Maximize Curb Appeal

As you start spending more time outdoors this spring, no doubt your home’s flaws will become more visible. Get your home in shape now. Would new siding revive your home? Does your landscape date your home? Do you need a new roof? Maybe you just need a fresh coat of paint, clean or upgrade those windows, or install a more welcoming front door.

1. Siding

Today, there are a wide variety of options available, including much improved vinyl siding, not to mention metal, wood, and stucco.

The siding best suited for your home depends on many factors: which style best complements your home, how much maintenance you’re willing to do, and the climate where you live.

Vinyl: Holds up well over time and can retain its qualities for 40 years or more. Vinyl siding will not dent like aluminum siding, nor will it warp, rot, or chip like wood. Manufacturers offer a broad range of colors in various shades and styles.
Wood: With proper maintenance, wood siding will last for many years. Disadvantages include possible mold growth, wood rot, and pest infestation.
Stucco: Common in the southwest, advantages include a natural resistance to fire, long durability, and little needed maintenance.
Metal: Aluminum and steel siding systems look similar to horizontal wood siding, but don’t require as much maintenance.

2. Roofing

New roofing not only freshens up your home’s exterior, it’s also the most important part of your home’s weatherproofing and insulation system, and can save on heating and cooling bills.

Asphalt: Stronger, more natural-looking materials have made asphalt roofing a good, economical choice.
Metal: Usually manufactured in steel, copper, aluminum or stainless steel, modern metal roofing frequently carries a warranty of 50 years.
Wood Shakes: Tends to be more expensive, but greatly adds to a home’s appearance.
Slate: The most expensive roofing option, slate is usually on higher-end homes. It can last 50 years or more, but because it is brittle, may require more repairs.
Tile: Tile roofs initially cost a lot more to install than asphalt shingle or wood shake roofs, but they also last much longer, sometimes 50 years or more.

3. Exterior Painting

There are so many things to consider when choosing which color to repaint the exterior of your home. For some people this comes easily; for others, decorating or changing the exterior of their home is daunting and too expensive.

Some tips for choosing exterior paint colors:

Stay true to the traditional color scheme for your type of home.
A New England Salt Box looks great in blue-gray tones, while Victorian homes can be a variety of colors.
Preview your home in your chosen color.
Many paint stores now offer computer imaging so you can get an idea of the look of the colors you are considering.
Choose muted colors rather than brighter tones.
A large area of bright color can have a larger impact than you may want.
Check out other homes in your area.
Look at homes in your neighborhood or in decorating magazines. If you like a color, ask the homeowner to share the name and brand.

4. Windows

One of the more popular trends in home building and remodeling these days is adding more natural light with more—and larger—windows. Studies show that natural light has a positive effect on our well-being and adding more windows can open up a house, creating a more spacious-feeling room. And, while many homeowners think of windows as merely functional, they can also provide a key design element in any home.

Some of the newest trends in windows include:

Tubular skylights: The tubular skylight is more compact and easier to install than regular skylights and brightens homes more effectively than artificial light. They can also be fitted with internal light kits to double as electric lights at night.
Passive solar heating systems: Large, southern-facing windows can contribute to passive solar heating design by allowing solar radiation to help heat your home.
Window glazing: For ultraviolet light protection, glazing can protect home occupants as well as reduce the fading of upholstery and furniture. Glazing also improves a window’s insulation.
Low emissivity coating: Also known as Low-E coating, this reflects heat inside the home during the winter and blocks much of the heat in the summer, which saves money on utility bills.

5. Doors

One of the best ways to make a great first impression is with a custom door, which can add instant curb appeal to your home. Custom doors can be made of unique materials, clad in copper or aluminum, crafted from exotic woods or even recycling an interesting wood once designed for another use – people have made doors from antique pickle barrels, for example.
Need more ideas? You just need to open up your imagination–inspiration is all around:

Browse architectural and home magazines and websites.
Flip through to get an idea of what appeals to you and would best fit your home’s style. Check out DesignMine.
Look at other doors–especially out of your area.
Chances are the majority of homes in your area will be very similar. Take a drive one day and take note of the doors in more rural areas if you live in the city, or vice versa.
Visit architectural salvage warehouses and yards.
A great source of inspiration is the architecture of yesteryear. You can purchase and give new life to a door you find here or even have a replica made.
Get professional expertise.
If you’re stumped, go to the professionals for help. Custom door makers can offer you advice on all of your options and which style would best complement your home.

6. Landscape

An overgrown landscape gives the impression of an unkempt home, as well. One of the most cost-effective ways to customize a home to meet your needs and tastes, good landscaping will add value to your home and enhance your lifestyle.

