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13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

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Enjoy that hard-earned tax return money on summer evenings by adding a privacy fence or outdoor kitchen.

Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.

April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”

Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.

Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”

Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.

Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.

$2,000 refund: Add style

Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.

Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.

Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.

$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind

Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.

Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.

 Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Is This the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do it Early

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It appears that Americans are regaining faith in the U.S. economy. The following indexes have each shown a dramatic jump in consumer confidence in their latest surveys:

  1. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index
  2. National Federation of Independent Businesses’ Small Business Optimism Index
  3. CNBC All-America Economic Survey
  4. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey

It usually means good news for the housing market when the country sees an optimistic future. People begin to dream again about the home their family has always wanted, and some make plans to finally make that dream come true.

If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:

HSH.com:

“We think that conforming 30-year fixed rates probably make it into the4.625 percent to 4.75 percent range at some point during 2017 as a peak.”

Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s Chief Economist:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the 30-year fixed mortgage rate hits 4.75 percent.”

Mark Fleming, the Chief Economist at First American:

“[I see] mortgage rates getting much closer to 5 percent at the end of next year.”

Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist:

“By this time next year, expect the 30-year fixed rate to likely be in the 4.5 percent to 5 percent range.”

Bottom Line

If you are feeling good about your family’s economic future and are considering making a move to your dream home, doing it sooner rather than later makes the most sense.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

DIY Updates That May Boost Your Home’s Value

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Complete these projects and you may love your home so much you’ll want to hold onto it.

Boosting your home’s value doesn’t have to mean a complete remodel. In fact, quite a few home improvement projects aren’t worth the effort if you’re hoping to quickly increase your home’s value.

However, there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects you can accomplish with a few weekends of hard work. And don’t let the letters D-I-Y scare you away from efforts toward increasing your home’s value. Successful DIY projects simply require thorough research and preparedness.

Here are a few DIY updates throughout your home that could increase its sale price.

Kitchen: Add adhesive backsplash tiles

You can find self-adhesive backsplash tiles in a variety of styles and colors. A DIY backsplash tile project is both easy to install and practically mess-free.

First, clean the walls with warm, soapy water. The tiles won’t stick as well if the wall surface is coated with grease or dirt.

Be sure to follow the exact instructions for the brand of adhesive tiles you’re working with. Generally, you’ll be instructed to install the tiles from left to right, completing the bottom row first.

If you’re working around any outlet plates, take them off. Be sure to leave a bit of space when placing the tiles around the edge of the outlet so you can get the wall plates back on again with ease. If you need to cut any tiles, a razor knife will take care of the job.

If you need to remove or reposition tiles, they will peel off with heat from a hair dryer.

Bonus idea: You don’t need to replace your current cabinets to get an updated feel. Try an all-paint, no-construction approach, or remove your cabinet doors completely to showcase what’s behind them.

Bedroom: Install crown molding

Enhance your bedroom’s style with nothing more than a few strips of wood. Installingcrown molding may sound tough, but it actually doesn’t involve much more than picking up some molding (essentially, decorative strips of wood) from your local home improvement store, cutting it to size, and using a nail gun to attach it to the top of the wall.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

A home improvement store can help you identify the exact tools you need, as well as cutting the molding to size.

Bonus idea: Install ceiling fans for added air circulation and lighting. You’ll both save on the electric bill by cutting A/C costs and gain a decorative element for the room.

Laundry room: Revamp and revitalize

Update your laundry room or closet by removing the builder-basic wire shelving and replacing it with more attractive wood shelving options or even cabinets.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Paint the closet, improve storage, and add decorative elements to make it a space you look forward to revisiting each week.

Bonus idea: Add an expandable rod between shelves for added air-drying space.

Garage: Clean and paint the floor

If your home is a few years old, chances are the floor of your garage and driveway may have a few stains.

Try blotting the stains with newspaper to soak up excess oil, then use liquid dishwashing soap, hot water, and a scrub brush to tackle the rest. Once finished, pour some kitty litter on the remaining stained areas to absorb any extra residue.

After cleaning the floor, consider filling any concrete cracks you see, then apply a specially formulated garage floor paint, which will help protect against oil and mildew.

Bonus idea: Install shelving or racks. You can use a pallet to store and organize sporting equipment and a pegboard to hang items like folding ladders and gardening tools.

Yard: Upgrade landscaping

You don’t need to start a garden to impress potential buyers. Add some greenery along walkways and patch up any bald spots you see with fresh sod. Be sure to trim and maintain trees and bushes, too.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Bonus idea: Use drought-friendly plants when updating your landscaping, and choose plants with a long lifecycle. Perennial plants are a good choice, as they come back year after year.

Other DIY quick fixes

  • Clean your gutters.
  • Power wash your sidewalks.
  • Paint the front door.
  • Change your light fixtures.
  • Update your window treatments.
  • Upgrade cabinet knobs and drawer handles.

While these tips for home DIY projects will get you started, don’t begin any project without additional research. From instructional DIY blogs to online video tutorials to classes at your neighborhood home improvement stores, there really are endless resources for you.

Posted by Sarah Pike on Zillow

3 Home Upgrade Options for a $1,000 Budget

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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