From the Wall Street Journal, which home improvements pay off?

Most don’t, which I’ve said here before.

GENERALLY SPEAKING, there are two ways to go about making home improvements. Either you splurge for something purely for the sybaritic pleasure of having it — the Italian marble bathroom you’ve dreamed about; that skylight that your spouse has been hinting at for the last six years — or you take a pragmatic approach, buying an energy-efficient furnace or repairing a leaky roof because you want to increase your home’s market value.

Don’t expect to score on both counts. “Just because you pour $20,000 into your home doesn’t mean that your house is worth $20,000 more,” says Frank Dell’Accio, a real-estate broker in Lindenhurst, N.Y. “I had a guy who invested $100,000 in a $130,000 home after he lived there for four years. He put it on the market at $225,000. He was offered $170,000.” His mistake: spending money on amenities that were only peripheral to the value of the house. “He wanted phones in the bathroom,” says Dell’Accio, “but [who else is] going to pay for them?”

But there is one important area that you should pay attention to:

Basic Improvements
It may not be all that enjoyable, but it’s the basic improvements that may have the greatest return on your home’s value. “You could have a beautiful new kitchen, but if your roof is leaking, you have a real problem,” says Cory. So if you’re thinking of putting your house on the market in the next year or so, be sure to tackle any problems with the home’s structure or mechanical systems before you, say, install that hot tub you’ve always dreamed of.

My advice parallels this article’s: fix the important things and add the fun stuff only if you plan to stay in the house long enough to enjoy them. And oh! Pools? Pool sellers will tell you different, but here’s another area where the Journal and I agree:

Swimming Pools
It’s commonly agreed that a swimming pool has no resale value at all. “I’ve had clients spend $300,000 and fill in the pool,” says one agent. The main reason pools repel more prospective buyers than they attract is that they require expensive upkeep. Running a close second is the fear of liability: Pool accidents are a quick way to end up the subject of a negligence suit. “A lot of people don’t want the responsibility,” says Cory.

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  1. Real Estate Agent

    Great comments Chris. Homeowners should also make sure that they don’t outprice their neighborhood. You don’t want to make 1000’s of dollars of improvement to a home and automatically expect your house to be worth $20K+ over your neighbors house when you go to sell. Houses in a neighborhood tend to have a similar market value.