Serious home chefs, or just house-proud owners, might consider the kitchen their showstopper room—the one that will stop potential buyers dead in their tracks. And that’s why they add all the upgrades, accoutrements, and trendy new finishes they can possibly find. To some extent, they’re absolutely right—a great kitchen can make a buyer fall deeply in love.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
An inherent danger of taking a deep dive into modern design is accepting the harsh fact that today’s trends may be tomorrow’s “Oh, God, remember that?” fads such as fake brick or hideaway appliances. With the average kitchen remodel pushing $20,000, designing without foresight can be a costly and embarrassing mistake.
Some trends such as subway tile and granite countertops have a long tail: Designers expect they’ll be in style for the foreseeable future, so you’re safe giving them a starring role in your makeover.
Others are doomed to fade hard and fast. Such as…
Combining bronze and copper in the kitchen might give the room an “eclectic” look, but in a few years, chances are good it will just look confused. Same goes for stainless steel and gold, or nickel and brass.
“Anybody who mixes metals besides Rolex is an idiot, and maybe Rolex is an idiot, too,” says Chicago kitchen designer Scott Dresner of Dresner Design. “Some people think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just not. I think it’s appalling.”
He should know: Dresner has designed more than 7,000 kitchens, and his airy Chicago renovation won K+BB’s 2014 Kitchen of the Year Design Award.
Still want the look? Try mixing in different metals with replaceable hardware such as drawer pulls and towel rings, so you can easily ditch them if you put your home on the market.
DIY concrete countertops
Making your own concrete countertops is all the rage on Pinterest, but kitchen designers think the trend is already passé.
“The DIY concrete countertops have become a nightmare,” says Yarmouth, ME, designer Jeanne Rapone. “Every call I’ve had about those counters is all about people calling me wanting them ripped out of the house they just bought. They hate the concrete.”
Because countertops are the kitchen’s primary focal point, it’s important to ensure their longevity. Picking a trendy material will—at best—annoy the hell out of you in a few years. In a decade, it might make your home impossible to sell. Better to spend a bit more on a surface you’ll love for a long time.
There’s a time and a place for open shelving—a few simple marble-and-steel slabs can look stunning. But swapping all of your cabinetry for open shelving is a soon-to-be-outdated fad.
“Open shelving is a thing that could be done very elegantly or very cheaply,” says Dresner. Simply pulling off the cabinet doors to mimic the effect is a surefire path to an unattractive, dust-collecting kitchen. If you’re interested in the look, a designer can help you combine minimalism, style, and functionality.
Rapone believes open shelving was a “complete economic response to the 2008 recession,” when homeowners wanted to redesign their kitchen but lacked the budget for extensive cabinetry upgrades. Under financial strain, “they’re willing to do stuff like open shelving in the kitchen, which saves a lot of money. It came out of good intentions, but now people say, ‘No, Jeanne, I’m tired of dusting shelves. I’ll pay for the doors now.’”
Another recession response that’s fast approaching (or already surpassing) its sell-by date, reclaimed wood can look either superb or terrible, depending on its application.
As an accent, it’s perfect: “I love reclaimed wood. I love the idea of reusing something,” Dresner says. “Reclaimed wood on your island top could be gorgeous.” But what happens when you go beyond accents? “If you’re using it to make cabinets, I think it’s garbage. It looks horrible, and it’s not the right way to use that type of wood.”
So if you’re itching to integrate repurposed wood into your kitchen style, focus on horizontal surfaces, where it has a tabletop effect.
“We see people going a little overboard with the reclaimed look,” Rapone says. “A reclaimed wood island countertop will last a lifetime, but reclaimed cabinetry with barn doors and a real rustic look—that’s a trend that will be way out of style soon.”
Unless you’re living in a loft, skip the stainless-steel countertops, exposed Edison bulbs, and aluminum shelving.
“The industrial look is making its way out,” Rapone says. If you want the effect without the commitment, she recommends finding an industrial-looking lamp that can be easily swapped out when the trend passes its prime.
“In five years—when everyone’s, like, ‘Wow, remember when we did that in 2014?’—you can take it down and replace it with something else,” she says. “That way, you’re not changing out $30,000 in cabinetry.”
But whatever you do, Dresner strongly recommends avoiding the exposed-lightbulb look.
“There are so many cool lights at Restoration Hardware that have that industrial feel, versus something that looks like it should be in the basement of an old building hanging from a block,” he says.
Posted from Crystal Edgerly
It’s time to move on. You’ve decided to sell your home and embark on a new adventure.
Unfortunately, potential buyers don’t care about how long you obsessed over choosing the perfect bathroom tiles or the number of carpenters you interviewed to make the perfect built-in bookcase. To the buyer, those items may not matter to the value of the home, even if you think they should.
