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Projects That Pay
Published: 09/17/2012
Experts recommend upgrading to new energy-efficient windows and adding a little color to the interior of your home.
Experts recommend upgrading to new energy-efficient windows and adding a little color to the interior of your home.
Coaster Consstruction

When it comes to your home, get the most out of your time and money by taking on projects that add value now and later.

There are a number of upgrades you can make to your home, not only to create a more enjoyable space for yourself now, but also to improve your bottom line when the time comes to sell. Experts agree that it's important to be careful about improving too much for your neighborhood. But, updating kitchens and bathrooms and paying attention to the details will still give homeowners a good amount of bang for the buck.

When looking at home improvements, be sure that the cake is sound before you add the frosting. If the roof needs replacing or the windows leak, you might never get the chance to show off that spiffy new home theater to a potential buyer. Once the basics are in good order, here's what the experts recommend for upgrades to beautify your home.

First, take an objective look at the bones of your home and see what basic details could use some upgrading. Kelly Keightley from Astoria Builders Supply recommends coastal homeowners consider installing long-lasting cedar shingles and cedar trim. "Cedar is great here at the Coast," says Keightley, "either finished with a translucent stain or allowed to weather, it stays looking good for years."

Contractor John Nelson from Coaster Construction in Cannon Beach notes that some cosmetic improvements are certainly less costly than others. "Homeowners can re-face cabinets and introduce color and texture to get rid of the white on white." But, according to Nelson, installing new vinyl windows is a particularly good investment for homes at the Coast. This one improvement will make a big difference in the look and performance of the home and will add instant value.

Experts agree that kitchens and bathrooms are still the best bets for the most consistent return on investment, making the cost-to-value positive.

Robin Risley and Tommy Huntington, a real estate team from Coldwell Banker, Kent Price Realty suggest homeowners make improvements that they will enjoy until they are ready to sell. "Kitchen upgrades are always money well spent," said Risley, "stainless steel appliances and granite countertops indicate that the owner has made a change to a more upscale look." It's hard to know what a buyer will want down the road, so Huntington's advice: Spend time and energy investing in things you can live with here and now.

Marianne Pittard from Re/Max River & Sea in Gearhart, recommends keeping out-of-pocket expenditures down in these areas by choosing lower-cost cosmetic improvements. "Paint out the dark wood in kitchens and bathrooms," says Pittard. "Change the hardware, add new light fixtures, paint the walls and trim, and consider using granite tiles instead of solid granite in the kitchen."

Today's buyer is very savvy about upkeep and remodeling, so Cole Horsley from Kamali Sotheby's International Realty recommends that homeowners keep paint fresh inside and out, as it's an indicator that the owner has been careful about maintenance. He also says to hire someone who has the knack for sound remodeling; otherwise, your investment could easily be wasted. Use caution when updating appliances to reflect the current vogue. "Don't put a $10,000 range in a $200,000 house," says Horsely.

What you'll get back on your investment depends on the value of your home and other houses in your immediate vicinity, the housing market where you live and the quality of the project. If your house is the brass knob on the Gold Coast, you stand a good chance of improvements making a huge difference; if it's the neighborhood showplace already, don't "improve" it beyond neighborhood values. - By Valerie Ryan

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