Click here to see these Faircrest Heights and surrounding neighborhood properties available to tour this weekend on Saturday, September 14th through Sunday, September 15th.
Reduce your carbon footprint and increase your savings with these tips from the pros
In our eco-conscious (and money-conscious) age, there’s really no excuse for wasting energy at home. There are dozens of extremely easy, small steps you can take right now to minimize your use of energy resources and cut back your bill from the utility company.
But there’s more to energy-optimization than buying a new fridge. To find the most effective energy-saving tactics at all price points, Curbed checked in with Christina Kielich of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and certified home energy auditor Erlend Kimmich.
”There are so many small changes people can make to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, but it all adds up to significantly lower energy bills and a smaller environmental footprint,” Kielich says.
Replace your light bulbs
The typical American household spends 5 to 10 percent of its energy budget on lighting alone, according to the DOE. Incandescent light bulbs might give off a nice homey glow, but only 5 percent of their energy consumption is actually converted into light. Today’s LEDs, on the other hand, are on average 85 percent more efficient than incandescents.
Swapping your incandescents with warm-colored LED bulbs can save you $100 a year on energy costs. According to the DOE, “LEDs are projected to reach over 80 percent of all lighting sales by 2030…This would save Americans $26 billion per year in electricity costs, while cutting America’s lighting electricity use by nearly half.”
Unplug energy vampires
Did you know that even after it’s fully charged, leaving your cell phone plugged in continues to pull power from the grid? Same with your laptop, TV, stereo, game console, and any other electronic device. These unused-but-plugged-in devices draw unnecessary energy that adds up over time.
Get in the habit of unplugging chargers once a device is fully powered-up, and plug your non-battery-powered electronics into power strips that you can turn off when not in use.
Close your windows
You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but Kimmich says, “You’d be surprised how often people complain about drafts and heat leakages in the winter and you visit and there’s open windows—cords for Christmas lights running out the window or bad seals. In summer, if the accordion wings around the AC don’t fit properly, you might as well put it in the driveway. You’re cooling the outdoors.”
Something as simple as adding weather stripping to doors and windows is a relatively inexpensive way to retain your home’s internal temperature, often paying for itself in energy savings within a year.
Install an automatic thermostat
You can save as much as 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs by dialing back your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from its normal setting for eight hours a day. Especially if you live in extremely hot or cold climates, installing an automatic thermostat can make a huge difference when it comes to cutting energy use without sacrificing comfort.
Programmable thermostats can cost under $20. Higher-end smart thermostats like the Nest or Ecobee can even learn your preferences and behaviors, automatically turning off your system when you’re out of the house or away on vacation.
Air seal your attic and basement
”If someone’s looking to make a more substantial investment, I would recommend air sealing and insulating the top and the bottom of the building,” Kimmich says. “Especially if the house was built before World War II, that’s where you tend to find the most leakage.”
That’s in part because these are the places most likely to have actual holes cut into the building envelope to make way for pipes and wires. The basement is also where the main frame of the home comes into physical contact with a stone or concrete foundation, creating the potential for more air-leaking gaps.
”Think of your home’s air sealing and insulation like a windbreaker worn over a sweater,” Kimmich explains. “If there’s a rip or you leave the windbreaker unbuttoned, it can’t really help. So we fix the sweater by making the insulation more substantial and we improve that air seal anywhere the indoor space is connected to the outdoor space.”
For lower-lift solutions, the DOE offers instructions for a variety of DIY weatherization techniques, like how to air seal leaks with caulk and how to properly cover attic stairs. Many states offer financial assistance for weatherizing your home, so be sure to check with your state’s weatherization agency before making any large investments.
Get a home energy audit
”The least expensive, best thing someone can do is get a comprehensive, whole-house energy assessment,” Kimmich says. “In most places, you get a subsidized assessment if you make under a certain amount every year, and after a 2-3 hour walk-through, you’ll get a comprehensive list of recommendations.”
Click here to see these Faircrest Heights and surrounding neighborhood properties available to tour this weekend on Saturday, September 7th through Sunday, September 8th.
By Daniel Bortz
Getting ready to move into your new home? Before you settle in, there are some important home improvement projects you’ll want to tackle.
We totally get that home improvement is probably the last thing on your mind while you’re unpacking boxes, but trust us. You’ll regret not tackling these tasks while your home is a blank slate. Some of these projects are just easier to do before your furnishings are all set up, whereas other things are essential for your safety.