Lawn and shrubs: Maintain your landscaping by keeping shrubs trimmed and weeding the area. You can also hire a lawn care professional to care for your lawn on a weekly to monthly basis, depending on the climate and your landscape’s needs.
Walkways: Keep walkways swept free of debris and the clutter of children’s toys. Not only does this look nicer, it prevents accidents from happening.
Outdoor lighting: Motion-activated lights can enhance security and ensure no one trips on the way to the front door. Spotlights can highlight trees and decorative features.
Fences: Fences can provide privacy and security, contain pets and children, and divide functional and visual spaces. Many fences now come in maintenance-free plastic in contemporary or traditional styles.

As you start spending more time outdoors this spring, no doubt your home’s flaws will become more visible. Get your home in shape now. Would new siding revive your home? Does your landscape date your home? Do you need a new roof? Maybe you just need a fresh coat of paint, clean or upgrade those windows, or install a more welcoming front door.

1. Siding

Today, there are a wide variety of options available, including much improved vinyl siding, not to mention metal, wood, and stucco.

The siding best suited for your home depends on many factors: which style best complements your home, how much maintenance you’re willing to do, and the climate where you live.

Vinyl: Holds up well over time and can retain its qualities for 40 years or more. Vinyl siding will not dent like aluminum siding, nor will it warp, rot, or chip like wood. Manufacturers offer a broad range of colors in various shades and styles.
Wood: With proper maintenance, wood siding will last for many years. Disadvantages include possible mold growth, wood rot, and pest infestation.
Stucco: Common in the southwest, advantages include a natural resistance to fire, long durability, and little needed maintenance.
Metal: Aluminum and steel siding systems look similar to horizontal wood siding, but don’t require as much maintenance.

2. Roofing

New roofing not only freshens up your home’s exterior, it’s also the most important part of your home’s weatherproofing and insulation system, and can save on heating and cooling bills.

Asphalt: Stronger, more natural-looking materials have made asphalt roofing a good, economical choice.
Metal: Usually manufactured in steel, copper, aluminum or stainless steel, modern metal roofing frequently carries a warranty of 50 years.
Wood Shakes: Tends to be more expensive, but greatly adds to a home’s appearance.
Slate: The most expensive roofing option, slate is usually on higher-end homes. It can last 50 years or more, but because it is brittle, may require more repairs.
Tile: Tile roofs initially cost a lot more to install than asphalt shingle or wood shake roofs, but they also last much longer, sometimes 50 years or more.

3. Exterior Painting

There are so many things to consider when choosing which color to repaint the exterior of your home. For some people this comes easily; for others, decorating or changing the exterior of their home is daunting and too expensive.

Some tips for choosing exterior paint colors:

Stay true to the traditional color scheme for your type of home.
A New England Salt Box looks great in blue-gray tones, while Victorian homes can be a variety of colors.
Preview your home in your chosen color.
Many paint stores now offer computer imaging so you can get an idea of the look of the colors you are considering.
Choose muted colors rather than brighter tones.
A large area of bright color can have a larger impact than you may want.
Check out other homes in your area.
Look at homes in your neighborhood or in decorating magazines. If you like a color, ask the homeowner to share the name and brand.

4. Windows

One of the more popular trends in home building and remodeling these days is adding more natural light with more—and larger—windows. Studies show that natural light has a positive effect on our well-being and adding more windows can open up a house, creating a more spacious-feeling room. And, while many homeowners think of windows as merely functional, they can also provide a key design element in any home.

Some of the newest trends in windows include:

Tubular skylights: The tubular skylight is more compact and easier to install than regular skylights and brightens homes more effectively than artificial light. They can also be fitted with internal light kits to double as electric lights at night.
Passive solar heating systems: Large, southern-facing windows can contribute to passive solar heating design by allowing solar radiation to help heat your home.
Window glazing: For ultraviolet light protection, glazing can protect home occupants as well as reduce the fading of upholstery and furniture. Glazing also improves a window’s insulation.
Low emissivity coating: Also known as Low-E coating, this reflects heat inside the home during the winter and blocks much of the heat in the summer, which saves money on utility bills.

5. Doors

One of the best ways to make a great first impression is with a custom door, which can add instant curb appeal to your home. Custom doors can be made of unique materials, clad in copper or aluminum, crafted from exotic woods or even recycling an interesting wood once designed for another use – people have made doors from antique pickle barrels, for example.
Need more ideas? You just need to open up your imagination–inspiration is all around:

Browse architectural and home magazines and websites.
Flip through to get an idea of what appeals to you and would best fit your home’s style. Check out DesignMine.
Look at other doors–especially out of your area.
Chances are the majority of homes in your area will be very similar. Take a drive one day and take note of the doors in more rural areas if you live in the city, or vice versa.
Visit architectural salvage warehouses and yards.
A great source of inspiration is the architecture of yesteryear. You can purchase and give new life to a door you find here or even have a replica made.
Get professional expertise.
If you’re stumped, go to the professionals for help. Custom door makers can offer you advice on all of your options and which style would best complement your home.

