The term “home improvement” can cover much ground. An improvement can mean anything from a fresh coat of paint or a new screen door to the addition of a wing as large as the original house. It may include work that must be done to keep the place from falling apart or just to keep it habitable, putting on a new roof, getting rid of termites, or replacing leaky pipes. It can mean enclosing a porch to create more living space, adding a bathroom, building a garage, or putting new tile on the kitchen floor. Alternatively, it can mean remodeling a whole house or putting in an apple orchard. However, do not assume that every improvement is going to add to the resale value of your house. As you are going to find out in this article, what, if anything, you get back will depend on the kind of improvement you make, how well it is executed, and whether you make it at a reasonable cost.
For example, these are the kind of improvements you may have to make to keep the house habitable and comfortable—a new roof, a fresh coat of house paint, termite control, insulation, storm windows. They won’t add much, if anything, to the resale value because a buyer will naturally assume that the roof is tight, the paint is in fair condition, the place is not infested with termites, and insulation and storm windows are provided. However, improvements of this sort called “basic improvements,” will very definitely make it easier to sell your house at a fair market price. In one respect, therefore, the money you spend will come back to you if and when you sell the house. Moreover, one thing is sure; if you don’t make basic improvements, you will find that their lack often detracts more from the resale value of your house than it would cost to have them made.
To Hold Its Value, a House Must Be Maintained
Some months ago some young friends of ours asked us to take a quick look at a house they were interested in buying. It was a very attractive piece of property, and the price wasn’t bad. However, we had to point out to our friends that the roof was shot and should be replaced at once, there was a serious moisture problem in the basement, the house was not well insulated and lacked storm windows, and, all told, they’d probably have to put $15,000 or $25,000 into the place, just to make it habitable. The couple decided that if so many apparent things were wrong with the place, probably a lot of other things that were less obvious also were wrong; so they decided not to buy the house but to keep looking until they found one that was sound. You will, of course, find buyers willing to take on a house that needs a good deal of basic work, but most of us do expect a house to be in a livable condition.
There is one type of improvements—we might call them “ego improvements”—that won’t add value to your property and may even be a decided handicap when it comes time to sell. These are the expensive and highly personalized projects that are so dear to the hearts of many homeowners: a basement remodeled into an “olde English” pub, a Roman-size marble bathroom complete with sauna and gym, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a monster backyard brick barbecue. If you have the need and the money to make such improvements, that’s your affair, but don’t expect a prospective buyer to give you an extra nickel for them. Moreover, it’s possible that he or she may want you to come down a bit on the price to cover the cost of getting rid of them. Ego improvements are a form of over improvement, and this is something you want to avoid.