Top 5 Home Improvements to Make NOW

May, 2009
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Top 5 Home Improvements to Make NOW
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Dear Jane-Marie,
You may be sitting on the fence right now about your home, your job, your life - should you upgrade to a better home since it's a buyer's market, or will you have to move because of the job market?  What home improvements should you be doing now that the bubble has burst?  These are all tough questions.  Read on for a list of the top 5 improvements you should make now even if you don't think a sale is imminent.  It's always better to be prepared.

Top 5 Home Improvements to Make Now
We are all watching our budgets right now, but if you have to move or if you are in need of upgrading a portion of your home, this is a good time to do so based on three reasons:
  1. Labor costs for contractors and handy services have come down substantially over the last couple of years.  And if you don't need to sell right away, you will see more return on your investment once the market bounces back.
  2. Energy-efficient home improvements are seeing significant tax credits from the Obama administration, making it more cost-effective to make those types of improvements (think energy star appliances).
  3. The competition is unbelievable. Your property has to stand out in order for it to sell.
And since the competition is so steep and the market has changed so significantly over the past few years, many people are unsure if they should dump a bunch of money into their property or not.  So, I checked with my friend Susan Throndrud of Remax Results and we came up with a list of 5 budget-friendly areas in which you should concentrate your efforts NOW:
  • Update the Kitchen:  
    • Update hardware on cabinets to black or stainless steel/nickel (brushed or shiny).
    • Switch out old countertops for new ones in a subtle color tone - nothing bold or dark.  Note:  Granite is NOT a must.  Consult with your Realtor and look at the competition, but many times, new laminate countertops are going to be just fine.
    • Appliances do not need to be stainless steel, but they should all match (in white, bisque or stainless).
    • Update the faucet and install a fresh new sink.
  • Curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal!  
    • Place potted flowers at the front door - use ideas from restaurants and boutique shops - they always do a great job of putting together their pots.
    • Change out old door hardware.
    • Pull out overgrown landscaping and replace with evergreen shrubs and mulch.
    • Paint your window trim a color that contrasts nicely with your siding.
    • Paint your door an eye-catching color like red or black or install a new wood door if yours has brass or any frosted glass on it.
  • Stage it
    • Less is more:  Susan's rule is that 3 people need to fit in a room at a time - if you can't get your husband and your neighbor standing with you in your family room, you need to remove some furniture or accessories.
    • Beds should be made like they are made in a hotel (with the top sheet folded down over the comforter/quilt about 1/3 of the way so that the bed doesn't look like a big rectangle in the middle of the room). 
    • Closets should be minimally filled. 
    • Every room should state its purpose obviously - a living room should look like a living room rather than a playroom.
    • Paint calm colors in beiges, pale greens, pale blues and warm tans. 
  • Clean it - especially carpets, windows, kitchens and baths.
  • Change Lighting & Fixtures: 
    • Change out all outdated lighting fixtures (and, yes, brass is outdated, and please remove those vanity lights).
    • Change out all bathroom fixtures to oil rubbed bronze or brushed or shiny stainless.
Before you do anything, feel free to call me or Susan to talk it over.  Investments you make today will affect your selling price, regardless if you plan to sell in the near future or not.  

Staging services available through Embellishments Design Studio for $100/hr.

Before Shots

living room before

bathroom before

After Shots
living room after
bathroom after

Property sold by Susan Throndrud of Remax Results.  Staging provided by Embellishments Design Studio and Susan Throndrud.
Embellishments Design Studio provides interior decorating, space planning and color consultations, as well as custom window treatment designs and staging services so that you can transform the house you live in into the home you love!

Jane-Marie Bloomberg
Embellishments Design Studio