Fixer Upper

Increase the value of your home by making wellplaced improvements

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Whether or not you’re preparing to sell your home, you should consider making improvements that could increase the value of your property. As soon as Horace Taffe, 23, purchased his home in February, he immediately went to work trying to increase its value. Having become a licensed realtor with RE/MAX in 1999, he decided to use some of the “tricks” of his trade to his advantage.

Taffe says that besides the overall space a home offers, potential buyers are most often swayed to make their purchase on the condition of the kitchen and bathroom(s). He strongly advises renovating these areas, which can increase the market value of your home by as much as 25%. He also suggests replacing old dreary tiles, windows, and doors to make the property more marketable.

Research is the key, says Taffe. Before deciding to put your house on the market, you should definitely find out the value of the homes in your neighborhood. You can do so by calling your county’s property records office, consulting your local realtors, querying sellers, and asking your neighbors. The price of houses in the surrounding area can affect the market value of your home.

Taffe’s Englewood, New Jersey, home was purchased for $236,000. He says he replaced 32 windows, renovated two bathrooms and a garage, painted the home, and made other miscellaneous repairs that raised his home’s value to more than $300,000. However, to get everything done for an affordable price, he had to be a great haggler and a bit of a do-it-yourselfer.

“By purchasing the materials needed for the improvements myself and hiring handymen to do the work, I was able to avoid the high costs that most renovation companies charge for their supplies and services,” says Taffe. Contracting companies gave estimates between $35,000 and $40,000 to renovate his kitchen and bathrooms. Window installation, painting, and renovating the garage would have cost substantially more.

Rita Mealy, a realtor with Coldwell Banker, says home owners should maintain their property by painting regularly, repairing anything that is broken immediately, and having the septic system inspected at least once a year. Simply put, a house in working order can be sold more quickly than one with multiple faults. And she agrees with Taffe’s renovation strategy. “Bottom line, it is the kitchen and bathroom areas that sell a home,” she says. “Home buyers, particularly women, will overlook the size of the bedrooms and pay more attention to whether the kitchen and bathrooms are clean, spacious, and modern.”

Mealy also says adding an extra bedroom, bathroom, finished basement, or attic can increase the value of your home by at least $15,000. Home owners can knock down a wall within the home to create a larger bedroom, or convert a room into a second bathroom or kitchen. “More than one bathroom in the home is definitely an asset, and can serve to make the home more appealing,” she says.