6. Landscape

An overgrown landscape gives the impression of an unkempt home, as well. One of the most cost-effective ways to customize a home to meet your needs and tastes, good landscaping will add value to your home and enhance your lifestyle.

Lawn and shrubs: Maintain your landscaping by keeping shrubs trimmed and weeding the area. You can also hire a lawn care professional to care for your lawn on a weekly to monthly basis, depending on the climate and your landscape’s needs.
Walkways: Keep walkways swept free of debris and the clutter of children’s toys. Not only does this look nicer, it prevents accidents from happening.
Outdoor lighting: Motion-activated lights can enhance security and ensure no one trips on the way to the front door. Spotlights can highlight trees and decorative features.
Fences: Fences can provide privacy and security, contain pets and children, and divide functional and visual spaces. Many fences now come in maintenance-free plastic in contemporary or traditional styles.

Should You Know About Second Houses and Investment Properties

Second homes are a great choice whether you’re looking for a summer retreat or an investment property. There is a laundry list of considerations to think about before making such a huge investment, however. Make sure you’re informed about all your options before you buy.

A Smart Purchase

There are two reasons most homeowners buy a second home: as a vacation property or investment. Regardless of what you use your new house for, any second home can easily be both of the above. Real estate is one of the safest and most profitable long-term investments a person can make. And if you’re careful about where you purchase your new home, there’s no reason it can’t be a weekend getaway for you and a money making rental property as well!

Rent It or Not?

A smart purchase in a desirable area means your new vacation home can double as a place to rent out to others when you’re away. By charging a reasonable rate to pre-screened, short term renters, you can easily make enough to pay for your new mortgage payments and even pocket a little bit extra on the side. Of course, not every homeowner wants to deal with the hassles of trusting their home to strangers. If that sounds like you, don’t fret. By being smart about where you buy and what you purchase, you’ll end up with a home that is attractive to both renters and future buyers. Either way, purchasing a second home is a win/win proposition.

Additional Considerations

Here are a few ideas to consider as you begin your search for the perfect new house:

– Look for homes with great views and ones that are close to parks and open space. Not only will these features make them more attractive to renters looking for a vacation getaway, but they also increase the re-sale value of your home. Unobstructed views of mountains and oceans can add up to 60% to a home’s value, while proximity to parks and open space can raise property values up to 20%.
– Calculate possible rental rates before you buy, whether you plan to rent or not. You might change your mind later about renting out your home when your away, but even if you don’t, a house that demands higher rent makes it more attractive to future buyers.
– Think about selling your current home and buying two new homes! If you’ve been paying down your mortgage and have lived in your current home for a while, think about using the equity you’ve built up in your current residence to help purchase your second property. And if you’re close to retirement and the kids have all flown the coop, think about downsizing to a smaller home for your primary residence as well. You could easily end up owning two homes for about the same price you were paying for the first!
– Look for a Low Maintenance Home. This is important for several reasons. For starters, you won’t be there all the time to keep up on maintenance chores, and when you are there you won’t want to waste your vacation working on the house. Secondly, most vacation homes are in areas where the elements take their toll. Whether it’s a seafront property or a mountain getaway, these climates tend to wear on a house quicker than in other areas. Purchasing a solid home built with low maintenance materials will ensure your time and money are spent on nights on the town instead of on mounting repairs.

Renovate Your Home for Best Selling

Everyone selling a home wants to pad the profit margin and get top dollar for the property. Yet, buyers on the other end want to make sure they’re getting a deal. Fortunately, it’s possible to make both parties happy at the closing table. It all starts with an honest look at the house and careful evaluation of how well it matches up with the potential buyers’ expectations. With these renovation tips for getting the best selling value help sellers prepare their properties for a big sale.

Make the first impression memorable.

When it comes to real estate, first impressions count. In fact, many buyers decide within a few minutes whether they want to add a home to their short list of options or ignore it altogether. For this reason, spending a little time and money on the entryway pays off. The to-do list for this task should include the following:

Take down old spider webs.
Sweep the floors.
Add a coat of paint to faded floors.
Remove or replace broken furniture.
Repair broken doorbells.
Spruce up the area with potted plants, flowers, and throw rugs.