Curious about what you could be missing? Take a look at these eight essential home improvements to do after moving in—or even just before—to start your new life right.
1. Change the locks
Here’s a basic safety check: Those old locks at your new house need to be replaced or rekeyed, says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot.
It’s not that you shouldn’t trust the sellers—it’s that you shouldn’t trust all of the people who’ve had contact with those keys over the years, any of whom could have copied the keys for some unsavory purpose.
Unfortunately, more than half (52%) of baby boomers and about a third of Gen Xers (33%) and millennials (31%) who moved in the past year have not changed their locks, a recent Home Depot survey found. Don’t join them.
2. Change alarm batteries
Making sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectorshave fresh batteries may not seem like a pressing issue when you’re in the middle of a stressful move, but it’s the kind of thing that gets ignored and then forgotten. It’s better to deal with it now, when the home is empty and you can replace the old batteries without having to move furniture to make way for a ladder.
3. Caulk cracks and gaps
Using caulk to seal cracks around bathtubs, windows, doors, and other crevices around the house will help you stop leaks, drafts, and other nuisances that could inflate your utility bills.
“Caulk serves multiple purposes: It lowers heating and air-conditioning bills by reducing airflow into and out of the home; it prevents moisture that can cause wood rot, mold, mildew, and water damage; and it keeps insects and other pests out,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman.
Pro tip: Mark Clement of MyFixItUpLife recommends using a latex-based elastomeric caulk, specifically DAP Dynaflex 230.
“It’s versatile: You could use it for molding, repair for paint jobs, both interior and exterior,” Clement says. “It’s the best jack-of-all-trades caulk.”
4. Spackle holes
Cracks, scratches, and holes in walls can form over time from regular wear and tear, or simply from nails that were used to hang artwork. A bit of spackling and painting will make rooms look fresh again, says Fishburne.
Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) new homeowners patch and paint their walls themselves, a Home Depot survey found. If you have only a few holes and scratches, you can fill them with spackling compound, which is sold in small qualities. For a greater number of gashes and holes, use joint compound, which is sold in quarts or 5-gallon buckets.
When you’re done spackling, you’ll want to repaint those areas. If you don’t have any of the original paint lying around (ask the seller if there’s left any), peel a dollar-size piece from the wall and bring that to your local paint store, which can match the color.
5. Build extra storage
If your new home is short on storage space, installing some storage units around the house can make your new home a lot less cluttered after you move in.
Specifically, entryway storage is crucial, especially in the winter, when puffer jackets, snow boots, and scarves demand extra space. So, consider mounting a shelving unit near your front door or in your mudroom (or both).
The only tool you’ll need is a power drill. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from a hardware store—or, better yet, borrow a drill from one of your new neighbors.
6. Childproof your new home
If you have young kids, take a day to childproof your new house. After all, accidental injuries are the leading cause of death in children aged 14 and younger, and more than a third of these incidents happen at home.
Installing safety gates at the top and bottom of all stairs is a must for small children. Choose a gate model that needs to be mounted with nails or screws to the wall or banister, rather than one that stays in place with tension, which kids can potentially push out of place, says Sharalyn Crossfield, a child safety expert and owner of Gate Maven Childproofing Services.
Blind cords are another problem—every day, at least two kids head to the ER for blinds-related injuries, often involving little ones getting entangled in (or strangled by) these strings.
To keep window blind cords and strings out of a child’s reach, place them on high, wall-mounted hooks.
7. Deep-clean carpets
If your new home has older carpets that are crying out for a deep clean, do it before you move in so there’s no furniture in your way.
Going up against deeply embedded dirt? You’ll want to rent a powerful, industrial-style carpet-cleaning machine such as a Rug Doctor, which sprays hot water with a detergent over the carpet and extracts it with a high-powered vacuum. These have more washing and sucking power than most consumer carpet cleaners, but they’re expensive to buy—about $400 to $700—so it’s more economical to rent one from a hardware store for about $25 to $30 per day.
Transporting the equipment and operating the machine can be cumbersome, but it does a better job cleaning your carpet than a regular vacuum cleaner and is less expensive than hiring a professional carpet cleaning service, which costs on average between $121 and $233, according to HomeAdvisor.
