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By Jennifer Carstensen | Agent in Memphis, TN
  • 6 Smart Home Remodeling Tips

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  October 3, 2013 5:50 PM  |  166 views  |  No comments

    There's no guarantee that the dollar you spend on remodeling today will come back to you if you have to sell your home. Try these six tips for spending remodeling dollars wisely no matter what the project 

    #1. Match Materials to the Neighborhood

    Using low-end remodeling finishes in a high-end neighborhood diminishes your home's value, and putting high-end finishes in a lower-priced neighborhood won't push your home's sale price much above the last sale price. 

    #2. Do the Job Right

    If you can't do professional quality remodeling work, hire someone who can. Nobody pays top dollar for amateur workmanship.

    #3. Blend in With the Neighbors

    If you over-improve, you’ll get less at resale. Would you pay full price for a mansion located in a trailer park?

    #4. Think Timeless

    Today’s trendy remodeling finish choices are tomorrow’s dated décor. Even a beautifully executed remodeling project fades in value over time. Brass bathroom fixtures, anyone?

    #5. Finish Existing Space First

    A remodel that turns storage areas (think basement or attic) into useable space trumps adding completely new rooms. It’s cheaper to finish existing spaces than add new ones

    #6. Make sure Additions Aren’t Really Subtractions

    A third bedroom transformed into a walk-in closet might bring you bliss, but it eliminates a bedroom and will lower your home value at resale.

  • Majority of U.S. Home Owners Believe Now is a Good Time to Renovate

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  May 1, 2013 6:13 PM  |  112 views  |  No comments

    Significantly more U.S. home owners are moving forward with renovation projects compared to this time last year, according to the second annual Houzz & Home survey.

    A majority of the home owners surveyed also believe now is a good time to remodel (53%), and 58% of those planning projects in the next two years will hire professional help.

    The 2013 Houzz & Home survey garnered responses from 100,000 Americans about their past and future plans to remodel and decorate their homes.

    The number of home owners who say they will delay their projects because of the economy has dropped to 45% from 52% last year, and home owners are more likely to cut back in other areas, such as vacations and other big ticket purchases, rather than delay or decrease budgets for their home plans.

    While improving the look and feel of the space is still the key driver for recently completed projects (83%), the number of home owners who remodeled to increase their home value has increased to 54% from 47% in 2012.

    Bathrooms and kitchens top America’s renovation project list again this year, with 28% of respondents planning a bathroom remodel or addition, and 23% planning a kitchen remodel or addition in the next two years.

    Over the last five years, home owners on average spent $28,030 to remodel their kitchens; however, spending varies widely at different budget levels. Home owners spent an average of $54,942 nationwide for a high-end kitchen, $22,390 for a mid-range kitchen, and $7,133 for a lower-budget kitchen.

  • 5 Bargain Renovations that Add Value

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  April 15, 2013 6:37 PM  |  118 views  |  No comments

    Do you have grand visions of gutting your dated kitchen, or maybe blowing out the bathroom walls to create a spa-like retreat? While major remodeling projects such as these can bring value to a home, budget-friendly projects can also deliver a fresh look - and real value for you and potential buyers.

    "Something as simple as replacing the hardware in the kitchen can give you a whole new look," says Paul Wyman, a regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors. Wyman is also an expert at determining if a remodeling project will add value to a home.

    Curious which simple projects will give your home the most value? Keep reading to learn about a few affordable facelifts and bargain renovations that could boost your home's value and add appeal.

    Bargain Renovation #1: Reface Kitchen Cabinets

    Would you believe that something as simple as replacing dated cabinetry doors could get you a higher return on investment than other major remodels? We didn't either, until Remodeling Magazine's 2011-2012 "Cost vs. Value Report" told us otherwise.

    If the cabinets in your kitchen are well laid-out, sturdy, and plentiful but unappealing, refacing can be a cost-effective alternative to complete replacement. This process, which maintains the existing cabinetry's frames and boxes but replaces the hardware and door and drawer fronts, can be just a quarter of the price of installing all-new cabinetry.

    What does that look like in hard figures? Kitchen Solvers, a resurfacing company in La Crosse, Wisc., offers the example of a client paying $6,000 to install solid cherry doors on existing cabinetry, rather than shelling out $24,000 to install everything new. That sure sounds like a good savings to us.

    Bargain Renovation #2: Install a New Kitchen Countertop

    If you adore the luxurious look of a stone countertop but don't love the high price, there are ways to achieve the high-end feel of granite or marble without breaking the bank.

    You can save on granite, for example, by buying remnants from a stone yard, according to a July 2012 Consumer Reports article titled "Get the luxury look for Less." Or, if you have your eye on marble, a slab from Vermont will cost at least 20 percent less than one from Italy, according to the report.

    For a truly budget-friendly option, Consumer Reports suggests that you consider a laminate countertop.

    Laminate, which is made of sheets of plastic resin and paper bonded to particle board or fiberboard, could resemble granite or marble with today's printing technologies, notes Consumer Reports.

    Bargain Renovation #3: Update the Bathroom

    According to HGTV's "Maximum Value Projects," on FrontDoor.com, updating a bathroom is a great way to add value to your home. And it doesn't take much to make a big difference.

    In fact, HGTV says updating the sink and fixtures will yield more value than replacing the countertop, flooring, toilet, or even the tub and shower. To avoid the premium price and save "hundreds of dollars without compromising quality," Consumer Reports' bathroom remodeling guide recommends selecting sinks and fixtures with basic finishes.

    Looking for more value-adding updates that are gentle on your wallet? Consumer Reports suggests replacing an outdated wall-to-wall mirror with individual framed mirrors over each sink, or replacing stained grout with stain-resistant grout.

    Bargain Renovation #4: Boost Curb Appeal With a New Roof

    Honestly, who looks at a roof? Homebuyers, evidently. Even if most of your roof isn't visible from the street, it is still an important aesthetic and functional feature that's in a prime position to elevate - or squash - your home's curb appeal.

    "When people buy a house, they expect it to have a roof, but if it's recently been redone, they will really see the value in that," Wyman says.

    Fortunately, for a flashy and durable roof, you don't have to select a costly specialty material - like slate, tile, or metal. Composite asphalt shingles is the most common material, and it fits easily in many types of budgets, according to HGTV's "Maximum Value Home Exterior Projects: Roof."

    Composite shingles are now available in a wide range of styles and colors, according to HGTV, allowing homeowners to create a custom look that matches the home's façade or plays up its architectural details.

    Bargain Renovation #5: Add a Deck

    Looking for a new living space that will add value to your home? Look no further than the square footage waiting right outside your back door.

    In fact, adding a deck to your home could offer one of the highest cost-recoup opportunities, according to the cost-value report. And you don't have to choose a high-priced composite material. The survey found that decks built with wood actually delivered a greater return at resale than those built with composite material - boasting a 70 percent return on cost, compared to 62.8 percent.

    Because deck-building is a potential DIY project - depending on your familiarity with a power saw, of course - savings could be even higher.

    "Any type of work you have the ability to do yourself, with quality, makes it a bigger bargain because you're saving on labor costs," Wyman points out.

    But if your home improvement skills are a little iffy, or you would rather sit back and relax during the renovation, it's probably best to leave this one up to the pros.

    Source: Yahoo Homes

  • Must-Have Kitchen Trends of 2013

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate, Design & Decor  |  January 20, 2013 6:07 AM  |  216 views  |  No comments

    Is your kitchen begging for an update? Does that green and purple tile make you cringe on every trip to the fridge? If so, now might be the time to explore the latest trends in kitchen remodeling.

    According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry's website, planning out exactly what you want out of your kitchen remodel will help you set realistic budgets.

    And if you're still not sure what you want or even where to begin, don't panic. Here are some ideas from our country-wide panel of design and contracting experts who agree these are the six hot kitchen remodel trends for 2013.

    Trend #1: Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

    Do you want a fresh look for your kitchen cabinets, but don't want to go through the hassle of actually replacing them?