Install an awning or portico over the front door.
Homeowners who don’t have the time to clean themselves should hire a professional cleaning service to do this for a few hundred dollars. One final consideration for the entry area is replacing the existing door, especially if it shows signs of age like, is drafty, or doesn’t fit the house’s architectural style. This project has minimal costs and brings a 75 to 100 percent return on the investment.

Give the house room to grow.

In general, buyers still prefer houses with open floor plans that offer flexibility. According to Consumer Reports, millennials say this is the second-most important characteristic they look for in a home. To create this, sellers can remove non-structural walls like a partial divider between a kitchen and living room or replace a bulky kitchen island with a portable one that frees up room in the center of the kitchen. In small rooms, replace heavy drapes with shutters or blinds that create a streamlined look or install cabinetry or storage units to keep space-hogging clutter out of sight. Other ways to show off the flexibility of the floor plan include finishing the basement and converting the attic to an additional bedroom or office space.

Ceiling fan in V-roof

Today’s homebuyers also show interest in energy efficient homes, as they view them better for the environment and more cost-effective over time. Since houses lose considerable heated and cooled air through inefficient windows and doors, sellers can boost their home’s value by replacing aging ones with energy efficient models. Another option is to replace siding with newer material that is fade resistant and offers more insulation. One such product is fiber-cement siding. Although it costs more than vinyl siding, it offers an attractive look and excellent durability. Other energy-efficient remodels include:

Replace traditional light fixtures with LED lights.
Add solar panels to the roof.
Replace an aging air conditioner or heating system.
Install tubular skylights to bring in natural light.
Add or replace insulation in the walls and attic.
Homeowners who are not sure how energy efficient their homes are can hire a professional to evaluate the home. These individuals can also give tips for improving the energy efficient of the home.

Find the right floors.

Buyers inspect houses from top to bottom, and they do pay attention to the surface they’re walking on. Sellers need to replace broken tiles or damaged laminate flooring, scrub stains out of carpet, and spruce up natural hardwood. It’s also a good idea to get rid of mismatched floors or dated pieces made from vinyl or linoleum around the house. Updating the flooring doesn’t cost as much as other home renovation projects, and it makes a big difference in the look of the room. Natural hardwood and cork floors are popular with today’s buyers who want durable, yet eco-friendly floors. Flooring is also an important consideration for buyers who have concerns about allergens. Instead of carpeting, the prefer hard-surface floors like laminate or tile since they are easier to clean and do not harbor potentially dangerous allergens.

Give the heart of the home some character.

Kitchen remodels still rank at the top of the list of most desired home renovations, which should be no surprise since the kitchen is the busiest room inside. These renovations range from simple upgrades of fixtures and hardware to complete remodels, such as replacing the following:

Cabinet and drawer pulls
Appliances and sinks
Flooring
Cabinets or cabinet doors
Counter tops
Faucet

Stainless steel appliances remain popular with buyers who enjoy the sleek, modern look they bring to the room. Durable counter tops made from material like quartz and sustainable flooring like cork also score points with buyers.

Know More About Mortgage Rates Rise

mortgage rates increase over the next few years, home improvement activity is likely to increase with them. This may seem counter intuitive, but you can expect two somewhat opposing effects: one highly positive and one slightly negative.

Negative Effect

The negative effect will stem from an expected slowdown in the growth of home sales. When mortgage rates increase, we expect to see slower growth in the volume of homes being bought and sold. As an aside, in the immediate term, there can be an uptick in sales as people who were “on the fence” jump to buy before rates go significantly higher. But that effect does not persist for very long.

We would expect a negative effect on the rate of growth of home improvement spending to accompany a slowdown in sales volume growth. That said, 92 percent of home improvement spending — spending on projects such as kitchen and bathroom remodels — comes from people who are not moving. So, this drag on spending drives only a small fraction of the overall outlook for home improvement growth. And, it will be greatly outweighed by more powerful positive forces like home appreciation, consumer confidence and the sheer age of the housing stock, combined with the tailwind from years of deferred maintenance and improvement during 2008-2012.

Positive Effect

Now for the positive effect. Many people who managed to secure a mortgage with a fixed rate in the 3 to 4 percent range will be somewhat reticent to sell and buy after rates get up near 5 percent. Such a move can have an outsized percentage impact on a homeowner’s monthly payment. Some of those people will decide it’s better to improve their existing homes than lose their low fixed rate. Think of it this way: Going from a 3.5 percent rate to a 5 percent rate means a 16 to 20 percent increase in the total monthly payment (depending upon assumptions regarding taxes and insurance). And that’s just making a lateral move from one $300,000 house to another $300,000 house. The prospect of such a significant monthly payment change may be enough to encourage people who don’t have to move, people considering relocating for a job, for example, to update, improve or even add on to their current homes instead of moving. Not to mention the fact they will also save the costs associated with selling their current homes. Of the two opposing effects, the positive effect—people choosing to stay in current homes as a result of rising mortgage rates—will outweigh the negative effect coming from a lower level of churn.