8. Clean hardwood floors—without ruining the finish
This is another task you’ll want to tackle before moving in so that you don’t have to move heavy furniture around to get the job done. Using the right cleaning solution is crucial. Most wood floor installers or manufacturers recommend cleaners that contain isopropyl alcohol, which dries quickly, and are available at home supply stores.
To make your own solution, add a capful of white vinegar to a gallon of water, which will help dissolve grease and grime on the floor without stripping the finish.
To remove shoe scuff marks, rub marks with a tennis ball. Whatever you do, do not clean wood floors with a steam mop, says Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association, in St. Louis.
“Steam is horrible for wood floors,” he says. “It opens the pores in woods and damages the finish, causing irreversible damage to any wood floor.”
Jamie Wiebe contributed to this report.
Click here to see these Faircrest Heights and surrounding neighborhood properties available to tour this weekend on Saturday, August 31st through Sunday, September 1st.
With solar panel sales lagging, Tesla tries its hand at renting again
By Jeff Andrews
When Tesla bought solar panel manufacturer SolarCity in 2016 for $2.8 billion, solar panel installations were experiencing explosive annual growth in the U.S., having jumped from 246 megawatts installed in 2010 to 2,369 megawatts in 2016, according to GTM Research.
But with stalled growth in installations, Tesla is rolling out a new model for getting its panels on the roofs of homeowners—rentals.
Launching in six states—Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico—Tesla’s rental program will offer three solar panel packages, with no installation costs and no time commitment.
Based on estimated annual energy generation, Tesla says the small (3.8 kW for $50 a month), medium (7.6 kW for $100 a month), and large (11.4 kW for $150 a month) solar panels are priced such that homeowners will net anywhere from $80 to $650 in annual savings.
The rental option is only available to homeowners and comes with a few caveats. First, renters must pass any tax benefits that come with installing a solar panel along to the company. According to the Verge, that can be anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 in Arizona; this is likely why Tesla can offer free installation on rented panels.
Second, while renters can cancel at any time, it comes with a hefty $1,500 fee, which the company says will cover the cost of uninstalling the panels. If a renter wants to downgrade to a smaller panel, that also comes with a $1,500 charge. Third, Tesla reserves the right to raise the rent price, and with the $1,500 cancellation fee, it probably has some leeway to do that without losing current customers.
Curbed checked the sale price for the same panels Tesla is offering to rent and while it varies from state to state, the smaller panels can go for as high as $8,000 while the large panel sells for as much as $22,000. At the current prices, renters wouldn’t pay more than the sale price of the panel for at least 12 years.
SolarCity originally offered a rental option but it was phased after after Tesla purchased the company in 2016. Amid the broader slowdown of solar panel installations, Tesla slashed the price of its panels earlier this year in hopes of jumpstarting sales.
While Tesla roll out solar panel rentals, the company is still in the process of bringing its solar roofs to market. The roofs are made of individual solar tiles, just like a regular roof, so they can better conform aesthetically to the rest of the house and the neighborhood. Production on the solar roof tiles has been delayed at various points, but some installations have been spotted on social media over the last year.
Click here to see these Faircrest Heights and surrounding neighborhood properties available to tour this weekend on Saturday, August 24th through Sunday, August 25th.
The days are slowly getting shorter and the kids are heading back to school, but we’re still not feeling quite ready to be done with summer. And apparently, we’re not the only ones—a quick scroll through Instagram will show you post after post of outdoor decor with seductive summer flair.
The Instagram posts that got the most hearts this week, though, all had a little something in common: pure whimsy. And if you like these fanciful designs as much as the internet does, we’ve got good news—we’ve tracked down what you can buy to steal the look and decorate for those final parties of the season.
1. Dog-days-of-summer bed swing
If you’ve always wanted a swing on the front porch, this one that’s the size of a bed is sure to make you swoon. You can thank the experts at @southernlivingmag via this repost from @glimpsesofthesouth.
“Nothing says ‘home’ like a porch swing,” says interior designer Kathryn Nelson of Kathryn Nelson Design. “I believe these have grown in popularity because they remind us of our childhood and older times, while being a more comfortable, deeper-sitting version.”
2. The party-ain’t-over paper lanterns
If you thought giant paper lanterns were just a thing for Lunar New Year, think again. One of the best ways to spice up your outdoor space is to add some bright texture and a fun pop of light, just like the ones pictured in this post by @s.u.s.a.p.
