|Home remodeling: Pick renovations
that pay off
Try as they might, the hardware superstores have
thus far failed to teach what architects and designers have to offer:
taste. Your return on your remodel will likely depend as much on how
well it fits the period and scale of your house as how much it adds
to its functionality.
"Anything that is sensitive to the character of the
house should have the same sense of proportion and materials,"
says Kay Miller Boehr, an interior design professor at Park University
near Kansas City. "If the house originally had molding, it
should be there. If it didn't, it won't help to go out and do it
at Home Depot."
Boehr says the things that most grate on her are faux
replacement windows, kitchens where "miles and miles"
of cabinetry have run amok, and rooms that "scream '70s or
Her advice: Refinish all hardwood floors, don't scrimp
on the details that define the house's style, and hire a designer
if you don't know a Cape Cod from an English Tudor.
"I believe in doing a house for yourself, not just
for resale. But then I like those things that are consistent with
the character of the house," she says. "Older houses where
the owners have done a good job remodeling them sell quickly, even
in neighborhoods where there's still a lot of rehab to be done."
Johnson agrees. "People can see past the
decorating a lot of times, but if they see that a house hasn't been
taken care of, they wonder what else is wrong that they can't see."
A final word of caution: To properly recoup all
that sweat equity, keep one eye to your neighborhood. No matter how
spectacular your results, don't plan on pushing your home's value
beyond 25 percent of its current selling price; even in the best market,
you probably won't get it.
Best bet: If the market is lukewarm or you reside
in a neighborhood with widely varied property values, set your sights
just under the most expensive home on the block. That way, the showcase
homes will tend to reinforce your potential asking price.
Yes, you've noticed pools, gazebos, mazes, musical
fountains and exotic animal enclosures didn't make the list. If
you absolutely have to have one, so be it, but don't expect the
next buyer to pay for your fancies.
Jay MacDonald is a freelance
writer based in Mississippi.