by Broderick Perkins
A three bedroom home in a neighborhood of fours isn't going to sell as well, or for the best price. However, remodeled kitchens and home-office additions don't come with guarantees that they'll boost your home's value even in a hot seller's market. Nor should you expect home improvements to shore up your equity in a cooler market when buyers rule.
Once considered a sure bet for measurable returns on your money (as high as 100 percent or more), home improvements today are more often practical investments, say to increase the living space, to avoid the expense of moving up, or to prolong the home's life by bringing its systems and structures up to code.
When it's time to sell, the right home work can certainly make the grade with buyers, just so long as you don't expect them to pay for it.
Nathan Marshall, an appraiser with ABNET, LLC, an Olney, Maryland-based national appraisal company cautions that, additions that don't reflect what's been done to other homes in the neighborhood rarely pay off. According to Marshall, "When you sell, if the comparables don't show that addition, your selling price is not going to reflect what you paid for the addition.".
Provided all things are equal, Marshall and other appraisers advise, it's the little things that count most.
When you are ready to sell, the trick is to perform work that helps transform your house into a model home, not the Taj Mahal.
A new coat of paint, new carpeting, freshly manicured landscaping, updated fixtures, windows, doors and other cosmetic touches put your home in the best light.
"You are talking less than $7,000 to do it and it's almost gotten to point that that's what buyers expect," said Tampa, Florida appraiser Ted Dixon, owner of T.R. Dixon & Associates.
If you purchased your home during a price peak, concentrate on cost-effective details maintenance, modernizing strategies and detailing, right down to upgraded handles on the kitchen cabinets.
Random, uneven upgrades are ill-advised. If you leave one of your bathrooms in its original 1950s style, but remodel the other, or if you re-landscape the front yard, but leave the backyard in its natural weed-infested state, most buyers will notice what's left to be done, rather than credit you for completed work.
Beyond the cosmetic touches, but far short of full-fledged alterations and additions, the best home improvements that help sellers net full market value include: a new roof, kitchen and bath re-dos and only those alterations and additions that bring your home in-line with the others in the neighborhood.