“Giant paper lanterns offer a lovely scale to an overhead space while still feeling ‘airy,’” Nelson says. “They also provide nice, warm, glowing light whether lit from within or by reflecting and glowing from nearby lights.”
3. Beach-bum outdoor decor
Whether or not you actually use it to catch some waves, it never hurts to have a surfboard lying around. Repurposed surfboards are making a big comeback this season, as seen in this post from @skovbon.
“Surfboards can be repurposed for your beach home or business as art objects, tables, benches, and more,” explains designer Pablo Solomon of Austin, TX.
Their slender shape also works really well as a minimalist design element in any outdoor space.
“The narrow depth allows for layering behind other furniture pieces,” Nelson says. “It brings great height to a space, and the lightweight nature allows for mounting to walls and ceilings with ease.”
Get the look: If you happen to live near the beach, ask around to find local artists repurposing surfboards. If you don’t, check out these custom designs on Etsy to find the perfect board for your backyard.
4. An egg chair big enough for the whole family
These last few hazy days of summer, before the kids go back to school and the chaos of daily life resumes, are perfect for some quality family time. Which is just one of the reasons you may want to invest in a giant egg chair like the one featured in this post from @handmakeshome. Maybe we’re biased, but any chair that’s big enough for two kids plus a glass of wine seems like a win.
“I just finished an addition for a family home, and this was the first piece my client ordered to furnish out the new space,” Nelson says. “They’re comfy, inviting for everyone, and the shape of the frame creates this intimate, safe, cocoon feeling.”
Get the look: If you’re ready to have the ultimate front porch cocoon for you and your brood, try this patio egg chair from Target.
5. Fairy-tale she shed
Call it what you will, but the she shed is basically an adult playhouse—and we think everyone should have one. And although the concept is nothing new, the fairy-tale magic behind the one featured in this repost by @mybackyarddecor, originally from @mygardeningstories, is definitely something we haven’t seen before.
“These can range from any style of architecture and fit to any budget while being reminiscent of our childhood days,” Nelson says. “Who wouldn’t want an adult-size dollhouse that is your very own private space?”
Get the look: If you manage to convince your S.O. that this is a must-have for the backyard, we recommend checking out the she-shed kits from Studio Shed, or (even better) designing your own fairy-tale magic with some help from the folks at Lowe’s.
There’s a new, more affordable way of buying property in Los AngelesBy Jenna Chandler
Aisling Swindell was paying so much for rent last year—$2,100 per month to live in a studio in Downtown LA—she figured she might as well buy a place.
“The house I ended up buying was $440,000, which is insane, right?” says Swindell, who works for an online fashion company.
That price tag, which is $178,000 below the median in LA County, sounds unbelievable, especially for what it bought her: 870 square feet in the city, plus a little yard, lots of natural light, some stylish updates, and charming, 1930s-era details, like wainscoting and solid wood doors.
But while she’s no longer a renter, she still doesn’t, technically, own a house.
Her $440,000 bought her a share of a larger property: a triplex on an 8,344-square-foot lot in Jefferson Park. Her right to occupy the unit, and her responsibility for maintaining it, are spelled out in a contract with her neighbors, who live in the triplex and, with her, are its joint owners.
The ownership model, called tenancy in common, or TIC, is not totally new to California. But the rise in the use of the model could change the Los Angeles housing market—for better, and worse.
Because TIC units tend to be priced about 10 to 20 percent below comparable condos, where buyers actually own the individual units, the real estate agents who have pioneered the model in Los Angeles herald it as a way for first-time homebuyers to break into one of the nation’s most unaffordable cities.
McDonald, who worked with renters for more than 15 years, almost single-handedly brought tenancy in common to Los Angeles, along withSan Francisco’s Sterling Bank and Trust, which is the only bank making tenancy in common loans in LA today.
Sterling has started lending money to developers in Los Angeles to convert rentals into TIC properties, and it now offers fractional loans to individual buyers, so they don’t have to go in together as a group to get one shared loan for a property.
“We’ve been talking about financing TICs in LA for over a decade,” says Sterling’s Henry Jeanes, who specializes in tenancy in common lending. “We’re now fully committed to jumping in and expanding.”
Developers and investors have flipped more than a dozen multifamily buildings in Los Angeles over the last nine months. Since November, The Rental Girl has sold 50 TIC units.
