How to make your home stand out in a hot real estate market

 

(BPT) – The residential housing market is heating up, but before you post that for-sale sign, consider making upgrades that add style and value to your home. With many buyers seeking wood floors, kitchen upgrades and other add-ons, it's important for homeowners to highlight these features so their property stands out from the competition in today's market.

"It all comes down to dollars and 'sense,' " says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. "In addition to warmth, beauty and durability, hardwood features increase your home's resale value. Even with a modest budget, if you take the time and price your options, updating worn floors, dated cabinetry, and lackluster walls will make a significant difference. And it's easier and less expensive than you think."

Survey says hardwood floors sell

When it's time to sell, hardwood floors not only add good looks, they increase the value of your home. According to a nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association, 99 percent of respondents agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. In addition, 90 percent said these homes sell for more money.

"Absolutely true," says Bob Strader, a real estate agent with The NORTH Group of Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. "Between two similar properties, buyers will gravitate toward the home with hardwood floors, and that home will sell in half the time."

Debbie Gartner, known as "The Flooring Girl" by customers at her New York-based flooring store, agrees and says quality increases value. "Hardwood sells," notes Gartner, adding that you're in luck if you already have a hardwood floor under a carpet. "Clients are shocked when I tell them it's almost always less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to re-carpet a room."

What about the kitchen?

Real estate agent Strader advises sellers to "upgrade their kitchens prior to going on the market because buyers see kitchen upgrades as being rather expensive." He adds that, "Homes without updated kitchens will take longer to sell, and will sell for less."

Gerry Henley, president of Kitchen Solvers, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise, suggests simple cabinetry updates that won't break the bank but will result in a higher return on your investment. And hardwood products offer plenty of options.

"Many homeowners overlook the low cost and high impact of re-facing their existing kitchen cabinets," he says. "By swapping out dated doors and drawer pulls, a homeowner can get the look of a newly updated kitchen and save up to 50 percent of the cost of a complete overhaul. Cabinet re-facing is a quick-moving project and the kitchen remains functional throughout installation."

Value in the details

Architectural details – hardwood crown moulding, baseboards and other millwork – add depth and character, provide a finished look, and change lackluster to extraordinary, so much so that according to the National Association of Home Builders' "What Home Buyers Really Want" study, crown moulding ranks higher than other luxury features such as fireplaces, kitchen seating and window seats.

Strader agrees. "From my experience, millwork adds the 'wow' factor that stays in a buyer's mind. And most sellers are unaware that a custom look can be obtained relatively inexpensively with off-the-shelf moulding patterns available at home improvement stores."

The American Hardwood Information Center offers some additional tips to keep costs low. For crown and other decorative ceiling mouldings, consider using a less expensive species such as poplar. Where durability is a must, such as baseboards, door casings and chair rails, consider a harder species, like white oak.

 

Smart home improvements for growing multi-generational households

 

(BPT) – The American family continues to evolve, with multiple generations living under the same roof in more households than any time since the Great Depression. Of America's 76 million households, 5.6 percent (4.3 million) were multi-generational, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Homeowners are finding it's more important than ever to ensure every home improvement project delivers benefits for every member of the family – children, parents and grandparents.

Whether your family grows with the birth of a child or because a grandparent has moved in with you, here are some home improvement projects that are multi-generational family-friendly:

Adding/updating a bathroom

Few household situations are as stressful as too many people sharing just one or two bathrooms. If your home population is growing, but you're still making do with too few bathrooms, adding a bath or upgrading an existing one can make life more pleasant for everyone. What's more, it's a smart investment of your renovation dollars. If you decide to sell your home down the road, you can expect to recoup about 53 percent of the construction cost for a modest bathroom addition, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. And a modest bathroom remodel recoups about 64 percent of your investment.

Finishing a basement or an attic bonus room

If you're looking for more usable living space, finishing a basement or attic bonus room is almost always easier than adding square footage to your home. A finished existing area can be a versatile investment, affording you the space to add a bedroom, bathroom, recreational room, home office or even a second kitchen a la in-law suite style. Upstairs, finishing an attic bonus room can provide a well-lit and airy retreat with the inclusion of fresh air skylights. Downstairs, advances in basement finishing technology have compressed the time-frame of this once pricey and drawn-out home improvement. Remodeling Magazine says a basement renovation pays back more than 70 percent of its cost at the time of resale.

Healthful upgrades

The quality of light and ventilation in our home speaks directly to the safety and health of its occupants. Aging eyesight often needs better lighting, and poor indoor air quality can affect everyone's health, but especially that of young children with respiratory ailments such as asthma. One improvement that addresses both concerns, is a skylight. When opened, an Energy Star-qualified fresh-air skylight can help exhaust stale unhealthy indoor air and bring fresh air into your home. Skylights especially make sense if you'll be creating more inexpensive living space by finishing an attic.

Add remote controlled solar powered blinds to solar powered fresh air skylights in your home and the products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To learn more about no leak skylights that close automatically in case of rain and how they can help improve indoor air quality, search online.

Upgrading key appliances

Whether the hot water heater shudders when your teenager takes a shower or the furnace just can't work hard enough to keep Grandma's bones warm in winter, upgrading key appliances in your home can significantly improve the comfort of its occupants. What's more, replacing older appliances with new ones can help you save money on your utility bills over the life of the product. Replacing an old water heater, furnace or air conditioner with an Energy Star-certified product can trim utility bills significantly.

For example, according to EnergyStar.gov, replacing a central air conditioning unit that is 12 years old (or older) with an Energy Star-qualified one could reduce cooling costs by 30 percent, and switching to a solar water heater could cut your water heating bill in half. What's more certain energy-efficient home improvements may qualify you for a federal tax credit. If you install a residential solar water heating system, you could qualify for federal as well as state tax credits and other incentives. You can find a calculator to help tally the potential payback on a solar water heating system and a federal tax credit estimator to calculate your savings on new or replacement solar powered skylights online.

Creating the perfect porch can be simple and low-maintenance

 

(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it's easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood's natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor living space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components' richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch's warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that "welcome home" feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco's enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood's time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco's exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.