Many home improvement projects begin with
someone in the household saying, "Wouldn't it be
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You need to update the out-of-date.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
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 pools.
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
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