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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Financially Savvy Home Improvements

A conversation I often have with clients goes something like this:
"I'm not selling my house, but I want to make sure I do the right things to get the best value from my home. Can you give me some ideas?"
It doesn't need to cost and arm and a leg to keep your house looking fresh and marketable. There are many easy updates that can make a huge difference when selling your home. 

Start with painting. 

It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for a room, a cabinet, a door, trim, etc. I've seen rooms that are blah and unappealing come alive with a fresh coat of paint. Paint your home to meet your needs, however, if you are thinking about selling soon and want to repaint -- remembers: colors come and go. 

Ten years ago, newer homes were painted shades of taupe and beige. Today I see hues of grey. Visit new construction to see how those homes are being painted. Consider bringing in a decorator to help pick out paint colors before painting -- they usually know what is selling. 

Regardless, clean, fresh and neutral are always in vogue! 

Consider trim and crown molding

Chair railing, trim and crown molding can make a room look a little more finished.   Houses that went up quickly after the War often had little crown molding.   Just by adding that touch to each of the rooms can really make a difference.   If the ceiling and crown molding are painted with white or even a little color, it can make the ceiling look higher, too.
Update bathroom vanities

Nothing dates a home faster than bathroom vanities that are old, dated and 30" high. Even a pedestal sink looks better than a really dated vanity. I had one friend, who didn't really want to remove the vanity. It was so clever: she had a carpenter add a 6" border to the top of the vanity, painted the vanity a fresh white color and then replaced the top with natural stone. The makeover was amazing and it was relatively inexpensive. (tip: I've seen really beautiful new 36" high vanities at Studio 41 in Highland Park in their seconds room that are incredibly well priced and in terrific condition.)

Making this one change in the bathrooms can make a huge difference in how the room is perceived.

Replace light fixtures

One more thing that can really date a house are certain light fixtures.   I sold some friends a house and the dining room chandelier was straight out of a 1960's Las Vegas hotel room.... totally out of character with the home and in my opinion pretty ugly.  They changed it out and it created a complete makeover for the room.   I know fixtures are personal, so when in doubt replace with recessed lighting -- they usually work in any room!

Consider hardwood floors

If you have so so carpeting with hardwood floors underneath, consider pulling up the carpeting and letting your hardwood floors be the focal point. I don't know many buyers, who want wall to wall carpeting these days. In fact, most of the people want hardwood floors.

The stain of the hardwood floors can make a huge difference in how a home is perceived. There was a time when blond, or whitewashed floors were in. A few years ago, I saw a lot of homes with shades of very dark floors. Personally, I like a classic color like medium brown because it always seems to look good with any decorating. Regardless, whatever shade is used, make sure its kept even, buffed and clean.

Replace hardware

Believe it or not, simply replacing the hardware on doors and cabinets can make a huge difference in how a room is perceived. The expense of this change that can add up pretty quickly, depending on what types of hardware is selected. Simply replacing knobs can been pretty cost effective. I had a client who had brass knobs in her kitchen. Before they listed their home, she bought inexpensive brushed nickle knobs and room had a makeover at a fraction of the cost of changing things out. 

Look at this picture and how different the cabinet is perceived:  just by changing the hardware. The one on the left looks like something from a 1950's home - while the one on the right looks more contemporary.

Again, hardware styles come and go. Keeping the hardware current makes the room look more up to date.

Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade

A National Association of Home Builders report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

Replacing windows and furnaces are expensive, but something that can make a huge difference in utility costs and resale value.  Creating an energy efficient home are improvements that can be made over time.  For example, if you need a new appliance replace the old one with an energy efficient one, etc.

Adding insulation in attics and crawl spaces can make a world of difference to the warmth of a home in the winter --- and the utility costs.

One energy-saving home improvement project that saves energy is converting a wood-burning fireplace to a gas one. Gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace.

Think energy efficient whenever making an improvement to your home!  ComEd has a great set of ideas about where to begin on their website.

Add Storage
I don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage?  Adding storage can be fairly simple, but it does take a little creativity to find your home’s hidden storage.
Here are a few ways to think outside box:
  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage.
I'm always posting ideas on my Pinterest site.   Check them out!

Work on the exterior

The exterior of the home is the first thing that people notice when they are touring. I've actually had clients who have wanted to skip homes, because they didn't like the exterior. There are so many simple and not terribly expensive modifications one can make that will improve appearances.

the front door
When I first moved into my house, the front door was actually two medium-sized doors, that were painted black. I believe it was a popular style in the 1960's. Seeing the front door was difficult when someone walked up to my house. My foyer was very dark because there was no natural light. I replaced my two black front doors, with a single door and window panels on either side and then painted the exterior of the door a color that would pop from the street. It's amazing the difference it made to both the interior and exterior of my home.  The front door was more visible and it also provided more light to the foyer.

I found this picture through Pinterest from someone else's blog post. Just look at the transformation. The door on the left looks like something from an age gone by, while the door the right is classic and timeless.

Painting the door a fresh or contrasting color improves things tremendously.

It's an easy fix and can make a world of difference. 

the mail box

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen homeowners ignore their mailboxes. It's often the first thing buyers see and it says a lot about how the home is managed. If your box is falling down or broken or leaning over, fix it. Paint the post to look fresh and clean. It sends a great first impression of your home.


Adding trees doesn’t instantly come to mind, when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age. Those of you who read my blog, know I'm a big fan of trees... in fact I think I've planted probably a dozen on my property. There are so many pluses to having trees -- especially mature trees. I planted some trees maybe 12 years ago that were 5-7' high. They are now getting close to being pretty mature trees and looking like they have been there forever.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more; trees also:

  • Save in energy costs 
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff 
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun 
Some tips for adding trees:
  • Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest. 
  • Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property. 
  • Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage. 
  • Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees. 
While there are always big ticket items that can definitely improve the value of your home (e.g., new kitchen), these are some of the less expensive things that homeowners can do to really improve the value of their homes.   

If you're thinking about listing your home in the next year, visit new  construction.  See what "is in" in terms of paint colors, floor stains, cabinets, hardware, etc. Your house will need to compete with new construction and it helps to have it looking fresh and current. 

 Also, I always get some great ideas at

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