    Good news: Kathleen Donohue, an award-winning designer with Neil Kelly Designs, says that refacing cabinets - not replacing - is in. Donohue says this trend is in because people are watching how they spend their money. And since refacing is the process of just changing cabinet doors while maintaining the original cabinet structure, it's a much less expensive option.

    And when it comes to cabinet refacing, think simple and sleek, says Donohue.

    "When refacing cabinets, a clean, simple contemporary look is winning out, both from an updating standpoint, and a trend to eliminate unnecessary clutter and fussy details that equate to high maintenance and complicated living - both unpopular trends," says Donohue.

    Trend #2: Stone and Solid Countertops

    Are you dreaming about a gleaming new countertop to spruce up your kitchen? Consider quartz countertops, which experts say will be the material of choice in 2013 due to its durability.

    "Stone countertops are losing ground to quartz composite countertops that are no-maintenance and the closest thing to bullet-proof countertop materials available today," says Donohue.

    Florida-based kitchen and bath designer, Patricia Davis Brown, says another reason for quartz's popularity is that it has less fussy patterning than granite.

    But quartz isn't the only trendy material for counters in 2013, according to Mark Fies, board of directors member for the Metro D.C. chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

    Fies says more homeowners are asking for concrete countertops to create a custom and eye catching look. "With concrete you have endless colors to choose from, the ability to shape the surface as you see fit, and you can even embed materials and/or designs right into the surface," he says.

    Trend #3: Hardwood Floors

    Are you thinking about replacing your worn and ripped kitchen linoleum with gleaming hardwood floors?

    Good, because our kitchen experts agree that hardwood floors remain a hot kitchen remodeling trend for 2013, with a few new developments.

    For example, "I am starting to see lighter shades of wood floors again - something that hasn't been seen in a while," says Chappaqua New York interior designer, Cami Weinstein.

    And Brown sees the same trend in Florida. "The washed wood floors are back but, with a twist - wider planks and hand scraping, giving a beachy feel," she says.

    But hardwood floors can be a lot of work in terms of both installation and maintenance. Luckily, there are some options to give you that classic wood floor look - without the hassle.

    For example, Goldberg and Donohue are seeing a trend in hardwood-looking floors made from durable and easier-to-install materials, such as engineered wood flooring, which is made from a plywood base with a real hardwood veneer.

    "Engineered wood continues to be popular, but so is porcelain tile that looks like wood, with less maintenance and better water tolerance," says Goldberg.

    Trend #4: Stylish Sink

    Adding a stylish sink can drastically change the look of your kitchen. So what will be trending in 2013? Fies says the answer is deep bowl sinks.

    "Deep bowls are still the rage," he says. "Although there are endless possibilities with today's sinks, our homeowners want large, deep sinks to accommodate their larger pots and pans. The debate between single or double bowl is still in full effect, but we tend to see homeowners choosing the one bowl option."

    After you've decided on the style, the next thing to consider is the material of the sink. And in terms of what will be trending for 2013, Weinstein believes stainless steel sinks will be hot due to their durability and flexibility.

    "They just look great for a very long time and work with both modern and traditional cabinetry," he says.

    Trend #5: Appliances

    If you've been thinking about investing in new appliances, this could be the year to justify buying that commercial stove. According to Weinstein, incorporating commercial-style stoves and other useful built-in appliances in kitchen remodeling projects is a hot trend for 2013.

    "Commercial stoves and stainless steel appliances continue to be used and enjoyed," she says. In addition, features that save homeowners time and space are becoming increasingly popular. "One of her favorites is a hot water dispenser. "They are great for a quick cup of tea, hot cocoa, or mixing with boullion cube for a stock," she says.

    Adding to that concept, Goldberg says kitchen features that do double-duty and save valuable kitchen space are also must-haves for 2013.

    This includes microwaves that double as second ovens and warming drawers, and refrigerators with convertible drawers that can act as the fridge, freezer, or wine fridge.

    "Multi-taskers that serve more than one need are hot," says Goldberg.

