you choose a good company and product. The local BBB is a good place to start. Make the sure the company is accredited by the BBB. Also, Angie’s list is another great resource. You’ll need to be a member, but you can sign up for a few dollars. Look for companies with the Super Service award on Angie’s list-they are the top 5% in the category. Finally, protect yourself and make the sure the company is licensed, bonded, insured, and the workers are covered by Workman’s Compensation. Be sure to ask.

2. The spacer material between the glass panes is the key to performance and longevity-Not all spacers, the material between the glass panes, are created equally. There are three basic types of spacers: Intercept spacers, full box metal spacers, and structural foam spacers known as Super Spacers. Choosing the right spacer will lead to higher performance and longevity for your home improvement project.

Intercept spacers are the most commonly used in replacement windows because they are inexpensive (made of tin) and are easy to manufacture. They are a U-shaped channel in between the glass. Full box metal spacers are square pieces of aluminum. They are also inexpensive to manufacture.

Although less expensive upfront, there is a downside to using metal spacers. Both intercept and full box metal spacers expand and contract, as that is the property of metal, with temperature swings. This expansion and contraction of metal spacers allows for three undesirable things to occur: colder and warmer temperatures around the edges of the panes (18.6 degrees colder than structural foam spacers), a higher occurrence of seal failure (in as little as three years as tested by the National Fenestration Rating Council–NFRC) which allows the gas to escape leading to fogged or inefficient windows, and condensation promoting mold growth.

Windows with structural foam spacers-Super Spacers-perform the best. Developed by Edgetech for NASA, this material prevents the problems associated with metal spaces above. Expect to pay more for these spaces. But the extra upfront cost is worth it.

3. Not all warranties are the same: read them-All warranties are “limited” (i.e. excludes vandalism, acts of nature) and most are “lifetime,” but not all are the same. For example, a limited lifetime warranty from a well-known big brand covers 10 years on the parts and frame, 20 years on the glass and two years on labor. Is that lifetime? There are some companies that do cover every part of the window, including labor. Look for them. If someone is willing to cover the labor for life, then it is a good bet that the window is a high quality window. Also, make the sure the warranty is fully transferable to the next owner. This will make your home easier to sell if the new owner has the peace of mind because it is one costly home improvement project they do not have to do again. Again, read, read, read the warranty. The fine print is the most important. Most information can be found online.

4. Know what window ratings mean-Choose windows that are Energy Star rated for your climate zone to get the most out of your home improvement project. Ratings do vary by climate zones. There are two basic measures used to measure for Energy Star windows: U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). In the Akron area, and across Northern Ohio, the U-factor should be.30 or below (the lower the number the better), the SHGC should be .35 or below.

These ratings are derived from independent testing by the NFRC and are used to determine Energy Star qualifications. The ratings are displayed on a sticker on each window.

5. Choose between vinyl, wood, fiberglass or composite frames and sashes-One of the earliest decisions for our home improvement project is to choose the type of look you want for the windows. Remember, this affects both the interior and exterior. Vinyl is by far the most popular choice for replacement windows. Except for cleaning, they are virtually maintenance free. They come in three basic colors on the inside (white, tan and brown) along with faux wood looks. Many companies also paint the exterior of vinyl windows to provide more color choices. Be sure to ask about the paint warranties if you choose this option and expect to pay $100-$150 more per window for painting. Also, be sure to choose vinyl windows that use virgin vinyl. Virgin vinyl will resist fading, cracking and warping.

Today’s wood windows often have an exterior cladding of either vinyl or aluminum for easy maintenance. However, occasionally the cladding on the mitered corners can have a tendency to let water in between the wood and the cladding causing rot. This is due to expansion and contraction over time. Wood windows will require more maintenance (i.e. painting on the inside) and will may rot or attract mold should the windows condensate on the inside. Wood and water are not a good mix.

Composite windows, made of wood fibers and epoxy, are becoming popular because they are also maintenance free with a more wood-like appearance. They can be pointed on the inside. But they do come with a heftier price tag than vinyl windows. Some argue that a high quality vinyl window performs as good, if not better, without the extra cost.

Speaking of price, fiberglass windows are the most expensive. They also can be painted on the interior and will not rot. Other than that, there is no discernable difference to a high quality vinyl window. Some fiberglass windows can cost as much as $1,500 and up. For comparison, expect to pay between $500 and $800-installed– for a high quality vinyl window. Cost does vary by city and region.

6. Know your budget but don’t skimp on quality- Be realistic. Replacement windows are a significant home improvement project that should last the life of your home. Unless you have a rental home, choose the best windows you can afford. It is wise to pay a little extra upfront for quality instead of having to replace the windows again in a few years, especially if they are out of warranty (see #3 above). Vinyl windows give you the most bang for the buck. Lesser grade (lumber yard, big box) vinyl windows can range from $275-$375 installed. Higher grade vinyl windows range from $400 to $800 depending on style, size, color and options. Composite and fiberglass windows can be cost of upwards of $1,500 per window installed.

Ask about financing. Most reputable companies have programs available. Recently, there was one advertised that offered 84 month, 0% financing (the monthly payments would be less than the cost of the energy saved-so the windows are actually free in real terms!).