Now that the ball has dropped and the confetti has been swept away, it’s time to make good on all those New Year’s resolutions. Aside from the usual promises of losing weight, learning a new language, or quitting bad habits, many have declared that this will finally be the year they tackle that home renovation project they’ve been talking about. Whether building a new addition, installing energy-saving updates, adding safety measures, refreshing your landscape design, or just simply organizing, completing these projects can raise the value of your home while also improving your living experience.
We’ve all heard the saying “there’s no time like the present,” and it holds particularly true in this instance. January just happens to be the slowest month for contractors1, which means not only will your project have their full attention, but they will also be more likely to negotiate their asking price.
So where to start? A good way to begin is by making a list. Go through your house room-by-room, writing down all of the things you would like to change about each space. Once you’ve completed this step, prioritize your list. Some of the main things to consider when ordering your list are the return on investment, the impact on your family’s daily lives, and of course, your budget. Creating this prioritized list will make it easier to decide which projects to undertake first, and will also allow you to see how many updates you can complete yourself.
BEST RETURN ON INVESTMENT
If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, there are several intriguing options to fit budgets of all sizes. Something as simple as a new coat of paint can really help freshen up a room while also delivering a 250% return on investment. Purchasing a new steel front door has several benefits, including saving energy, increasing security, and improving curb appeal. While fiberglass doors are more expensive and tend to result in a 65% ROI, steel doors can net you 129%. For bigger interior design budgets, kitchen (88% ROI) and bathroom (81%) remodels are the best way to go. As most realtors will tell you, prospective buyers pay more attention to the bathroom and kitchen than any other rooms in a house.
One thing which should be on everyone’s to-do list is making their home’s safer. First, check that your smoke detectors are working correctly, and if you don’t have one already, purchase a carbon dioxide detector. Also, be sure to test you house for radon. One in every 15 U.S. homes has elevated levels of this colorless, odorless gas which causes roughly 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. Radon test kits are not only a wise purchase, but are also quite affordable, costing as little as 20 dollars.
There are also simple safety updates you can make to the exterior of your home. For instance, by pruning your shrubs and bushes you can reduce the areas for potential intruders to hide. Another quick and easy way to help protect your home from unwanted visitors is by installing motion sensor lights.
Taking measures to ensure that your home is energy efficient is a wise investment that will pay for itself over time, and could eventually even save you money. Installing double pane windows is a great way to reduce your heating bill while also improving security. Taking the time to caulk and weather strip all openings to the outside can shave an extra 10% off your heating bill as well.
Updating the lighting in your home with compact fluorescent lamps and “soft start” electronic ballasts will also dramatically cut your bill. Because fluorescent lighting is three to five times more efficient and the bulbs last 10 to 20 times as long as normal bulbs, making this simple switch can reduce your lighting costs by as much as 30 to 60 percent.
Also, be sure to perform regular maintenance on your heating/cooling system. A simple thing like changing your filter once a month can help air flow, allowing your system to work at maximum efficiency. Consistent maintenance will ultimately save you money, cutting 20-30 percent off your utility bill while also preventing breakdowns.
What makes these updates even more intriguing are the energy-efficient home improvement tax credits included in the recent “fiscal cliff” deal. The bill provides tax credits of 200 to 500 dollars for homeowners who install energy-efficient updates similar to the ones mentioned above.
Improving your curb appeal is one of the wisest investments you can make. A recent study by Clemson University2 showed that landscaping can deliver more than a 100 percent return on investment and raise the overall value of your home by 10 percent. This means updating your yard could raise the selling price of your home more than any single renovation to your actual house itself, including kitchen and bathroom remodels.
No matter the budget, we can all afford to organize our homes better. Go through your closets and get rid of everything you don’t need. As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t worn it or haven’t used it in the past year, you probably won’t this year either. Bag up clothes and toys for donation, and be sure to keep records for tax deductions. Use decorative wicker baskets in your living room to store things like blankets and DVDs. No matter the room, make sure to store frequently used items in easily accessible areas near the location they will be utilized.
The new year provides a wonderful opportunity for both you and your home to evolve. In addition to raising your home’s value and delivering a strong return on investment, updates to your home and surrounding property can also be beneficial to your overall state of mind by lowering stress and creating excitement. So this year, even if you can’t make time to learn Chinese or fail to drop four pant sizes, be sure to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. After all, there’s no time like the present.