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The Top 6 Home Improvements (cost vs return)

When you sit down and contemplate home improvements, it can very quickly become overwhelming. There are two basic schools of thought when looking at these improvements and it is entirely up to you which to pursue. You can focus your efforts towards making upgrades that you believe other people will like or you make improvements that increase the value of the home to you. My advice would be to sit down and discuss these options with a good and reputable realtor in your area who is experienced with the demographic of people who purchase homes in your area. They will help you assess the condition of everything and give you a rough idea of your returns on your efforts. Then you will need to find a licensed and insured contractor. Credentials are crucial to make sure this process is as painless as possible. Do not work with these fly by night tailgate contractors. Make sure to do your research before hand to best protect yourself against those who talk a good talk but do not know their head from a hole in the ground. You are about to face many tough decisions and you need to walk in confidence that you are working with realtors and contractors who will have your interest as their priority. Knowing ahead of time where you will get your best returns will help guide you in these conversations with contractors and realtors. And while the improvements that might be most worth it for you personally are subjective and hard to quantify, Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs Value Report has a great tool to help you find the best projects to tackle to achieve the highest returns on your investments. Below are 6 improvements to focus on.

  1. Garage Door Replacement

    A garage door is usually not the most exciting upgrade but it is usually the simplest one. The garage door makes up on average 25-33% of the face of a home. It has a huge impact on the first impression of the home for buyers. If you have a door begging for new life, call a local door specialist, not a general contractor. These garage door specialist can assess the door and opener and help you shop all the options that are out there. They have a wider access to doors on the market and should be able to provide you with factory training certifications and have a vast amount of knowledge of what system and design will best suit your home and purpose. A new garage door has the highest return for investment across the nation at 97% return, so this easily ranks in 1st place as upgrades to explore.

  2. Stone Veneer On Exterior

    Exterior home improvement still remains one of the strongest returns due to first impressions and local value effects. Stone veneer is one of the best options out there to date. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it isn’t actually stone at all. It is a man-made composite that has the same look as stone without the adverse effects of using normal stone. It is easier to clean and keep looking sharp over the years. Stone Veneer remains one of the strongest ways to boost curb appeal and update a boring exterior while still yielding a high return of investment value at 96%.

  3. Wood Deck Addition or Refinish

    Are we noticing a pattern yet? Exterior renovation really goes a long way when boosting the market value of the home. Sure the composite deck may last longer but wood decks bring the highest return for investment. Averaging around 82% return it ranks in at number three for most profitable return. A good contractor will help you decide the right size and functionality of the deck and a realtor should help you be able to figure out what most people are looking for. Now if you already have a deck, taking the time to have it refinished will still have a huge impact on the people who are looking at your home. If your deck isn’t too far gone or aged beyond saving it is a worthy investment no matter what way you look at it.

  4. The Kitchen (within reason)

    The kitchen is probably one you expected to be on the list and almost every realtor out there will stress the value of an updated kitchen. Most home buyers look to the kitchen first when weighing out the interior vs your asking price. There are a range of valuable improvements that can be done to this room to avoid major upscale remodels that you will likely not see a greater return on. You can put in energy efficient, stainless steel appliances or paint cabinets and put in updated counter tops that will revive the rooms cosmetic. Minor kitchen remodels will usually keep you in the 81% range for return while moving into major renovations will on average only return 53.5% of investment.

  5. Siding and Window replacements

    If your siding is old, dirty, or damaged it can kill the look of your house and make it look like it has been neglected. It can also make the house look dated and leave question to whats hiding beneath the surface of the potential home they are looking to buy. If they do not trust what they can see, the odds of them buying decrease greatly even just at a glance.

    Windows also have a profound effect on the first impression of your home. If they are severely outdated or dirty and notable damage to framework, it will greatly affect the way they feel about the home as a whole. Updating the windows will provide an energy efficient home and that always ranks up there with potential buyers. They are going to be weighing out every cent they will have to spend to bring this home into their own personal standard.

    Both of these can provide 74+% return of investment in determining the value of your home.

  6. Bathroom Remodel

    Finally the most controversial item on the list. Everyone has a different take on the way they want their bathroom to function and flow. The main way to maximize your return here is to just focus on making it clean and functional. Update fixtures, toilet, counters and lighting.

    If there is any outdated designs or looks of your bathrooms, discuss this with the realtor and see what they think needs to happen. Just keep in mind the more money you invest in your bathroom the smaller your investment return will more than likely become. Most home buyers have a standard and that standard is always different per person.

Either way, there you have it. The top 6 ways to maximize your return when improving your home. If you want to explore other renovations and are just curious to see the national average return just look at this Cost vs Value Report and click on your region to see what interests you.

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Diary of a Salesman

Time after time when i visit with customers i hear horror stories of how contractors would leave them stranded with half finished projects or they only show up for the first quote and collect a down payment and then vanish into the night with the money never to be seen or heard from again. Sure the insured contractors cost more but like everything in life, you get what you pay for. The reasoning i usually hear from the customer is they chose the uninsured guy because it saved them money or it was somebody's friend and they were able to save money at the same time. I am sure we are all guilty of doing this at least once in our lives. The cheaper price tag lures us in to something we regret. 

If there is one piece of advise I would give my own children if they faced the same situation that brought you to a contractor, it would be this. Take the time to research the company. Access to the world's knowledge has never been easier in this day and age. Look at Facebook reviews, look at google reviews, and look at the company website. Find out if they are accredited or certified, but most importantly make sure they are an insured contractor. The last thing you need when you already are spending probably thousands of dollars on a project is to have something catastrophic happen and there is no way out. You will find yourself staring at an unfinished project and even more problems to deal with. By hiring an insured contractor, you help protect yourself and give yourself an opportunity to recover if things go south between you and your contractor. Researching to find if they are accredited with any major organizations will help you decipher if the contractor is serious or not. Your small time contractors wont have any real accreditation with major companies in their industry.  It takes time and money the smaller companies refuse to put resources to earning that title. Sure it keeps them from ever being able to work major jobs for factories or land developments but when there are plenty of people around willing to pay a contractor without said accreditation AND they have the ability to disappear overnight if they decide the money isn't worth finishing the project then why do it. But as the customer, why subject yourself to such ethic and potentially save yourself 10-15% on a price tag for shoddy product and second hand workmanship. Do the research. Protect yourself and your savings. Choose a company that actually enjoys working for its customers and puts the time in for you to be protected and show you they want to do the work honestly.

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