Two other brokers, Christopher Stanley and Ali Jack, are also dabbling in TICs, and along with The Rental Girl, have a combined six TIC properties for sale. A bright two-bedroom bungalow in Glassell Park is listed at $549,000. A three-bedroom with an updated kitchen in a Silver Lake fourplex is listed at $799,000.
“The first time you see one of Liz’s listings, you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, that looks really great,’” says Sheldon Candis, a writer and director who closed in June on a 1920s Spanish-style TIC in Elysian Heights. “Then it takes you back, because the price seems too good to be true.”
In some ways, it is.
All of the TICs that have sold or are for sale in Los Angeles have been converted from older rent-controlled apartment buildings and bungalow courts. It’s difficult to track,but it’s very likely that many of them once housed renters who had to be evicted in order to put the properties up for sale.
The Los Angeles Tenants Union has protested outside The Rental Girl’s office on York Boulevard, and built a website to document stories of renters who have been evicted or are facing eviction because of tenancy in common.
Its members believe housing is a human right, and that what the brokers promoting TICs are doing is forcing out longtime LA residents.
“If you’re moving into a TIC conversion, you’re moving into a haunted house with the ghosts of poor and working class people who have been displaced,” says union member Julian Smith-Newman. “If you’re making that choice, you’re accepting that what you’re doing is participating in the social cleansing of Los Angeles.”
The Rental Girl, on the other hand, says it’s helping renters who have the means to afford a down payment, but who would otherwise be shut out of homeownership because of high home prices, accrue wealth.
Cristina Brow, a real estate agent and McDonald’s partner, says housing as a human right is a fantasy. It’s a commodity to be purchased, she says, with “winners and losers,” though she says she hopes tenants facing eviction are leveraging “the shit out of” the Ellis Act. (The state law guarantees renters cash payments when they’re booted from a rent-controlled building.)
Since 2001, property owners have filed applications with the city of Los Angeles to pull 25,853 rent-controlled units from the housing market, according to the Coalition for Economic Survival. That’s putting a dent in the number of units that renters can actually afford.
“Tenants are going to be relocated for sure. There’s no way to sugar coat that,” Brow says. “We challenge ourselves on this topic every day, every week. We do that mental check: ‘What’s our goal?’ I hope we’re making a better opportunity for people.”
But even for buyers who find themselves aligned with The Rental Girl’s view on real estate, TICs come with risks.
“The Rental Girl’s perspective, which is our perspective, is that all of these people renting in LA are kept renting and are not building any wealth,” says Chrissy Callan, who works in costume design for films.
Along with her husband, she purchased a TIC in Historic Filipinotown in November.
“Even while buying it, I was trying to wrap my head around it,” she says. It wasn’t so much the ethical considerations, because the building they bought into had sat empty for 10 years before it was purchased by an investor and flipped, she says.
It was more that tenancy in common was such an unusual concept, at least in LA. Her brother, an architect in San Francisco, where TICs have been around for more than a decade, explained to her that tenancy in common units tend to be priced lower than equivalent properties because cooperative ownership could affect resale value.
Disputes with neighbors are tricky enough when money isn’t involved. Collective ownership heightens those stakes. And with TICs still so new to Los Angeles, he warned Callan that the city could one day pass regulations that would make it tougher to recoup their investment.
“I always tell buyers: Nobody goes out looking for a TIC,” says Marco Carvajal,a real estate agent in San Francisco. “They walk into a place, fall in love, then find out it’s a TIC.”
Another complication is finding financing for a TIC, which is limited—and stricter than a conventional home loan.
Sterling is the only lender offering TIC mortgages in Los Angeles, and its requirements are stringent: Buyers must have a credit score of at least 700 and pay at least 10 percent upfront (on a $440,000 unit, for example, that means having $44,000 in the bank).
And Sterling only offers adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, with interest rates that are not locked in. Its rates adjust after three, five, or seven years, depending on the loan.
It doesn’t offer traditional fixed-rate loans, because there’s not a secondary market for them, says Jeanes.
“They can’t be sold off and loaded off to Wall Street very easily,” he says. “The banks that package the loans are keeping them and taking the risk.”
Some potential buyers never get comfortable enough with the financing options to proceed. “For every two people who find a TIC they love, half will proceed,” Jeanes says.
Ultimately, Callan was swayed by what her money could get with a TIC.
“Anything else that was the right size was farther away or, more frequently, needed a lot of work,” she said. “You’d walk in and the floors, you’d feel like you were drunk, they had settled poorly, or there were weird layouts.”
