improvement projects begin with someone in the household saying,
"Wouldn't it be nice if...?"
Assuming that they're not just muttering the
old Beach Boys song about living together, they may then lament
the fact that there's no island in the kitchen, or not enough
counter space, or that the cupboards are made of cheap particleboard
instead of oak. It may be a wish for hardwood floors, or for
a new paint job. Whatever it is, it's likely that reality
will intrude: There's only so much money and so much space.
If you want to turn at least some of these dreams into reality,
then you should start by evaluating your reasons for doing
Most homeowners consider home improvements
for one of the following reasons:
You need to update the out-of-date. Sure, you
may wait 75 years until fifties-green linoleum is back in
style, but now may be the time to make it current.
You need to replace major appliances or plumbing. If the sink,
tub, or toilet has to be replaced, many people take the opportunity
to refurbish the entire bathroom. And if you're going to have
to bash through a wall anyhow to get to that leaking pipe,
maybe it's time to think of wallpapering or repainting.
You're selling your home. You want to be sure you'll get top
dollar from the sale of your home, and that may be the rallying
cry for some home improvement projects that you've been hemming
and hawing over for some years.
You're staying put. You thought about moving, but now you
realize that improving your present home is a better option.
Commitment spawns industry.
Improving to Move or Improving to Stay
Once you've decided that you're improving your home to put
it on the market, cutting corners could hurt rather than help
your prospects. On the other hand, you don't want to go overboard.
Potential buyers may not want to pay for the extras you have
included, so keep changes simple. Also keep in mind that people
viewing your house may not share your tastes and therefore
won't necessarily appreciate the time and effort you put into
finding just the right shade of green paint for the walls
or decorating your kitchen with hand-painted Portuguese tiles.
Even if you're remodeling in order to stay
in your home, you still need to avoid over-improving it. Here
you might place more emphasis on the kinds of things that
will give you pleasure over the years. Keep in mind, though,
that you'll probably sell someday, and even if your house
is the best on the block, you may have a hard time persuading
buyers to pay extra for the things you found so important.
Keep the value of other homes in the area in mind whenever
you consider improvements. Remember the old saw: "Buy
the worst home in the best neighborhood rather than the best
home in the worst neighborhood." Your home's value should
be no more than 20% above the average. That means a $10,000
kitchen improvement project might be a better idea than a
$30,000 pool, especially if no other homes in your area have
In most cases, the cost of an improvement isn't
recouped in the sales price. Redoing a kitchen may help sell
the house, but a seller should never expect to get 100% of
the cost back in the sale. It's usually much less.
If you're remodeling the kitchen, ask yourself
if you can handle the plumbing, electrical, and carpentry
work. And don't forget that you need to finish it all quickly,
because in the meantime you'll be without a kitchen. Hiring
people who have experience can save you money and time, too.
For example, these professionals can help you get a custom
look using stock products, and that can be a significant savings.
Getting something done right -- the first time -- will give
you value that lasts for years.
Some furniture and home improvement stores
have free design services. Depending on your needs, this may
appeal to you. (The benefit to the store is that you'll spend
money on their furniture or cabinetry.)
Finding the Professionals
Word-of-mouth is a good way to start looking for home improvement
specialists. Check with friends, business associates, and
neighbors for recommendations. Always ask for at least three
references -- and check them out. Check, too, with your local
chapter of the Better Business Bureau. You can find the number
in the community services section of your telephone book.
Make sure everyone is in agreement about design, schedule,
and budget. Get the details down in writing in a signed contract.
Article continued at http://www.fool.com/homecenter/smart/smart03.htm