Thursday, August 11, 2011

Don't try these home improvements at homes for sale

From building-in more curb appeal to installing more square footage, home improvements can help improve your home's value, provided you do the right thing.

by Broderick Perkins
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Deadline Newsroom - From building-in more curb appeal to installing more square footage, home improvements can help improve your home's value.

Improved value can allow you to bump up the selling price and speed the sale, provided you do the right thing.

Costs-vs-value studies reveal what improvements can give you the most bang for your buck, but they also reveal which improvements to avoid because of smaller returns.

Remodeling magazine's Cost vs. Value Report 2010-2011 offers a break down for the best and worst rates of return on improvements by both geographic region and by cost level -- a lower cost "midrange" version of each improvement and more expensive "upscale" version.

Based on the more affordable midrange cost improvements in the Pacific market, which includes Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington, here are five improvements that give you the least return for your money, according to Remodel magazine.

Included are some suggestions about better ways to spend your remodeling dollars.

Remember, dollar figures and percentages are average figures for the entire Pacific region.

• Backup power generator addition. For this $17,033 job, you'll recoup $8,878 in added value, only 52.1 percent of the money you'd spend. You'll get 70 amps of emergency power from two 240-volt circuits and six 120-volt circuits. That could come in handy during a major quake or other 2012 end-of-the-world event, but a rooftop solar system for nearly the same investment could be a better deal.

After energy-saving rebates and incentives a $17,579 solar panel system would provide 75 percent of the power needed for a Salinas home with an average $100 monthly utility bill, according to's solar calculator. Saving $75 a month the, system will pay for itself in 15 years and help save the planet from day one.

• Sunroom addition. For a whopping $87,000, you'll only realize $46,319 in added value, a 53.3 percent recoup of your costs. Sure you'll give buyers that extra square footage with lots of light, but you'll pay through the nose and get hit with a higher property tax bill until you do sell.

You can brighten up your home, give it a more spacious feel and reduce energy costs at the same time with a much cheaper $13,401 window replacement job that will improve your home's value by $10,760, an 80.3 percent return. Spend a little more to upgrade one windowed wall with a bay window and some visual "wow" to the job.

• Home office remodel. For $32, 428, you'll refinish and transform a 12-foot by 12-foot room into a home office with new storage cabinets, desk and computer workstation space and rewiring for electronics cable and telephone. You'll recoup only 63.2 percent or about $31,302.

Wireless laptops, smart phones, touch-screen tablets and a caf├ęs on every corner are making home offices obsolete. Consider refinishing an extra room for much less, as is, so it's easily converted back to a bedroom, den or other use. Hand-truck in a desk, storage and a coffeemaker for your office or rent it out to help pay for a larger remodel, should you stay in the home.

• Bathroom addition. Any addition comes with major upfront costs and added property taxes due to the additional square footage. For a new, full 6-foot by 8-foot bath with marble vanity, ceramic tile and more, you'll pay about $49,508 with a resale value of $31,302 added. That's a 63.2 percent return.

For sale-boosting purposes, remodeling an existing bathroom is a better deal. For $19,490 you can update an existing 5-foot by 7-foot bathroom with ceramic tile and contemporary vanity, toilet and shower-tub. You'll get 79.6 percent of the cost back, or $15,514 in added value.

• Garage addition. Again, additions cost more than the upfront cost. For $73,834 you can get a freestanding, 26-by-26-foot two-car garage, with unfinished interior walls, floors, and ceilings. Your added resale value $48,204 gives you a 65.3 percent return on your money.

Unless you are a collector, mechanic or packrat and especially if you already have a garage, upgrading your kitchen is a lot smarter. For $23,603 you'll recoup $19,854 in added value, a 84.1 percent return.

The job includes replacing the fronts and tops of 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops, replacing the wall oven and cooktop with new energy-efficient models; replacing the sink and faucet, repainting and installing new flooring.
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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group, including DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site, and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop.

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