Best Home Improvements for Top ROI

Photo by Sue Smith via Shutterstock

Choosing what to upgrade or fix in, on or around your home can be a complicated process. Changes fall into two categories – things that increase or decrease value (or sale price) and things that increase or decrease salability (or how willing people are to pay full price for it). Before you start swapping out all the pieces of your home for new ones, determine whether you actually need to make those changes. Any change you make should either add something that adds value or replace something that needs fixing.

Adding Living Space

One of the most foolproof ways to add value to your home is to increase the living space, up to a point. If you have a 1-bathroom home, adding another bathroom definitely will increase the value, same with adding a bedroom to a 1- to 3-bedroom house.

Fixing Things

It’s essential to understand the difference between adding something to increase value and fixing something to bring back the value that has been lost. For example, fixing the roof doesn’t add any value to the home. However, it does negate the devaluing caused by a leaky, old or otherwise poor roof. The same goes for landscaping. With a few exceptions, you can’t truly add value to your home by updating or fixing the landscaping. You merely bring back any value lost from previously deteriorating land. This is not to say that these things aren’t necessary; they are. It’s just important to understand that they bring your property from 80% to 100%, instead of from 100% to 120%.

What to Avoid

If the home has a working kitchen and bathrooms without any significant problems, that are on par with other homes in your neighborhood, you are best off just leaving them alone. Your buyer will likely have different taste than you. That means they’re probably looking at your brand-new kitchen and pricing just how much it will be to rip it all out and replace it with their brand-new kitchen. If you lose out on buyers who wanted the slightly lower price of your home without the cost of your new kitchen, you’ll lose out overall.

Before you start dropping big money on changing things in your home that are just fine as they are, get a professional opinion. Real estate professionals are intimately familiar with the best sales features in your area, so take their words to heart.

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The Hidden Costs of Home Ownership

If you’re in the market for a new home, one of the first things you need to determine is how much of a monthly mortgage payment you can comfortably afford. A loan officer or mortgage broker can help you figure that out, based on your income, debts, and other information.

One thing they probably won’t include in the equation is the cost of home maintenance and other essential services, like garbage collection.

Ultimately, it’s up to the homeowner to build in enough “breathing room” in their budget to cover unexpected expenses. Although you can’t predict exactly what those expenses will be or how much they’ll cost, it’s virtually guaranteed that they’re going to occur. Whether you’re planning to buy a new house or a mid-century dwelling, here’s the short list of typical homeowner expenses that could crop up. While all these items may not apply directly to your situation, many of them eventually will.

  • Plumbing repairs: Leaky pipes, clogged drains, and broken plumbing fixtures are common problems in most homes. You may also need a plumber to fix or install a garbage disposal, repair or replace a hot water heater, or hook up a new refrigerator to your water supply.
  • HVAC services: When you combine the cost of semi-annual routine service calls and unexpected emergency repairs, the cost of maintaining your heating and cooling systems can really take a bite out of your household budget!
  • Appliance repair: The typical family depends on at least a half a dozen major appliances to prepare meals and keep their clothes and dishes clean. When one or more of those appliances break down, chaos can ensue! In many cases, it’s more cost-effective and practical to call a repair service than buy a new appliance.
  • Exterminator services: Regardless of whether you live in the city or the country, unexpected and unwelcome insects, rodents, and other miscellaneous varmints can show up in your home and yard. Sometimes it’s even necessary to call a wildlife control specialist to remove skunks, raccoons, and other intruders!
  • Electrical repairs and upgrades: Although electrical repairs are occasionally needed for safety reasons, most calls to electricians are more routine in nature. However, when light switches, electrical outlets, and ceiling lights stop working, it can be a huge inconvenience for you and your family. In some cases, you might even be desperate enough to pay extra for emergency electrical service on weekends!
  • Miscellaneous expenses: Garage door repairs, fireplace cleaning, swimming pool maintenance, deck repairs, rain gutter cleaning, professional carpet cleaning, landscaping, fence repair, home siding repair, and wet basement problems are a few of the many expenses that may require you to dip into your savings or household budget.

If you happen to be a first-time homeowner, you may also need to shell out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for items like a lawn mower, yard maintenance tools, snow blower, vacuum cleaner, furniture, and interior painting supplies. While home ownership, decorating, and yard maintenance can give you a feeling of satisfaction and pride of ownership, it’s necessary to earmark a sufficient amount of money to pay for those sometimes unexpected costs!