What’s the Best Home Improvement for ROI

Photo by Sue Smith via Shutterstock

Choosing what to upgrade or fix in, on or around your home can be a complicated process. Changes fall into two categories – things that increase or decrease value (or sale price) and things that increase or decrease salability (or how willing people are to pay full price for it). Before you start swapping out all the pieces of your home for new ones, determine whether you actually need to make those changes. Any change you make should either add something that adds value or replace something that needs fixing.

Adding Living Space

One of the most foolproof ways to add value to your home is to increase the living space, up to a point. If you have a 1-bathroom home, adding another bathroom definitely will increase the value, same with adding a bedroom to a 1- to 3-bedroom house.

Fixing Things

It’s essential to understand the difference between adding something to increase value and fixing something to bring back the value that has been lost. For example, fixing the roof doesn’t add any value to the home. However, it does negate the devaluing caused by a leaky, old or otherwise poor roof. The same goes for landscaping. With a few exceptions, you can’t truly add value to your home by updating or fixing the landscaping. You merely bring back any value lost from previously deteriorating land. This is not to say that these things aren’t necessary; they are. It’s just important to understand that they bring your property from 80% to 100%, instead of from 100% to 120%.

What to Avoid

If the home has a working kitchen and bathrooms without any significant problems, that are on par with other homes in your neighborhood, you are best off just leaving them alone. Your buyer will likely have different taste than you. That means they’re probably looking at your brand-new kitchen and pricing just how much it will be to rip it all out and replace it with their brand-new kitchen. If you lose out on buyers who wanted the slightly lower price of your home without the cost of your new kitchen, you’ll lose out overall.

Before you start dropping big money on changing things in your home that are just fine as they are, get a professional opinion. Real estate professionals are intimately familiar with the best sales features in your area, so take their words to heart.

Six Mistakes to Avoid When Making an Offer on a House

Making an offer on a home you’d love to buy is arguably the most stressful part of the buying process. You’ll be worrying about making the right offer, whether you’ve presented yourself in the best possible light, and just how much competition you’re up against.

Today we’re going to help you alleviate that anxiety by giving you the most common real estate offer mistakes to avoid, and show you how you can increase your chances of getting the perfect home for you.

1. Do your research on the house

You have a lot of research to do before making an offer on a home. You’ll want to know the price the home formerly sold for and improvements that have been made and that will need to be made if you move in.

It also helps to know the seller’s situation. Are they on a deadline and moving out-of-state? If so, they might be tempted to take one of the earlier offers they receive.

2. Know your own financial limits

Before you ever make an offer you’ll need to know how much you can spend. This isn’t just a matter of offering the maximum amount you’re preapproved for. You’ll have to factor in moving expenses, final payments on your last rent or mortgage, changes in utility costs, and more.

3. Don’t offer your full preapproval amount

Sellers who know that you’ve offered your maximum preapproval amount may be wary of selling since they know you lack room to negotiate your budget and therefore might have a higher chance of backing out of the offer. They might favor other buyers who have room to negotiate and account for unexpected changes in their budget or of rising interest rates.

4. Avoid aggressive negotiation

We know the stakes are high for everyone involved in making a real estate deal. However, sellers are more likely to accept the offer of someone they trust and like over someone who seems to be trying to gain leverage.

Always be cordial with your offers and support them with numbers–explain to the seller why you chose the number you did, so that they can understand your reasoning.

5. Don’t attempt to gain leverage by waiving a home inspection

By law, you are allowed to have a home professionally inspected before purchase. Waiving this right is sometimes misconstrued as a way to tell a seller that you trust them and don’t want to cause them any unnecessary headaches.

The reality of the matter is that if you truly do want to own their home, sellers understand that you want to know what you’re buying.

6. This isn’t the only house you can be happy in

Hunting for a home is hard work. Once you find one that seems perfect for you or your family, it can seem like everything depends on your offer being accepted.

However, the fact is there are endless houses on the market, and next week a new one could be put up for sale that is even better than the home you’re hoping for now.

If your offer isn’t accepted and you don’t feel comfortable committing to a higher price, move on to the next house knowing that you made the best decision under the circumstances.

Set Your Priorities When Searching for a New Home

When you decide to make an offer on a home, your mind may be flooded with dozens of questions and concerns — several of which may involve money matters, while others are about the condition of the house.