    Trend #6: Mixing Cabinet Colors

    Is dark brown too bland, but red too vibrant? Will white cabinets turn a dull shade of gray after the kids put their hands on them? If you can't decide on a color for your kitchen cabinets, never fear - our experts say it isn't just one color that will be trending in 2013, but rather a combination of colors.

    "Homeowners no longer need to choose between white, medium, or dark tone cabinetry," says Fies. He adds that a variety of colors will provide visual interest, and can immediately give your kitchen an updated, modern look.

    So what are some ways you could incorporate a combination of colors into your own kitchen?

    "I am starting to see kitchen cabinetry painted in shades of cream, taupe and gray, often mixing in a darker wood for an island or the lower cabinets," says Fies.

    Source: Yahoo Homes

  • Preparing Your Home for Holiday Guests

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  November 28, 2011 8:42 AM  |  319 views  |  No comments

    I’m lucky and have a guest suite always ready for holiday guests. But even with a dedicated space, preparing my home for the annual onslaught of friends and family takes time and forethought.

    Some preparations for holiday guests take only a few minutes; some take a lot longer. My advice: Start preparing your home for the holidays now.


    The day before guests arrive is no time to pull apart junk drawers and clean out linen closets. Declutter guest rooms and public areas — foyer, kitchen, living room, den, and dining room. Remove anything unnecessary from countertops, coffee tables, and ottomans; if it’s out of sight, keep it out of mind, for now.

    If you run short of time, bag up the clutter and store it in car trunks, basements, and out-of-the-way closets. Sort and arrange after your guests depart.


    Light the way: Even though you can navigate your home blindfolded, your guests can’t. Make sure outside lights are working so they don’t trip on the way to your door. Put motion-activated night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms to ensure safe passage after the sun sets.

    Child proofing: Ask parents to bring hardware that keeps their small ones safe, such as baby gates and cabinet locks. Transfer toxic cleaners and medicines from base to wall cabinets. Hide matches and lighters.

    Fire prevention: If you didn’t freshen smoke detector batteries when you switched the clocks to Daylight Savings Time, change them now. After your guests arrive, run a quick fire drill: Make sure they can locate exits and fire extinguishers, and that they know how to open windows and doors.

    Entryway upgrades

    Your home’s foyer is the first place guests see, so make a good first impression.

    Upgrade exterior entry doors or give old doors a new coat of paint. Polish and tighten door hardware, and oil hinges to prevent squeaks.
    Remove scratches from hardwood floors, stairs, and wood railings. Place a small rug or welcome mat at the entrance to protect floors from mud and snow.
    Clear out shoes, umbrellas, and other clutter.
    Add extra hooks to walls so guests can hang coats and hats.
    Add a storage bench where guests can remove boots and shoes.
    Kitchen prep

    Your kitchen is command central during the holidays, so make sure it’s ready for guests and extra helpers.

    To increase storage, install a pot rack to clear cooking items off countertops and ranges.
    Move your coffee station into a family room so guests don’t crowd the kitchen when you’re trying to fix meals.
    If you like to visit while you’re cooking, place extra stools and chairs around the perimeter of your kitchen so guests can set a spell.
    Sleeping arrangements

    If you’ve got a guest room, replace the ceiling fixture with a ceiling fan and light combo, which helps guests customize their room temperature without fiddling with the thermostat for the entire house.

    To carve sleeping space out of public areas, buy a folding screen or rolling bookcase, which will provide privacy for sleepers. Fold or roll it away in the morning.

    Bathroom storage

    Bring toilet paper, towels, and toiletries out of hiding, and place them on open shelves so guests can find them easily.

    If you don’t have enough wall space for shelves, place these items in open baskets around the bathroom.

    Also, outfit each tub with a bath mat (to avoid falls) and each toilet with a plunger (to avoid embarrassment).

    Source: Lisa Kaplan Gordon, HouseLogic.com

  • When it Pays to DIY

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  March 27, 2011 5:51 PM  |  196 views  |  No comments

    Why pay someone to do something you can do yourself? Because sometimes doing it yourself costs more than it saves.More than 100,000 people injure themselves each year doing home improvement jobs. So add medical bills to your DYI budget, and you ending up spending the same, or more, than if you hired a pro.  We’re not suggesting that you call a plumber each time you need to plunge a toilet. But think twice about what DYI might really cost you. Here’s how to decide.