Looking Forward

The bigger question is this: Will home equity keep rising strongly, or will it slow down? It will certainly slow, partly because higher interest rates translate into lower asset values (including home values), all other factors held constant. My expectation, though, is that home equity will remain a strong-though-slightly-diminished tailwind for home improvement for the next several years. There are a lot of complicating moving parts in this equation, but the outlook for the home improvement industry growth is bright, even (or especially) with the prospect of higher mortgage rates around the corner.

Information About The Taming of the Resale

On homeowners’ minds: taming those overgrown plants, bugs, and pesky critters! In the third quarter of 2016, the nation’s homeowners increased their orders for services related to pest control, lawn care, and landscaping faster than they did for any other categories of home services.

New data from HomeAdvisor, which compare the third quarter of this year to the same quarter a year ago, also show that orders were up sharply for cleaning services, garage doors, pools, and painting. Many of the services relate to more people putting their home up for sale, which involves a lot of touch-up, clean-up, and necessary repairs.

The TOP FIVE geographic markets for growth in all home improvement services in the third quarter were:

Portland
Salt Lake City
Charlotte
Norfolk
Las Vegas

The top market in this list, Portland, Oregon, has been experiencing a boom in home improvement during the past three years. HomeAdvisor analyzes millions of data points each year encompassing its own customers’ service requests, and has observed strong increases in projects that boost a home’s value, commonly done before listing a house for sale. These tasks include: painting (which has risen in Portland at double the national rate), lawn care (up 71% faster than the nation), and paving (up 2.4X the national rate).

Another category that is growing rapidly in this market is the installation of landscaping for the yard or garden (growing 65% faster than in the nation as a whole). More and more Portland homeowners are now seeking the help of landscape designers to bolster the curb appeal of the home.

Service orders related to carpeting were up only modestly in the nation as a whole, but up much more sharply in Portland in the third quarter. Orders for pest control were up at the same rapid pace as the nation as a whole.

One of the “big ticket” items that Portland homeowners are undertaking is a kitchen remodel. Portland homeowners spend an average of $16,817 when remodeling a kitchen, according to HomeAdvisor’s nationwide survey, a figure that is about 15% lower than the average cost for the nation as a whole. The scope of a kitchen remodel varies widely, from a re-facing of the cabinets (what remodelers call a “face-lift”) to a complete remodel, which often involves the replacement of appliances, countertops, flooring, and cabinets.

Bathroom remodels in Portland, by comparison, average $9,956.

Roof repairImage Credit: Tinsley Roofings and replacements are another major job category, costing $7,480 in Portland for asphalt shingle roofs, and going much higher for upscale types of roofing. Repair orders for asphalt shingle roofing have grown faster than most other home improvement requests. Standard roof maintenance (meaning non-leak/non-emergency maintenance) was another one of those items that got deferred when the economy was just starting to get back on its feet, and that homeowners are starting to move forward on now.

Another category of home improvement that HomeAdvisor is watching in Portland is services related to garages, enclosures, and outbuildings. Activity in this category has grown twice as rapidly in Portland as in the nation as a whole. This may stem from the fact that high home prices are stimulating more people to transform their garage into living space, to accommodate their changing needs, and to get more value out of the property.

Home prices in Portland have risen to levels that are out of reach for many would-be first-time home buyers. First-time home buyers don’t have equity, and many of them are finding that the best strategy is to buy a fixer-upper and thereby accumulate “sweat equity.” By buying a home that needs work, first-timers can get into ownership at a number far lower than is typical, and by doing some of the repair work themselves, they can soften the financial burden of the fix-up. Young couples can make the house live-able, and then invest in projects to add to the luxury and beauty of the home over time, as their finances permit. This is an excellent approach for first-time home buyers, from the standpoint of lifestyle as well as equity-building.

Number-two ranked Salt Lake City saw also outsized increases in service requests related to lawns and landscaping and pest control, but also large increases in requests for assistance with heating and cooling, septic cleaning, and siding.

Number-three ranked Charlotte also saw exceptional growth in landscaping and lawn care, but was most notable for a large increase in disability services, growing at three times the national rate. Garage door service or replacement ranked extremely high as well, growing at triple the national rate (investments in garage doors can reap strong returns on investment at resale).