So was Candis. “When I saw this place, a place in the hills that fit into my budget… for me, it truly was a godsend,” he says of his new home in Elysian Heights. Shared ownership allowed him to stay within his housing budget without leaving the area where he had rented.
“I’m thankful that my Trader Joe’s didn’t change,” he says.
Find out how the top 15 home improvements rank, plus get tips on maximizing the return at resale.
#1 Minor Bathroom Remodel
Average return at resale: 102 percent
It costs about $10,500 to replace the tub, tile surround, floor, toilet, sink, vanity and fixtures. You’ll get back an average of $10,700 at resale, a recoup rate of 102 percent.
If you can pipe a child’s name on a birthday cake, you can re-caulk a tub. Use a softener like CAULK-BE-GONE to get rid of the old caulk. Fill the tub with water after you’re done to stretch caulk while it dries.
If your old tub is too large to fit out the door, re-glaze it for a like-new finish. Cost: $300 to $400.
Remove dated wall coverings and apply a fresh coat of paint. For damaged walls, spray-on texture provides quick coverage.
Replace old shower doors or remove them to add the illusion of space.
From: Drury Design
Average return at resale: 100 percent
The average homeowner spends about $3,502 for landscaping and $1,465 on a designer, according to the American Nursery Landscape Association.
Not sure where to start? Local garden centers often offer free design services, or ask the neighbors what works for them.
Sod costs about 30 to 35 cents a square foot, so a 5,000 sq. ft. yard would cost about $1,500 to sod. Budget for delivery fee if you buy less than 1,000 sq. ft. of sod.
A splash of color at the front of the house is an eye-catching plus. For maximum impact, use one color and vary the height of plants.
If your doorway is overwhelmed by greenery, get out the shears. Replace overgrown shrubbery with flowering foundation plants, mixing heights and colors for dramatic effect.
A charming focal point like a walkway and fountain adds major value to your property. Roll a sealant on flagstones for a permanent wet look that enhances the color.
#3 Minor Kitchen Remodel
Average return at resale: 98.5 percent
A minor kitchen remodel averages $14,913 for $14,691 at resale, a recoup rate of 98.5 percent. Do a minor remodel when your kitchen needs a cosmetic update and not a drastically different floor plan.
A $15,000 kitchen update covers 30 feet of re-facing for cabinets and drawers, a new wall oven, cooktop, sink and fixtures, laminate countertops and resilient flooring.
Put recessed lights 3’ to 5’ apart on center and 18″ from cabinets to light the countertops. Running the lights between two joists is easier than running through the joists.
If your home is worth more than $500,000, go with stone or trendy glass countertops.
Cover old vinyl with floor leveler so the pattern doesn’t bleed through. You can’t put a second layer of vinyl on if the subfloor is below-grade concrete.
Brighten up the kitchen by sanding and painting existing cabinets. It’s much less expensive than buying new ones.
Add decorator detail without the cost by changing drapes and window molding.
#4 – Exterior Improvements
(Vinyl Siding, Paint, Updated Front Entry)
Average return at resale: 95.5 percent
The average national cost to replace 1,250 sq. ft. of vinyl siding: $7,239. Average return: $6,914, with a recoup rate of 95.5 percent.
A gallon of paint covers 400 sq. ft. of house.
Paint color cards take the guesswork out of choosing the right color combination for doors, trim and siding.
If your house was painted before 1978, test for lead before sanding or scraping.
Upscale, fiber-cement siding costs $10,393 and returns $10,771 at resale, an even better recoup rate of 103.6 percent
If you need columns to hold up a pergola, purchase the load-bearing type. Fiberglass composite columns are popular and durable. Check salvage yards for unique historic columns.
For an updated look, remove old awnings from windows and doors.
Swap damaged wrought-iron railings for real wood supports for a more inviting entry.
Give a bare, charmless porch a dramatic makeover by adding a pergola and columns.
#5 Attic Bedroom Conversion
Average return at resale: 93.5 percent
The average attic bedroom in a two- or three-bedroom house costs $39,188 and returns $36,649 at resale.
The best recoup rate is in the West: 105 percent; worst is in the Midwest: 82 percent.
That price includes a 15 x 15 ft. bedroom, a 5 x 7 ft. bath with shower, a 15 ft. dormer, four windows and a closet.
