Home Improvement: Remember Cost

Now that the real estate market is cooling off, it’s more important than ever to look at the bottom line if you’re thinking about remodeling your house. The big question is this: What improvements can you make to increase the value of your home without losing your shirt?

If you are going to stay put for more than two years, you can afford to focus on home improvements that you and your family can enjoy. But if you’re planning on moving, big construction projects could be a mistake. Not only are these time-consuming and invasive, they also tend to run over budget—and often you won’t even make back what you put into the project when the sale goes through.

Here are some quick Do's and Don’ts for those looking for the best ROI (Return On Investment) in their real estate.

DON’T: Put in a pool.
DO: Work on the yard.

Some potential buyers might be looking for a pool, but you’re definitely not going to make your investment back. In fact, the average return is less than 50% for an in-ground pool—a project that can run upwards of $10,000. And for some buyers, a pool might even make them less likely to buy!

The yard, on the other hand, provides the first impression for your property. A well-kept lawn (especially the front lawn) implies good caretaking and maintenance, increasing buyer confidence. An unkempt lawn has just the opposite effect. Avoid costly landscaping and trees, but you might want to consider planting flowers and inexpensive shrubs near the front door or by the mailbox to make a good first impression. And don’t wait until the dandelions are taking over to mow!

DON’T: Install new windows.
DO: Put up curtains.

If you’ve got single-pane windows in your house, replacing them with modern, energy-efficient windows may make sense in the long run. But in the short term you are looking at a 65-75% return on a sizable investment. And if you live in a historic district, you might be getting yourself into a nightmare of zoning restrictions, neighborhood associations, and red tape.

However, windows are important when showing a house. Bare windows imply that a house is not lived in. Dirty shades or plastic blinds look cheap and make the whole room seem dark and dingy. Curtains give a house a warm, homey feel. And you can take them with you when you move.

BONUS TIP: For a low-cost alternative to new windows, try cleaning the existing windows and putting on a new coat of paint—you’ll be amazed at how much better they look.

DON’T: Tear out and replace an ugly fireplace.
DO: Repaint the fireplace brick.

A nice-looking fireplace is definitely a bonus when you’re looking to sell your house, but tearing out an old fireplace and replacing with new brick is messy and expensive. Marble is even pricier. At best you might get half or three-quarters return on what you put into this project.

Painting a fireplace is significantly cheaper and the results can look just as good as new brick. (Check out these Before and After pictures of fireplaces.) Brick-Anew offers an all-in-one fireplace paint kit with everything you need (including video instructions) to remodel an ugly fireplace and give the look of real brick. At a fraction of the cost of replacing the fireplace, your return on this investment is almost guaranteed.

In conclusion, remember to consider the cost and the return when planning your home remodel. Lawn work, window treatments, and the Brick-Anew fireplace paint system will give you a nice, clean look without hurting your bottom line.