When it’s time to sell, you have to price your home right, using tangible factors. Here are six rules to remember:
1. Price is king
Your asking price determines how long the home will sit on the market. Pricing the home too high may reduce the number of interested buyers, which can cause your home to sit on the market too long. If your house is on the market too long, it may create the perception that there’s something wrong with it. It can also lead a buyer to think that you’re desperate for an offer. You want to avoid these outcomes and not overvalue your home.
On the flip side, pricing the home too low may create some skepticism and raise unwanted questions about the home’s true value. This will hit you in the bank account if multiple offers don’t drive the price up to its true market value.
2. Use comparable sales
The simplest way to figure out the right price for your home is to compare similar homes that have sold in your neighborhood. Instead of skulking in the shadows and casing the neighbor’s house, use realtor.com to check out nearby stats.
Compare your house with those with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. If you find comparable homes with similar floor plans and outdoor space, all the better. See how many homes in your area have sold recently and what they went for. You can also work with a real estate agent to help you compare houses.
3. Compare fairly
Make sure your comparison is fair. If there are neighborhoods in your city that are more desirable, consider that in your comparison. Also consider your location and what buyers want. If a similarly sized new-construction townhouse sold for top dollar down the block, you may not get the same amount for your cute ’40s bungalow.
4. Check the market history
To get a more comprehensive picture of the real estate market in your neighborhood, check the listing history of a home. Compare the original asking price with the final sale price, and note the amount of time the house was on the market until it sold. A REALTOR® can help you with this step.
If you’re looking to speed up the process, you may want to price your house a bit lower. However, if profit is your motive, you may need to wait a few months for a sale on the high end of the spectrum.
5. Consider special improvements
Consider whether major improvements you’ve made warrant a higher asking price. If you’ve remodeled the kitchen and put down a new parquet floor, or if you really feel the special woodwork details will clinch the sale, make sure those enhancements are reflected in the price of the home. Be reasonable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get as much money as you expected—improvements don’t always recoup their cost.
6. Don’t ignore supply and demand
In a buyer’s market, with many homes for sale and sellers competing for attention, you may want to ask a bit less for your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers. In a seller’s market, where there is little home supply and much buyer demand, you may want to ask a bit more and maximize your profit.
Updated from an earlier version by Aviva Friedlander
Posted from Crystal Edgerly
If your home has you down in the dumps but you lack the cash to fix it up, don’t despair! Not every upgrade has to take a big bite out of your bank account.
Here are seven foolproof ways to make your home feel like a totally different place through small changes—and small expenses.
1. New hardware
Swapping out the boring chrome hardware the previous owners installed can go a long way toward making your home look like yours—not to mention give the entire space an easy, inexpensive refresh. Depending on your style, new pulls or handles can cost mere dollars.
“The first thing I do to give the home more of the look and style that I like is swap out the hardware,” says Doug Mahoney, who worked in construction for 10 years and now writes about tools and home improvement for The Sweethome. “All it takes is a screwdriver, and it’s surprising what a difference it can make.”
2. Small paint jobs
Don’t have time to repaint your entire home? Start by tackling smaller jobs such as your front door or kitchen cabinets. Since these projects are quick, you can squeeze them in during the weekend (or even an afternoon). And you’ll use only a fraction of a gallon of paint (which costs between $15 and $30)—making for an ideal impact-to-expenses ratio.
“Personally, I can’t stand the look of polyurethaned oak cabinets, so I’d cover those up with a nice white paint,” Mahoney says. “It makes it look like a whole new kitchen.”
If you like your cabinets, consider repainting the trim in your living room or adding some fresh color to a small room such as your bathroom.
3. Sensor lights
Tired of scrambling for the light switch while your arms are holding bags of groceries? Add sensor lights to your front porch and any other regular entrances such as your garage door. Starting at just $15, it’s a tiny cost with a big reward.
These lights won’t just improve your visibility—they’ll also lower your electricity bill. And they’re a big home safety boon to boot; experts say motion-detecting lights discourage criminals from lurking around your home.
4. Magnetic door catch
Speaking of those arms full of groceries: Adding a magnetic door catch (like this one from Amazon, which costs $11) to your primary entrance drastically simplifies loading and unloading. No more awkward sideways crab walks as you attempt to keep the door open while carrying a big package. You might even consider installing this before moving day to make your movers’ job easier.
5. Keyless entry pad
If you’re always losing your keys, try investing in a keyless entry pad such as this simple $100 Kwikset deadbolt. It can mean the difference between spending a few hours moping in your car and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa in your living room.
Plus, you’re not the only one who benefits: If you’re expecting guests but won’t be available to greet them, they can let themselves in—a huge improvement from hiding a key, which might be a safety risk.
6. Low-flow toilet
“It may seem intimidating to those not very interested in DIY, but swapping out toilets is a fairly simple process,” Mahoney says.
Choose a high-efficiency or low-flow toilet to save money on your water bill. While it does require some investment (expect to pay between $100 and $325 for the toilet itself), you’ll be making your money back soon enough—especially if you’re replacing an older model installed before 1992. That’s when federal plumbing standards mandated all toilets use 1.6 gallons or less per flush.