Add attic insulation to lower your utility bills. Making sure the foil vapor barrier is installed down toward the ceiling to prevent moisture from seeping up. Check the US Department of Energy website to see the right level of insulation for your area.
Can your existing HVAC system handle the load of another room? If not, factor in the cost of a second unit.
A solar-powered attic fan is an efficient way to save on cooling costs. The attic fan exhausts heat from above your home and is powered by a solar cell on the roof.
#6 Major Bathroom Remodel
Average return at resale: 93.2 percent
A major bathroom remodel involves expanding an existing 5×7 ft. bathroom, relocating and replacing the tub and toilet and adding designer sinks and faucets, a linen closet, lighting, a ceramic tile floor and exhaust fan for a cost of $26,052, which brings in $24,286 at resale.
Start at the bottom. Replace old floors with fresh tile in ceramic or stone for a solid payoff. Buy extra tiles in case you break any during installation. Set some tiles aside at the end of the job for future repairs.
Give an old vanity a facelift with a new countertop for a clean, fresh look buyers will love.
Use eye-fooling tricks to make a small bath look larger. A new pedestal sink is a smart replacement for an old cabinet. The smaller footprint gives the illusion of space.
From: Christopher Grubb
#7 Major Kitchen Remodel
Average return at resale: 91 percent
A complete kitchen remodel in a midrange home averages $43,862 and returns $39,920 at resale. That price buys 30 ft. of cabinets, an island, laminate countertops, stainless sink, wall oven, cook top, vinyl flooring and appliances.
If your home’s value rises and your kitchen’s finishes don’t, do a major remodel rather than small fix-ups. Budget 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value remodeling the kitchen.
Kitchens feel bigger when there are fewer obstacles. Remiove over-counter cabinets and make countertops truly useful by creating an eating bar.
An eat-in kitchen is a big plus. Try adding a deluxe touch with a built-in banquet, bench and designer pillows.
Local granite dealers that sell (or even give away) remnants then charge for cuts and installation can be a bargain option if you need 8 feet or less of countertop.
Planning to sell? Stick with neutral colors for walls and window treatments. Remodeling to please yourself? Choose colors you love.
Tin ceiling tiles make an affordable, custom backsplash.
Put your home in the best light. Perk up a dark kitchen with French doors that’ll let the sun shine in.
#8 Deck, Patio or Porch Addition
Average return at resale: 90.3 percent
Adding a 16×20 ft. pressure-treated wood deck with a simple pattern costs about $11,000. At resale, you’ll get about $10,000 of that back, a recoup rate of 90 percent.
Add eye-appeal with decorative planters on the front porch, patio and decks.
Give a courtyard an impressive entry with an inviting gate, lighting and mature plantings. Small improvements will have a big impact at closing.
Use bold plantings to emphasize features, or to distract the eye from flaws.
Run-down stairs lower your profit margin, so make sure porch railings are safe and attractive.
Camouflage unattractive air conditioning units with a wooden trellis.
In the West, the recoup rate reaches nearly 100 percent, but it falls to 83 percent in the South.
#9 Basement Remodel
Average return at resale: 90.1 percent
The average basement remodel costs just over $51,051 and returns $46,010, so you’ll recoup about 90 percent of the cost.
What do you get for $51,051? A 20 x 30 entertaining area with wet bar, a 5×8 bath, recessed lighting and a laminate floor.
Remember when finishing walls, you should keep your drywall panels a half-inch away from concrete floors, so they don’t absorb moisture.
Always fix flooding problems first. Add French drains, bigger gutters or re-slope the yard to keep water out. Test to make sure the fixes work before investing time or materials in a basement.
Want just the wet bar? Buy 10 linear feet of cabinets, a laminate countertop, a stainless steel drop-in bar sink and an under-counter refrigerator for about $2,500.
Cover concrete floors with an easy-to-install modular subfloor so floors won’t be cold. Add carpet squares with a traction backing for an amazing transformation.
In the West, basement remodels return 108 percent of cost, in the Midwest, 73 percent.
#10 Replacement Windows
Average return at resale: 89.6 percent
Replacing ten 3×5 ft. windows runs about $9,700. On average nationally, you’ll get back $8,700 when you sell, a recoup rate of nearly 90 percent.
Big city window replacements pay off. The average homeowner recoups more than she spends on replacement windows in San Francisco, Seattle, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, NYC and Boston.
