I keep hearing about how buying a home will be the biggest investment you will ever make. This is probably a true statement, which is why it is typically followed up with the question, “what home improvement projects do you have right now?” I bought my home at what I hope was the lowest point in the market, and after two and half years I’m finally thinking about doing some improvements around the house. I say this nonchalantly, but in reality I don’t have a skilled bone in my body when it comes to carpentry, landscaping, or just about anything that has to do with home improvement projects.
The important thing for me to remember is that I don’t know how long I will be living in this house. My wife and I are dead set on moving to the lake. We want to start perusing the options around a year from now and see what’s available. That being said, we want to make improvement to the home in order to make it more attractive to potential buyers, but we also don’t want a pithy 10% return on our investment either. We could tear out and replace the kitchen, which typically has a 70% return on investment, but if we can sell our home for a fair price without making this change we can save ourselves 30% in lost capital.
We have been looking at a much smaller scale in improvements, such as landscaping, light fixtures, painting, bathroom fixtures, etc. These are by no means cheap improvements, nor are they easy for someone with my ineptitude, regardless they are lower priced than the previous options and they can add a lot of visual appeal when showing your home. In fact, we are on our way out shortly to use our Home Depot gift cards to purchase some lighting fixtures and towel bars!
Landscaping is a tougher improvement for me to swallow. Visually this is the first thing any potential buyer will see. They may drive up and drive away if they don’t like what they see. I have let the landscaping sit on the back burner in the nearly three years I have lived here, and even when I get to the point of fixing it up, it’s not one of those “set it and forget it” kinda improvements. You need to stay on top of weeding, mulching, fertilizing, watering, trimming, and overall maintenance every season. All it takes is one lax year and you are back in the same boat as before.
Regardless of the home improvement project you want to do, focus on the one’s that are fiscally smart to do! If you plan on being in your home for a lifetime and you have the extra cash, I say go for it and tackle and project that tickles your fancy. However, if you have to borrow to improve, then hold off, your house isn’t going anywhere. Likewise, if you plan on moving within a few years, any project that isn’t absolutely necessary to selling or renting your home, or won’t provide at least a hundred percent return on investment, isn’t for you.