    Stick to routine maintenance for savings and safety

    Seasonal home maintenance is ideal work for the weekend warrior because you can tackle these jobs when your schedule permits. Because these are routine maintenance projects, your savings will add up. Mowing your own lawn, for example, saves $55 to $65 a week for a half-acre lawn. The bigger the lot, the bigger the savings: with two acres, you’ll pocket around $150 per week.When it pays:

    • Snow removal
    • Pruning shrubs
    • Washing windows (be careful on that ladder)
    • Sealing decks
    • Painting fences
    • Fertilizing lawns
    • Replacing air conditioner filters
    • Cleaning gutters

    When it costs: Unless you have skill and experience on your side, stay off any ladder taller than six feet; according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, emergency rooms are filled with people with ladder injuries. The same goes for operating power saws or attempting any major electrical work—it’s simply too risky if you don’t have the experience.

    Become your own general contractor

    If you’re more comfortable operating an iPhone than a circular saw, you could act as your own general contractor on some home improvement projects. That means you hire, schedule, and pay the carpenters, plumbers, and other tradesmen yourself. You’ll save 10% to 20% of the job cost, which is the contractor’s typical fee.When it pays: If it’s a small job that requires only two or three subcontractors, and you have good relationships with top-quality professionals in those fields, consider DIY contracting.When it costs: When you don’t have an established network of reliable workers, time to supervise, construction experience to spot problems, and the skill to negotiate disputes between subcontractors, your project and budget are at risk.

    Invest sweat equity on big jobs

    Contribute your own labor to big jobs being handled by a professional crew and cut hundreds, even thousands, off construction costs. For instance, tear out kitchen cabinets and appliances before the contractor gets started, and you might knock $800 off the cost of your remodel. Make sure you negotiate cost savings with your contractor before pitching in.When it pays: Jobs that are labor-intensive but require relatively little skill make perfect sweat equity jobs. Perform minor interior demolition, such as pulling up old flooring, daily job site cleanup, product assembly, and simple landscaping.When it costs: If you get in the crew’s way, you may slow them down far more than you help. Make your contributions when the workers aren’t around; mornings before they arrive, or nights and weekends after they’ve left. 

    Add finishing touches

    Unlike the early phases of a construction job—which require skilled labor to frame walls, install plumbing pipes, and run wires—many finishing touches are comparatively simple and DIY-friendly. If you paint a basement remodel yourself, for instance, you can save up to $1,800.When it pays: If you have skill, patience, or an experienced friend to teach you, setting tile, laying flooring, painting walls, and installing trim are good DIY jobs.When it costs: The downside to attempting your own finish work is that the results are very visible. Hammer dents in woodwork, or sander ruts in hardwood floors will annoy you every time you see them. So unless you have a sure eye and a steady hand, don’t perform the tasks that only a skilled tradesperson will get right.

    Source: www.houselogic.com by the National Association of Realtors

  • Home Improvement Projects That Pay Off

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate  |  January 11, 2011 3:10 PM  |  188 views  |  1 comment

    As part of the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

    “This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but also are among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for home owners to work with a REALTOR® through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.”

    Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1 percent of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9 percent of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.

    “Curb appeal remains king – it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.

    The 2010-11Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.

    REALTORS® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS® estimated that home owners would recoup an average of 60 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8 percent last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.

    According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70 percent of costs. Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS® the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80 percent of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6 percent upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8 percent of costs.

    The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2 percent nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70 percent. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8 percent; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5 percent; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6 percent of costs.

    Although most regions followed the national trends, the regions that consistently were estimated to return a higher percentage of remodeling costs upon resale were the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington; the West South Central region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas; the East South Central region of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the South Atlantic region of the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

    The regions where REALTORS® generally reported the lowest percentage of costs recouped were New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin), West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), and Middle Atlantic (New York and Pennsylvania).

    “It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR® who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”

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