However, if you’ve had the house professionally inspected and made sure your income is sufficient to absorb monthly expenses, than you’ve already taken steps to prevent or at least minimize future challenges.

Since buying a home is such a big investment and there are so many emotional factors that could influence your decision, it’s essential to stay focused, adhere to a budget, and be aware of what you need in order to be satisfied with your purchase.

The Financial Side of Things: Even though a mortgage broker or loan officer may approve you for a large mortgage, only you can determine whether you’d be comfortable making those monthly payments. In  addition to the cost of your mortgage, property taxes, and school taxes, there are also other expenses to consider and include in the equation. If you’re moving into a larger house, for example, the cost of heating and/or cooling your home may be higher than you’re used to. Poorly insulated houses can also have a negative impact on home energy costs.

Another key factor to think about when you’re figuring out the affordability of a potential new home is property maintenance, the cost of HVAC service, and miscellaneous expenses, such as appliance repairs, plumbing leaks, and electrical services. Some neighborhoods, residential developments, and condos also require a monthly Homeowner Association (HOA) fee, which can potentially put a burden on your cash flow situation. A good rule of thumb, of course, is to avoid spending beyond your means. While nobody would dispute the logic of that advice, it’s often a lot easier said than done — especially on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Non-Financial Priorities: The only way to know what you truly want and need in a new home is to clarify your goals, requirements, and wishes. Making lists, discussing it with your partner, and visiting lots of homes for sale will help give you the ideas, the inspiration, and helpful points of comparison you need. Online real estate listings and home improvement websites can also provide a wealth of practical ideas.

In addition to having enough bedrooms and bathrooms to meet your family’s needs, it’s also important to feel comfortable with the quality of the school district, the amount of noise in the neighborhood, and the traffic level on nearby streets. Proximity to recreation, shopping, and other amenities can also make the difference between your ideal home and one which doesn’t quite make the grade. Privacy (or the lack, thereof) is also a major issue which can impact your satisfaction with a real estate purchase. While it’s good to approach home buying with a sense of optimism, the best time to weigh all the pros and cons is before you sign the final papers at the closing table!

Making The Most of Walkable Neighborhoods

Not every neighborhood is pedestrian-friendly, especially if you live on a busy highway or have no access to sidewalks. However, if you’re fortunate enough to live in a walkable area (or have a chance to move to one), why not take advantage of it?

Walking in your neighborhood is a free way to stay healthier, happier, and more relaxed. As long as you don’t have any health conditions that would stand in the way of taking regular walks, a daily constitutional can provide you and your family with an array of benefits.

Healthy Lifestyle: Staying physically and mentally healthy is not the result of one or two positive habits, but rather a variety of lifestyle decisions you make throughout the day. Walking on a regular basis can help you achieve weight loss goals, maintain muscle tone, and increase your energy level. A moderate exercise program can also help relieve stress, enhance your mood, and slow down the aging process.

Family Bonding: Walking in the neighborhood or at a nearby public park can be a great way for your family to spend quality time together. It’s also an opportunity to take a refreshing break from television watching, social media use, the Internet, and video games. Going for family walks is a simple activity, but the benefits can be far reaching.

Neighborhood Connections: The very act of walking around in your neighborhood, every day, makes you feel more connected to your environment. It also gives you a chance to chat with neighbors, meet new ones, and observe any changes that may affect the character of the neighborhood.

Critique Your Property: When you walk past your house and yard, you can often see features and flaws that may have escaped your notice when you last drove by in your car. Looking at your property from different angles and directions can help give you landscaping ideas and point out ways you can improve the outward appearance of your home. You can also pick up landscaping and property ideas by seeing what your neighbors are doing. Curb appeal is especially important if you’re planning to sell your property.

Bargain Hunting: If you happen to be taking a walk in the neighborhood when yard sales are underway, it’s easy to stop and scope out the treasures being offered. One caveat: If you do find something you want to buy, especially if it’s a large piece of furniture, you may have to return later with your vehicle to pick it up.

Find a New Neighborhood: If you’re in the market for a new home, the walkability of neighborhoods is an important feature worth keeping in mind.

Save Gas: Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from driving and walk over to your neighborhood grocery store, pharmacy, or post office. On those occasions when you only need to pick up a few small items, hoofing it over to your local retailer is an alternative worth considering!