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How Can I Improve My Home's Value? | Understanding Payback Value | Preparing Your House for Sale | Architects & Contractors | The Art of the Bid | Contractors - Red Flags

The Big Investment

Your home may be your single biggest investment and one of the largest financial transactions you'll ever make. So when you sell, you want to get the best price and the most favorable terms. But there's much more to marketing a home than placing a classified ad in the newspaper and anchoring a "For Sale" sign in the front yard. There are a myriad of marketing options, legalities and details that go into the sale, from the time you set the price to the final closing.

The best way to make sure you sell your home for the best price, and in the shortest amount of time, is to work with a professional agent. I'm educated in every aspect of the transaction, from writing an offer to negotiating the price, arranging financing and following the transaction through to escrow.

  • I know the market and will help you set the right price.
  • I also know what buyers are looking for and the financial incentives that will encourage them to buy.
  • I am a member of the multiple listing service (MLS), a service that enables me to provide detailed information about your home to the thousands of other agents assisting buyers.
  • In addition to the MLS, I interact with other agents on a daily basis. We trade information about new properties and match eager buyers with the right homes.
  • As a Windermere agent, our nationwide referral system provides me access to the large number of people who relocate each year, increasing the pool of qualified buyers for your home.
  • I can quickly separate the qualified buyers from the rest of the pack. This saves you time because your home is only being shown to serious buyers.

How Can I Improve My Home's Value?

Recouping your remodeling investment may be your goal when you sell your house. But when it comes to resale value, all home improvements are not created equal. As a rule, kitchen remodeling projects and bathroom additions almost always pay back 90 percent or more of their costs. However, finishing a basement usually pays back less than 50 percent. Other improvements fall somewhere in between.

Consider these payback estimates* for the most typical home improvement projects:

Improvement Cost Range Return on Investment
Add a new heating or air conditioning system. $2,000 to $4,500 100% for heating 75% for air conditioning
Minor kitchen remodeling. $2,000 to $8,500 94% to 102%
Major kitchen remodeling. $9,000 to $25,000 90%
Add bathroom. $5,000 to $12,000 92%
Add a family room. $30,000 86%
Remodel bathroom. $8,500 77%
Add a fireplace. $1,500 to $3,000 75%
Build a deck. $6,000 73%
Remodel home office. $8,000 69%
Replace windows. $6,000 68% to 74%
Build a pool. $10,000 and up 44%
Install or upgrade landscaping. $1,500 to $15,000 30% to 60%
Finish basement. $3,000 to $7,000 15%
*Compiled from several published surveys - 2005

Understanding Payback Value

Payback value depends heavily on the real estate market and prevailing property values. If the market is slow, expect to see less payback than you would in a fast market. Also, consider the neighborhood: If you remodel your house to twice the size of the other homes on the block, it is unlikely that you will be able to sell at double the price. Issues that can influence payback value include:

  • Type of improvement
    Kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects consistently return the most in resale value and almost always help sell a house. Converting a basement into a family room yields the smallest return on the investment.
  • Scope of improvement
    Projects can be large or small. Sometimes, the cumulative effect of small projects can pay back more in resale value than that of larger projects. Small projects tend to be cosmetic in nature: fresh paint, new doors, garden windows, and ceiling fans. Large improvements involve adding or upgrading living space.
  • Desirability
    Today's fad may be tomorrow's standard. Backyard decks, for example, were difficult to find 30 years ago; now they are common. Decks may not have paid back very much in resale value decades ago, but as decks have become more desirable, their resale value has increased.
  • Cost
    The price of home improvements fluctuates depending on economic conditions and region. If remodeling costs are particularly high in your area (or home sale prices particularly low), you may not recoup as much on your investment as you would if costs were in sync with sales prices.

Preparing Your House for Sale

Once your home is ready to show, your Windermere agent will begin marketing it to potential buyers and other sales associates. It possible, leave the home when buyers are present so they feel comfortable asking their agent candid questions. Other helpful tips include:

  • Remove pets. Take them with you or keep them penned in the yard or garage.
  • Open shades and curtains to let in light.
  • Turn on enough lights so the home is well lit.
  • Remove clutter from tables and bookshelves. Neatness makes rooms seem larger.
  • Put away items in the yard like garden tools, bicycles and toys.
  • Light a fire in the fireplace to create a cozy atmosphere.
  • Grind up part of a lemon in the disposal to add a fresh smell to the kitchen.
  • Keep radios and TVs off, or on a low volume.
  • Keep money and other valuables, as well as prescription drugs, out of sight.