With a high-efficiency model, you’ll use about 300 fewer gallons of water per year—if not much more.
7. Fresh mulch
Jazzing up the outside of your home can go a long way toward making you love where you live. While you could go all-out—landscaping the yard and painting the trim—there’s a simpler solution: mulch.
“New mulch in the flower beds can add a lot to the curb appeal,” Mahoney says.
Instead of grimy old dirt that’s been trod on for years, a fresh new layer looks clean, fresh, and pretty—making a huge difference for just $6.
Posted from Crystal Edgerly
The 8 Most Financially Savvy Home Improvements You Can Make
These budget-friendly home improvements will help you enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the most value tomorrow.
When it comes to home improvement, some dollars stretch more than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to spend those dollars wisely.
Here are eight affordable (under $5,000) home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.
1. Add the Finishing Touch of Molding
Image: Crazy Wonderful
Decorative molding is a classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans first installed it to add grandeur to their buildings. Centuries later, molding is still one of the most dramatic ways to dress up a room. It’s a budget-friendly improvement that trims a room for a finished and expensive look.
Today’s wood moldings come in hundreds of options — from simple to ornate — that you can stain, paint, or leave natural. You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow.
Buyers consistently rank both crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively), according to the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”
And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)
A few tips about molding:
- Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. But be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.
- Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion. Rule of thumb: Place chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height.
- Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.
2. Install Quality Ceiling Fans
Image: Kate from This American Wife
If crown molding and chair railing were #3 and #7 on buyers’ decorative wish lists, what was #1?
Over the years, ceiling fans have become quite the crowd pleaser. Once they were just a cheap solution to rising energy costs — ugly, wobbly, noisy eyesores endured because they were cheaper than air conditioning.
Today, ceiling fans have evolved into an essential component of American homes as energy prices continue to rise. And since designs have caught up with the times, they come in a variety of styles and colors to complement any room. If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.
Some tips about ceiling fans:
- Ceiling fans should hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor. If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
- Size matters more than the number of fan blades. Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
- Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.
3. Plant Some Trees
Image: M. Williams
Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.
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.
In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. 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 $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
- Lower stress
- Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
- Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun
But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:
- 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.
4. Install a Patio
Image: Suzanne Davis at bebehblog
Patios are a great cost-effective way to increase your home’s living space without actually adding on. Plus you’ll recover 30% to 60% of your investment. A $2,000 patio would return around $900 at resale.
But don’t go crazy and trick out your patio with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional. (And, really, how often would you use an outdoor kitchen?)
Some wise advice when planning a patio:
- Check property for slope, sun, and shade patterns.
- Remember ‘dig alerts’ that utilities provide free of charge.
- Don’t skimp on patio lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.
5. Pump Up Your Home Security
The peace of mind that comes with installing a home security system is priceless.
In reality, price varies. You can buy and install it yourself for $50 to $300, or a security company can sell and install a system from $0 to $1,500. The “zero” is the hook companies use to lure you into signing a multi-year monitoring contract that ranges from $95 to $480 per year.
If a monitored system suits your needs, you’ll also get a break on your home insurance. Most companies will discount your annual rate 15% to 20% if you have a security service.
Home security systems also make your home more marketable: 50% of homebuyers (in the NAHB survey) say a home security system — particularly security cameras — tops their list of most-wanted technology features.
You can go over the top and install high-tech security gadgets, like smartphone-operated locks and a laser trip wire. Or you can keep it simple with a keypad that communicates with sensors and motion detectors throughout your house.
- If you do decide to go with a monitoring system, choose a company with a 10-year track record to ensure reliability.
- Don’t rely on any system as your sole means of security. Locking doors and windows is still your best first-line of defense.
6. Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade
The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.
That finding is echoed in NAHB’s 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.
One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, 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.
In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.
Some tips for converting to gas:
- A direct-vent gas insert most closely replicates the wood-burning experience at a cost of about $3,000 to $4,000, installed.
- If you don’t have an existing fireplace, you can install a direct-vent (vents directly outside so you don’t need a chimney) gas fireplace for about $5,000 (installed and finished).
7. Add Some Creative Storage
We 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? Never, we bet.
Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.
Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:
- Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs. See how.
- Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
- Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase. See how she did it.
8. Light Up the Outdoors
Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. A hard-wired lighting fixture can cost $150 to $250 to install. On the plus side, you could get a 50% return on your investment, says Judith Patriski, a Cleveland appraiser and REALTOR®. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums. (Check with your agent.)
And with technological advances in solar lighting, it’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to boost your home’s nighttime curb appeal.
Plus, 90% of buyers say outdoor lighting is on their list of desired home features.
- Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
- If your lights are hard-wired, put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
- Choose a warm white light. It’ll make your home look and feel welcoming.