Long and short
How long one intends to live in the house makes a big
difference in terms of how many improvements should
Nelson sees two groups:
homeowners with no regard to neighborhood or community
environment because they can't imagine selling, and
homeowners who make improvements based only on neighborhood/community
environment so they can sell within five years.
"There is nothing
you can do to a house that is immediately going to get
you back dollar for dollar what you spent," says
Don Zeman, builder, contractor and host of the radio
Take a kitchen remodel, for example. "If you enjoy
it for 10 years and it appreciates, maybe you've made
a little money on that investment. If you sell the house
tomorrow, you're not going to get money back."
Or, say you're in the
market for a new furnace. A sky-high efficiency rating
is going to cost more upfront, but over the years you'll
save more. Planning to sell within the next year? Then
a lower-efficiency furnace may be best.
For those planning
to stay put, craftsman Bruce Johnson, author of "Fifty
Ways to Save Your House," points out that one never
really knows what may happen. "We're a rather mobile
society these days. Job transfers come, we move, nothing
is certain. I, myself, would be very careful about not
overimproving my house to the point where it would be
impossible to get the money back out of it."
That's precisely why
experts recommend sitting down with a real estate agent
before doing costly home improvements. Which projects
will increase the resale value? Which ones would make
the house tough to sell?
For homeowners uncertain
about whether moving would be more cost-effective than
taking on improvement projects at all, check the free
online calculator at Remodelormove.com.
If selling seems most
logical, think in terms of what improvements are necessary
for resale (i.e. correcting water, mold or pet damage)
and what will help prospective buyers see the house
in the best light (i.e. repairing a squeaky door hinge),
says Jim Rocchetta, national marketing director of Handyman
Connection, which maintains a network of more than
4,000 independent craftsmen.
Regardless of whether
staying or moving is the plan, licensed contractor James
Carey, who hosts the nationally syndicated radio program
the House" with his brother Morris, advises
a safety-first approach to ensure that selected improvements
are worth it.
"You don't go
out and remodel your kitchen if the exterior of your
home is cracking, if your lights are flickering, if
you have evidence of termites, if your roof is leaking,"
Carey says. "You take care of the maintenance aspect
of it first. Protect your family, then protect your
That includes knowing
when to stop adding extras to your home. "The bottom
line is, you can overbuild a house," Zeman says.
"You don't ever want to end up with the biggest,
most expensive home in whatever area of the city you
is a freelance writer based in Connecticut.
Posted: April 12, 2006