For hot climates, there’s low-e glass that reflects heat. And for maximum efficiency, add argon gas inside the pane to prevent heat and cold transference within the window.
Replacing windows doesn’t pay in all hot climates. You’ll recoup only 62 percent of your cost in the Las Vegas desert.
#11 Family Room Addition
Average return at resale: 83 percent
The average family room addition costs $54,464 and adds $45,458 at resale, a recoup rate of 83 percent.
The highest recoup rates occur in high-cost Western markets.
A sunroom counts in the home’s square footage only when the room is heated and cooled for year-round use.
A sunroom adds value only in upscale neighborhoods. It won’t bring in higher bids in lower-end neighborhoods.
An addition shouldn’t be obvious. Make sure it has an open transition. A wider interior doorway and more substantial steps visually connect the addition to the rest of the house.
From: Shelley Rodner
#12 Bonus Room Updates
Average return at resale: 72.8 percent
Converting a 12×12 ft. bonus room into a home office costs on average $13,143 and brings in $9,569 at closing.
If you’re selling, know your target market and decorate to please them. Families use bonus rooms differently than empty-nesters and singles.
Add electric outlets for your computer and recessed lights. Kitchen cabinets or bookshelves organize the space above your desk. Put a rolling file cabinet underneath.
Glass doors add a finished look to any bookshelf.
Check local zoning before you build a studio to rent.
Budget $2,500 for a mini-kitchen.
Adding a full bath costs an average of $22,977 nationally. You’ll average $19,850 back if you sell, a recoup rate of 86.4%. Return rates go above 100% in big cities like NY, San Francisco, Orlando, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
From: Betty Lou Phillips
#13 Living Room Updates – Decor
Average return at resale: 66 percent
It costs around $1,350 for staging and updating living room decor with new light switches, outlet covers, floor registers, crown molding, chair rails and drapes, plus fresh flowers and accessories.
Details add dollars. Crown molding gives a room a crisp, clean finish that buyers love. Choose molding that complements window trim and floorboards. Prices start at around $1.40 per linear foot.
Shift furniture away from the walls to make living rooms feel larger and more contemporary. Create a seating area around a feature you want buyers to notice, like a dramatic fireplace.
If you’re staging your home to sell, don’t move excess furniture and clutter into the garage. Rent a storage unit for about $1 per square foot per month.
New window treatments are a cost-conscious way to add a punch of designer color. For low ceilings, create the illusion of height by positioning drapes and valances higher on the wall.
#14 Bedroom Updates
Average return at resale: 52 percent
Cost for new lighting will vary from $100 – $500.
For a romantic design touch, swap the old light fixture for a small chandelier. The formula for sizing a chandelier: Room width + Room length in feet – chandelier diameter in inches.
When doing dry wall repair, less really is more. Using as little joint compound as possible makes it easier to even out the surface when sanding later.
Scale your window treatments to your room size. Cost to rent wallpaper steamer: $20; new bedding and window treatments: $300.
Hardwood floors are hotter than ever. Pull up worn carpeting and refinish old floors to let the wood shine. Sanding hardwoods is physically demanding and if you do it wrong, you ruin the floor. Hire a pro to do the sanding and then do your own staining and sealing to save money. Cost $1 to $1.50 a foot. Fill carpet tack holes with Color Putty.
#15 Living Room Updates – Walls and Floors
Average return at resale: 40 percent
For only $25, freshen the living room walls with a coat of paint in a light, neutral color. And don’t overlook the trim — brighten it with a high-gloss white paint and caulk any open seams between the molding and ceiling and baseboard and wall.
On average, quality hardwood flooring ranges from $3-$8 per square foot. For a 200 square foot area, expect to spend about $1,200 if you install it yourself. Tack on another $3 per square foot if you have it professionally installed.
Sanding hardwoods is physically demanding. Make a mistake and you ruin the floor. Hire a pro to sand and then do your own staining and sealing to save money. Cost is $1 to $1.50 a foot. Fill carpet tack holes with Color Putty®.
If you have carpet in the living room, either have it professionally cleaned ($100-$150) or replaced if it’s torn, stained or has an unrelenting odor (on average $10-$30 per square foot).
Always test popcorn ceilings for asbestos before you start (find an accredited lab at The National Institute of Standards and Technology. Asbestos was used in textured paints manufactured before 1977.
Buy a new wood or stone mantel for as little as $500.
From: Amy Studebaker