Improvement & Repair Resource Links
Licensing & Industry In Washington
Home & Garden Television

Architects & Contractors


Do I need an architect? It depends on the complexity of the project and whether it requires the high level of technical and design expertise that an architect brings to the mix. An architect also is licensed to protect pubic safety. If the site is difficult or the addition is complicated, you probably will need an architect's services. Otherwise, a general contractor or builder can oversee design matters.


Increasing your property value often entails remodeling. Whether you have a fixer-upper or a great house that you plan to stay in indefinitely, you'll probably hire a contractor sooner or later to finish the basement, remodel the kitchen, or renovate other rooms.

Decisions on home improvement should be made in a judicious manner. If you want to recoup your investment, choose projects that are likely to add value to your home, such as a new kitchen or an extra bathroom. Although it's tempting to hire the contractor who submits the lowest bid, there are other factors to consider:

  • Experience
    The failure of most fledgling contractors can be blamed on poor work habits and shoddy business practices, according to the Small Business Administration. Choose a contractor with a minimum of five years of experience.
  • License
    Most contractors are licensed by the state. While a license alone doesn't guarantee an excellent contractor, it is one way to weed out unlicensed amateurs. Some states also record complaints filed against contractors—you can look these up using the contractor's license number.
  • Bank account
    A contractor with five years of experience and a solid record of bank deposits will, in all probability, stay in business long enough to complete your project. It also indicates that the contractor has sufficient capital and doesn't need your business to pay this month's bills.
  • Insurance
    The contractor should carry workers' compensation and general liability insurance. Lack of insurance could leave you liable for any injuries suffered on the job. Get copies of policies from the contractor's insurance company.
  • Workmanship
    Many contractors carry photo books to show samples of their work. But the only way to judge the workmanship is through an on-site inspection. Ask the contractor for names of recent clients, and arrange to examine projects similar to yours.
  • Teamwork
    The best contractors are those who care about the project as much as you do, and who can work around your schedule and your household's routines. If you want to be involved in every decision, hire a contractor who's comfortable with close supervision. If you want to leave the details to an expert, hire a contractor whose decisions you will trust.

The Art of the Bid

After you have selected several candidates for the project, the next step is to get bids from the contractors. To get comparable bids for the project, write out your project's specifications, including sample building materials and fixtures, and make copies for each contractor submitting a bid. The more detailed the specifications, the easier it will be to compare bids because all the contractors will be using the same fixtures and materials in their cost breakdown. Project Specifications

You may want to hire a designer to create project specifications if you're not comfortable doing them yourself. Specifications for a kitchen remodeling project, for example, might include cabinets, flooring, sinks, faucets, appliances, countertops, doors, windows, and any custom carpentry specifications, such as built-in shelves. Cost Breakdown

Most contractors have their own breakdown sheets, but you can also provide one to make comparing bids easier:

  • Expenses
    Itemize tasks such as subcontractor bids, building permits, and finish carpentry.
  • Materials
    Specify the costs of all building materials.
  • Fixtures
    List the costs of all fixtures to be installed.
  • Labor
    Calculate the cost of labor. (Note that subcontractor labor should be included under Expenses.)
  • Total
    Add the totals from the four categories (expenses, materials, fixtures, labor) to arrive at an estimated bid.

TIP: Experts estimate that most homeowners save about 10 percent on the cost of a remodeling project when they act as their own general contractor.

Red Flags:

Finding a reputable contractor is a matter of asking the right questions and thinking twice about any of the following:

  • The lowest bid : If a contractor's bid is more than 20 percent below the other proposals, be wary. It is usually unwise to hire a contractor who is desperate for your business (and deposit) in order to finish another project.
  • No address on the bill : Reputable contractors should be able to provide a complete address to potential clients. Make sure that you have business documentation before you hire a contractor.
  • "You don't need a permit" : Be suspicious of any contractor who insists that you don't need a building permit for your project. You don't want to hire a contractor who is afraid to have his work inspected.
  • "I don't take checks" : Be wary of a contractor who will accept only cash. Reputable contractors accept checks. Also, don't hire a contractor who asks for cash up front. You shouldn't pay for services that haven't been rendered.
  • Insurance coverage : Confirm that a contractor has at least the minimum insurance--including workers' compensation, property damage, and personal liability--required by the state. If they don't have any insurance, you could be liable for injuries on the job.