As an appraiser one of the most common questions I receive is: "what can I do to increase the value of my home?" A very good question indeed. So I thought I would take a moment to address this issue, since I think most homeowners have wondered about this at one time or another. First of all, if you own your own home, it is important to remember that it is not just the place where you live, it is an investment. For most people it is probably the most important investment that they will make in their lifetimes. So, naturally one must protect that investment. As enjoyable as it is to dream about putting in that perfect new kitchen with the trendy cabinets and quartz counter tops or that stunning bathroom with a beautiful glass tile shower and full body sprayers; remodeling the interior of your home should really be secondary on your renovation to-do list.
As I said, your number-one priority as a homeowner is to protect your investment. So, before you start picking out new hand-scraped hardwood flooring and porcelain tile, you would be wise to direct at least some of those renovation funds toward maintaining the exterior of your home. I know that doesn't seem very exciting, but in the long run you will be very glad you did. So, if you plan to stay in your home for at least a few more years, here are some of my suggestions:
#1: Replace that worn out roof. If you have a composition (asphalt) shingle or wood shake roof that is more than 25 years old, you should seriously consider replacing it, pronto. I have seen it happen many times, where a homeowner will completely renovate the interior of their home, while their deteriorating roof is threatening to fail catastrophically with the next down-pour. Now, a leaking roof does not always cause your ceiling to come crashing down on your head, but a slow leak can cause other dangerous conditions over time, such as mold infestation and risk of electrical fire. It seems to me very unwise to spend a ton of money beautifying the interior of your home, while neglecting the very thing that is protecting it from destruction. So, before you spend a mint on all the shiny new interior stuff, take care of the practical exterior stuff first and begin by replacing that old roof.
#2: Repaint your house. Not the interior mind you, but the exterior. You have chosen to purchase your own home. You are no longer just a tenant, but a homeowner. It is now your responsibility alone to maintain your own property, and of course it is in your best interest to do so. Again, I see it all too often, homeowners who just use and abuse their home as if it were something cheap and disposable; and completely neglect basic maintenance items like paint. Peeling paint on the exterior of your home, especially on wood trim, fascia or siding, could eventually lead to a pernicious condition called dry rot. Trust me, that is something you do not want. Not to mention termites and other infestations. The longer you let these things go, the worse they get. Ideally, you should re-paint the exterior of your home about every 5-7 years, especially the wood elements. Of course, this is a general rule of thumb and depends greatly on a number of factors, not the least of which is the location of your home and your local climate. Generally speaking, if you notice any loose, peeling or scaling paint on the exterior of your house this is a pretty clear indication that you need to start checking Google for house painters in your area; or better yet, save a bunch of cash and break out those paint brushes and rollers yourself, this is a DIY project waiting to happen. Remember to take extra care if your house was built prior to 1978, your home may have lead based paint.
#3: Water is arguably the greatest enemy of your home; over time it can lead to rot, mold, infestations, electrical problems and structural failures. You need to make sure that water is moved swiftly away from your house (and any other structures on your property) at all times. Determine if the ground around the perimeter of your house has positive drainage. That means that the dirt, grass, planters, landscaping features, sidewalks, etc. should all be working together to move water away from the structure of your house. You never want to see water standing against the outside walls of your home, if it is, get the shovel (or jackhammer) and turn that negative drainage into positive drainage. You should physically angle the ground away from your house by slanting walkways or sloping the soil into a swale (a shallow depression in the ground designed to catch and direct rainwater) or perhaps adding a landscape drainage system will do the trick. Also, you might want to seriously consider installing rain gutters to catch water from your roof and move it harmlessly away through downspouts and drainage pipes.
#4: Consider how you might improve the energy efficiency of your home. Again, this isn't fun and flashy stuff, but your bank account will thank you for it in the long run. Consider the following actions: Increase the insulation in your attic; check the weatherstripping around your exterior doors; replace old single-pane windows with new dual (or triple) pane windows; replace an old, inefficient air conditioning system; and maybe even check into adding solar panels (under the right conditions a photovoltaic system can be a good choice). These are very wise improvements to consider, especially If you plan to live in your home for the long haul. You could potentially save hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars a year with these basic energy-saving upgrades, and in doing so, add to the market value of your home. After all, everybody loves to save money.
So there you have it, this is my boring, but practical advice for those looking to make capital improvements to their home. Now, this does not mean that remodeling your kitchen or bathrooms is a bad idea; on the contrary, it might be highly advisable to do so, but set your attention to these crucial items first, so when you do finally get around to putting in that dream kitchen, you can have the peace of mind knowing that your costly investment is well protected.
Check out my next blog post for advice about what homeowners should (and shouldn't) do to improve the interiors of their homes.
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