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Sara Littlefield's Blog

By Sara Littlefield | Agent in Darien, CT
  • Will a Bath Remodel Increase My Home’s Value?

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Remodel & Renovate, Design & Decor  |  January 23, 2014 11:43 AM  |  53 views  |  No comments

    Spring is just around the corner and the lure of a new home has you thinking about putting yours on the market. Your neighbor added a new bathroom last year and you’re wondering if you should upgrade yours before you sell. Logically, a new bathroom should increase the value of your home, right?

    From 2006 through 2012, the return on a bathroom remodel investment averaged around 62%, according to the cost vs. value report prepared by Remodeling magazine while a bathroom addition garnered only 51%. Beginning in 2013, however, those numbers began trending up, so a bathroom remodel in 2014 is hovering near 72% and an addition is at 60% ROI. Even so, you will be spending more money than you can expect in return. That being said, there are great reasons to go ahead with a remodel, and your professional real estate agent can help you decide if it is a good investment for you.

    One reason is that if several similar homes are on the market in your neighborhood, an upgraded bath may help yours sell more quickly. After all, when comparing side by side, who doesn’t want a clean, fresh bath? Busy buyers looking to move in quickly won’t want to do the upgrade themselves. Another reason to consider updating your bath is to attract a different type of buyer. Flippers, investors and DIY-homeowners will want the bones of the house to be in great shape, but will probably offer a lower price because they plan to make upgrades and changes themselves. Qualified buyers that want move-in ready conditions will appreciate not having to worry about upgrading, remodeling or renovating.

    If you and your professional real estate agent determine that a bath upgrade will improve your sale, be sure to do it right. Do not attempt a DIY project you’ve never done before just to save a few bucks. Remember, some changes do have more appeal than others. For instance, if you only have one bath, consider putting in a double sink. Couples, families and even roommates appreciate multiple sinks when trying to get out the door in the morning. Even a small bath can accommodate a double sink with the right choice. Consider fresh paint, a new rain-style showerhead, new classy but neutral shower curtain, updated faucets, or a new toilet. Don’t skimp on lighting, including task lighting for applying makeup or shaving, ambient lighting.

    Contact me if you would like help in determining your home’s current value and if a bathroom or kitchen renovation would add value to your property before listing for sale.

  • Interview with Building Design Professional: How to Approach a Major Home Renovation

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Darien, Remodel & Renovate in Darien, Design & Decor in Darien  |  January 31, 2013 5:15 PM  |  122 views  |  No comments

    Clearly remodeling one’s home impacts life dramatically on a number of levels. Developing a program and budget, working through the architectural process, financing and managing the construction phase, as well as living in the spaces afterwards are life-altering experiences.

    It is important to identify what is motivating your desires to remodel and how best to achieve that goal before involving the services of design building professionals. With that in mind, I am sitting down today with Mark Demmerle, building design professional and creator of Think Inside Your Box™.

    Q) Homeowners remodel their houses for a myriad of reasons. Mark, in your opinion, what is the meaningful force beyond a substantial renovation?

    A)  Quality-of-life issues are the easiest to understand and, in my opinion, the best reasons to remodel. Unless you are a seasoned renovator, it is best to live in your house for a year to understand what it is that should be changed to best suit your lifestyle.

    The next step is to identify what you like in your home and capitalize on those strengths. This approach will promote productive thinking and progress in arriving at a uniquely interesting solution to remediate the unaccommodating aspects of your home. It is easy to lose traction by focusing on the flaws and the defects without a clear objective in the mind.

    Q)  What is the best way to begin the design dialogue about remodeling?

    A)  Since there is no accommodating for personal taste and much of what critics view in a completed design is subjective, it is necessary to develop a design ideologue as reference for decisions that could otherwise become arbitrary. To develop a meaningful ideologue for design usually involves the input of a skilled design professional.  For example if a client is looking to renovate an authentic Georgian antique, the design must be rigorously subordinate to classical detail.  A similar approach will be taken with architectural examples from the colonial vernacular to the contemporary.  It generally involves the input of a degreed professional who is passionate about residential architecture to identify and develop a contextual design ideology.

    Q)  Many homeowners who are working with a design building professional for the first-time may find the interchange of ideas unusual  compared to other professionals they work with regularly. How do you organize your clients’ “wish list”?

    A)  The homeowner could begin a file of photographs and magazines of visual ideas they find appealing. The helps the design professional develop a program in written form to describe their “wish list,” which will be developed throughout the initial schematic and design development phases. The program should become the project guideline.

    Q)  If you were to choose the most meaningful spaces to renovate, where would you start in one’s home?  

    A)  First, would be the procession to the Front Entry which will make the initial impression of the house. Once inside the house, the tendency is to move directly to the Kitchen on the first floor. The Kitchen is the real heart of the house and is generally the space for public entertainment. The inner sanctum for private and intimate life would be the master suite, which is of critical importance to the homeowner.

    In renovating these primary spaces, I believe today’s buyer is most interested in the use of hypoallergenic, sustainable and energy-efficient materials and equipment.

    Q)  I am currently working with a newly engaged young couple looking for their first home to raise a family. What advice would you give this engaged couple as they progress in their home search?

    A)  Be mindful of the psychic and emotional value that a property holds for you and conceptualize the strategic planning of how you intend on spending your life there.

    Q) In today’s market, as you know, I am often asked by potential buyers to explore the installation of complex retrofits such as elevators and site improvement, such as detached garages and pool houses. Though we have worked together on such improvements, please explain to others how you work with potential buyers of a property to provide them the information they need prior to a purchase.

    A)  In the case of complex retrofits particularly where vertical circulation, such as stairs and elevators going from one floor to the next, it is imperative that I assess the feasibility of the improvement on-site. The vertical circulation impacts multiple floor levels, which increases the degree of difficulty and the expense.

    In the case of site improvements, such as pool and pool houses, guest houses, stables and more, one needs to be meticulous in checking the Planning & Zoning regulations and any other regulatory agencies claiming jurisdiction over the site, such as Environmental Protection and the Health Department. At this point, as you know Sara, buyers are best advised to be working with a knowledgeable design building professional, who is familiar with local and state codes and officials. 

    Q)  In today’s real estate market, many homeowners are deciding whether a move or a renovation is the right next step in their lives. Advice you would give them.

    A) If a homeowner finds themselves in today’s market unable to sell their existing house or purchase their dream house, it doesn’t mean they cannot improve their present living conditions. My phrase: Think Inside Your Box™ is meant to inspire homeowners to begin to think how they can get the improvements they want in their existing residence.

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