Remodeling: When It's Worth the Cost

Is remodeling your home still worth the investment? Since refinancing isn't what it used to be, and because there are so many homes on the market, there's a new school of thought about remodels.

A recent article in CNNMoney said no, because remodeling your home now doesn't necessarily give homeowners the greatest of returns if they want to turn around and sell: Only 60 cents on the dollar, according to Remodeling Magazine's "Cost vs. Value" survey on remodels. But not everyone is convinced.

"With interest rates at historic lows, this is a great time for people who are not planning on selling right away to take advantage of these low rates on home equity loans to do the projects that they have long been putting off," says Seth Levin, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York City.

Even for those who are looking to sell, home remodeling still might make sense -- in terms of personal psychology and marketing. "People will be much quicker in making an offer when they see the home is already done," says Sarah Fatima Parsons, a broker at Halstead in New York. "People don't initially want to take on a renovation. Even if they end up ripping it all out later, it was done to begin with."

If you're sitting on the fence about home remodeling, the following can help you decide, and can help you remodel efficiently and economically.


1. Seek the bargains, steals and deals.

Materials are much more affordable for remodeling because retailers are looking to make a sale.

"If you're investing in your home, and you're planning on staying there for a while, then why not spend the money to have the perfect space?" says Glen Seidlitz, a carpenter and interior home remodeler based in Austin, Texas, who owns the company Six23. "If you're looking for resale, you'll probably never make back your entire investment, but it might be the thing that helps sell your house and not take a huge hit on the sales price."


2. Speak with home improvement experts and real estate sales brokers and agents about what is worth doing, and what isn't.

Low-end-of-the-market-buyers may simply discover that there are finishes that they will do that won't enhance a sales price at all.
Real Estate Essential How-To Guides on AOL Real Estate: Home Buying, Selling, Renting, Moving and Home Improvement "However, in the high-end market, my clients looking for multi-million dollar homes are passing on properties that do not have a high enough level of renovation," says Levin, who adds that they prefer "new constructions and newly remodeled resale properties -- even if the unrenovated properties are priced considerably lower.

"In the high-end market a seller should seriously consider updating before placing their apartment on the market," he says. "Buyers still believe that they have the luxury of time to see what else is out there before jumping on properties that they deem mediocre."


3. Choose simple-yet-sleek affordable home brands for your renovations, if on a budget.

Going over the top with personal style may mean a lot to you, but your personal taste doesn't translate well with that of a buyer's personal taste. If researched and done right, home remodeling can cost much less than expected.

"I always tell my clients to remodel with Ikea," says Parsons. "I suggest Ikea over Home Depot and to choose simply: white cabinetry with backsplash, granite. Keep it simple and sleek. You always have to do white. Don't even think of imposing your own taste on the potential buyer."


4. When remodeling, prioritize those home renovations room by room, project by project.

Typically, kitchens bring the most value, then bathroom renovations.

"You always get more than you put in with a kitchen renovations," says Parson. "I've seen sales where a renovated kitchen brought back 10 times more than was invested. This especially works if you put in a little sweat equity and do your kitchen all yourself. You should never leave in those old appliances, tiles and formica countertops. They look unappealing and nasty and can make a place look uncared for and sad. Never buy black or white appliances. It looks cheap. Silver aluminum looks the best for appliances and it will cost just $100 more for that better image.

"Painting, both interior and exterior, is an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of your home," says Seidlitz.


5. Allow for a decent time-frame to get the remodeling done before putting the property on the market.

Every job is different and planned renovations often take longer than anticipated, so factor those random, unexpected hiccups and delays if you're in a hurry and like to be in control of the process. Communicate a reasonable time frame with your contractor.

"If you're doing a full renovation of a 10-foot-by-10-foot kitchen, budget six to eight weeks," says Seidlitz. "A bathroom is about four weeks. Fully painting a 1,500-square-foot house could take up to two weeks, depending on how much prep work needs to be done and how many coats you want."

Parsons estimates that a solid Ikea renovation can cost $10,000 for the kitchen, $5,000 for the bathroom, $2,000 for better closets, and around $1,500 for an interior paint job.

The right time to remodel is simply the time when you have some extra cash. But if you're going to do it, give yourself some time before listing the property.

"Allow yourself three to six months before you put your property on the market," says Parsons.


6. Most of all, while you're living in it, enjoy your home.

Even if you bought your home at the top of the market and don't plan to sell in the near future, says Levin, investing in a remodel to make your home an enjoyable place to live is never a bad idea.

For more on home remodeling and improvements see these AOL Real Estate guides, whether you're selling or staying.

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