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January 2nd, 2009

Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home in Economic Crisis


Are you looking to increase the value of your home while staying within your budget? Full remodels, even for one room, can cost many thousands of dollars, and while the cost may be worth it if you’re planning on staying put, most remodeling projects increase your home’s value by at most 80 or 90 cents for every dollar you invest. Thus, if you’re looking to sell your home right away, or if you’re buying and selling a home for profit, you want to keep your improvements simple and cheap.

Steps

  1. Spruce up the yard. Get rid of trash and yard waste. Keep your lawn in good condition and mow it. This includes using a weed whacker to get in the tight corners and along the edges of sidewalks and the house. Trim the hedges, get rid of weeds, and mulch the flower beds. If you don’t have much to work with, plant some flowers or install some landscaping appropriate for your home and climate.
  2. Eliminate clutter inside the home. If you’re going to be showing the house to potential buyers, get the house organized and get rid of clutter or put it in storage. A nice, tidy house will seem larger and more elegant.
  3. Wash walls and windows. It’s a lot cheaper to wash walls or siding than to repaint or replace siding, and many times a good cleaning will make your home’s finishes look good as new. Pressure-wash your home’s exterior, and wash interior walls. Clean your windows so that you can’t tell they’re there.
  4. Add a fresh coat of interior paint. Sometimes you just really need to repaint, but you can do it yourself relatively cheaply on interior walls. First, patch up any holes, no matter how small. To get a silky smooth finish, apply a coat of primer. After the primer dries, lightly sand it with a fine grit sandpaper (220 grit). Apply the first coat of latex paint, and then lightly sand that layer also. Wipe the walls down with a damp cloth after each sanding session. Then apply the final coat of latex paint.
  5. Put up fresh curtains and blinds. Blinds and curtains are relativly inexpensive. Over time, the sun fades the colors from your blinds and curtains, so new ones will make a better impression than old ones.
  6. Clean up the carpet. You can shampoo or steam clean your carpets, or you can use a dry cleaning system (available from various sources, such as Oreck), which requires no water or steamer rentals, and which dries instantly and kills virtually all mold and bacteria. Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then vacuum. If all else fails, get a professional to do the carpets for you. You’d be surprised how much better your carpet will look after a good cleaning.
  7. Install modern light switches and outlets. Some of the new style switches can be easily installed using the wires already running to the old switches. Just be sure to turn off the power to the room or entire house before doing any work. The new outlets look nice, and give the impression that the electrical wiring in the house is newer than it really is. Dimmer switches are especially desirable, although this can be illegal if the outlets are of three prong type while the wiring is two prong. It also could lead to trouble if the buyer’s home inspectors catches on.
  8. Refinish kitchen cabinets. Outdated or worn cabinets can bring the whole kitchen down, but refinishing them is relatively cheap and easy to do. If you have a dark or small kitchen, make it look larger and brighter by using a lighter finish on the cabinets.
  9. Up the wattage of your light bulbs to make things even brighter. Just make sure you don’t exceed the maximum specification for lamps and other lights. (You could use compact florescent light bulbs in order to make the room brighter without getting new fixtures, plus they save electricity meaning they save you money.)
  10. Get a professional floor plan company to check on your home’s square footage, which is sometimes higher what your county assessor has recorded. Because homes sell for hundreds of dollars per square foot, even a small increase will more than pay for the service (typically a few hundred dollars). You’ll be able to list your home for more money, but at the same price per square foot.
  11. Wood Trim and Cornicing are a cheap and easy do it yourself idea that can add tons of “WOW” factor to the look of your home. Simple ceiling trim and armchair railing are the easiest and most typical upgrades found in newer homes. To make an even bolder statement, paint the walls a neutral, flat color and paint the trim a high gloss white.

Tips

  • Improve the things people can see. Getting rid of highly visible eyesores will add the most value per dollar to your home.
  • Remember the senses. Put out fresh flowers for your open house; they make even the most dungeon-like house look inviting. Bake some oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies–they invoke good thoughts for most people. Then leave them out for visitors. If you don’t have time to bake, burn a candle or use potpourri. Use smell sparingly; some people are more sensitive than others. Consider playing some very soft classical music in the background.
  • Consider turning on all the lights when the real estate agent arrives with potential buyers. On the one hand, this will help to brighten up your house. On the other hand, lights on in the daytime is a huge “red flag” for some buyers. Either way, it will make a lasting first impression.
  • Do it yourself when possible. If you know what you’re doing, a little elbow grease can add a lot of value.
  • As a last resort, consider flooring options. If your carpet is in really bad condition, you can replace it, or you can restore the original hardwood floor. Hardwood floors are very popular right now, and in a lot of cases old houses have nice hardwood flooring underneath the carpet. Rip up a bit of carpet in a closet or other inconspicuous area to check the floor’s condition, and compare the price of restoring the hardwood to that of installing new carpet.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend a couple of extra dollars on good paint rollers. Those 5- for- $10 rollers will make your walls look blotchy.
  • Paint with a neutral color such as beige. It will make the house seem larger, and it will be inoffensive to buyers.
  • Semi-gloss paint will make your walls seem brighter. If your walls have imperfections, such as dents in the drywall or cracks in the plaster, consider using flat paint to hide those imperfections. Keep in mind that flat paint shows dirt easily and is difficult to clean, so leave it until just before your open house!
  • Install ceiling fans. If you live in an area where warm weather is common, replacing built in ceiling lights with ceiling fans will improve the form and function of your home. You can find ceiling fans at a “big box” retailer or at your local hardware store with lighting for as little as 20.00 a fan
  • Use floor and table lamps in every room and sheer curtains to make your open house more inviting. Lamps give a softer light, and the curtains let in sunlight, which makes the room more home-like and less clinical. You can pick up decent stuff from garage sales if you don’t have any.
  • Check the main circuit breaker panel to see if the kitchen, bathroom and garage circuits are protected by GFI breakers. If not, install GFI outlets in those locations. local laws can vary. Some cities/counties do not require GFI receptacles. A GFI is usually only needed within a certain amount of feet within a water source. GFI outlets are $11.00+, minus the cost of the wall plate. They are expensive, but sometimes mandatory. If there are multiple outlets on one circuit, only the outlet that supplies power to the rest of the outlets/room needs to be GFI protected.
  • Clean, clean, clean. Nothing improves the value more for so little of an investment than a good cleaning. Houses that look and smell clean have great market appeal. Even an older house with older appliances will fare well if everything is sparkling clean!
  • You may wish to consult with a state licensed appraiser before doing any remodeling. An appraiser can give you valuable insight into what your market area can and cannot support.

Warnings

  • Before doing any electrical work on the house, shut the power off to that room from the main circuit breaker. Shutting power off to the whole house is even safer.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable making a repair or improvement, call a professional. It’s better to pay to have the work done than to have to pay for extra damage you do.
  • Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for cleaning walls or carpets, or you may do more harm than good.
  • Always try to compare the cost of any improvement to the value it will add to the house. Many times, the improvement simply won’t be worth it.
  • Improvements that might not be cost-effective in most housing markets might pay off in highly active or inflated markets.
  • Most Fluorescent bulbs don’t work with dimmer switches, so be careful not to put them together. Unless the bulb’s packaging indicates dimmer compatibility, assume that a dimmer will not work.

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