Home Improvement Lesson of the Week

Have you done your homework? Study up with a quick chalkboard tip.

Fall is almost here — time to dive into a new school year. It’s also a great time to tackle that home improvement project you’ve been putting off all summer.

To help you do your homework, we’re sharing remodeling lessons from “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate.” Here’s the latest tip:

It pays to get A’s, but C’s get degrees. The same can be said about renovations: A no-expense-spared remodel is nice while you get to enjoy it, but once you sell your home, you may be wishing you’d aimed a bit lower.

Data shows spending a ton on a renovation doesn’t necessarily increase your home’s resale value more than spending a lot less money.

Take mid-range windows, for example. A homeowner will recover, on average, $1.15 for every $1 spent. But for beautiful, double-glazed panes with stained hardwood interior trim, you’ll most likely break even at $1.01 for every $1 paid out of pocket.

No, that’s not a typo. Data shows bathrooms are where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck if you’re trying to up your home’s resale value. But the key is function, not fashion. Here’s why:

The median cost for an upscale bathroom remodel is $12,000, with only $.87 recovered for every dollar spent. Meanwhile, a $3,000 mid-range bathroom typically returns about $1.71 per dollar invested.

In other words, turning a non-working or low-end bathroom into a functional space is a lot more valuable to prospective buyers than upgrading a room that’s already in good shape. Plus, a lot of home shoppers filter their search by a certain number of bathrooms. If you add another one, you may  increase your odds of getting on their radar.

Before you splurge on new countertops, ask yourself why you’re renovating your kitchen in the first place. If you’re fixing up your home to put it on the market, you’d be better off updating another room.

Kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment of the home improvements studied in “Zillow Talk.”

In fact, both upscale and mid-range kitchen renovations recover about half the cost invested. In other words, whether you spend $5,000 or $20,000, you likely won’t recoup the the full cost.

There’s no shame in getting that man cave you’ve always wanted. Plus, basement remodels are cheaper upfront: They tend to cost around $10,000 while adding a second or third story can reach five times that amount.

But if you’re looking to increase your home’s resale value, adding another floor is where it’s at. Data shows a basement renovation typically returns $0.48 for every dollar spent, while a story addition gives you $1.02 per $1.00.

Moral of the story? Aim high on your next home addition if you want to come out ahead.

Posted by Catherine Sherman on Zillow

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3 Home Upgrade Options for a $1,000 Budget

Looking to update your home without spending a pile of cash? Here are three projects you can complete for just $1,000 each.

Whether you’re hoping to make your home more comfortable to live in or trying to broaden its appeal for a quick sale, small updates can be a win-win. But home improvement projects can be tricky because if you spend too much, you may not get the return on that investment.

To add value to your home, focus on two categories. First, adding function to the home is a given. You will love that update, and so will future buyers. The second is adding charm and character, which will make your home a happier place for you, and can be an advantage when it’s on the market.

For the relatively small renovation budget of $1,000, you can complete any one of the following projects, boosting the appeal and value of your home.

Add a wall of built-in bookshelves

Few things say charm and character like built-ins. Take them floor-to-ceiling on an empty wall in your living space, dining room, or even hallway. To really boost the appeal, add sconces in between or over each shelf.

Not only do built-ins create a beautiful focal point in your home, they also increase function. They’re perfect for book storage, but you could also get a set of pretty woven baskets to store and conceal items. You get more storage without compromising the tidy look of the shelves.

Create faux beams in your cased openings

Wood beams instantly add appeal to your home. While this is purely a cosmetic upgrade, it’s one that will have you, your friends, and future buyers swooning.

On any cased opening in your home, pop off the trim and use stained framing lumber to cover the sides. Run one long piece across the top and you’ve created the look of an actual beam for less cost.

Adding beams increases your home’s charm and makes a real statement. It’s a perfect addition to entry ways or living areas.

Build paired closets

Adding closets to your home has the obvious benefit of providing much-needed storage. The issue, however, is that building a closet usually means taking a corner out of a room. You get the storage, but you’re left with an awkward protrusion into the space.

Paired closets in each corner on a wall solve this issue — and you get double the storage. Paired closets look purposeful in a room, and their symmetry is visually appealing. This configuration creates a charming nook in between to place a table, bench, or even bed.

You’ll love having the extra storage, and any future buyers will, too. After all, you can never have too much closet space.

Regardless of which upgrade you choose, you can’t go wrong with these cosmetic and functional home updates. With a modest investment, you’ll immediately enhanced your home with charm and usability anyone would love.

Posted by Lindsay Jackman on Zillow

Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green

Invest in home improvements that benefit the environment (and your budget) year-round.

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Each year, Americans save billions of dollars by employing energy-saving measures and investing in energy-efficient homes. Some upgrades — like Energy Star appliances, new hot water heaters, or geothermal pumps — can be pricey upfront, but there are plenty of small, inexpensive updates that will make a big difference in your budget over time. Here are some places to start.

Go low-flow

Thousands of gallons of water go down the drain every day. Toilet flushing and showering are the two biggest culprits. One solution is to upgrade your home’s plumbing fixtures so you use less water to accomplish the same task.

Low-flow fixtures, which are both inexpensive and easy to install, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent, and save you up to $145 a year on electricity, according to Energy Star.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient insulation is one of the quickest energy payback projects you can undertake. If your house doesn’t have enough insulation (and many homes don’t, especially those built before 1980), bringing it up to current standards will not only make it more comfortable all year long, but you’ll save money — anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Consult the Department of Energy’s ZIP code specific recommendations for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs

Yes, fluorescent bulbs are more expensive that regular bulbs, but each bulb can save up to $40 over the lifetime of the bulb, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.

Install a programmable thermostat

Did you know that the average household spends about $2,000 annually on energy bills, and that close to half that figure can be attributed to heating and cooling?

Enter the programmable thermostat. When used properly (don’t be intimidated!), this little gadget, which you reset when you’re asleep or away from your home, can pay for itself in a matter of months. Annually, you’re looking at saving up to $150 or more.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow