Want to spice up the conversation at the next house party? Bring up your latest home renovation project. Despite a down-turned economy, people are still doing it. They are renovating and spending on the home improvement front at an above average clip. An article from Calculated Risk concludes that investments in home improvement are exceeding investments in single-family home sales.
For better or for worse, here at the ol’ EcoNest, we are chronic (and sometimes cranky) remodelers. Why go through all the hassle? First, moving is not desired. Second, if we don’t keep up with all the improvements, we’d have to tear the house down and start all over again. For us, it is all about problems that tip our comfort balance.
We are DIYers, and most home improvement and decorating projects my husband and I tackle ourselves. Many folks look to contractors and home improvement loans for answers to their problems. Either way, we keep our fingers crossed in hopes that our grandiose plans won’t end up in a money pit.
Our current bathroom remodel is a great example of balancing a problem. We were noticing more and more mold building up on the walls. To eradicate the mold, we started by replacing the fan. Then put mold-resistant, eco-friendly American Clay. We found an energy-efficient toilet at Green Demolitions. A hemp shower curtain that is naturally mildew and bacteria resistant, and a $9.00 mirror from IKEA were bought. We are just about to take our first mold-free shower without breaking the bank.
Maybe we started with our heads in the clouds thinking we could indulge in a simple remodel, but clouds and pits have silver linings. As with other remodels for our EcoNest, I am convinced the lining is no longer silver, it is green.
So, why remodel now? This Old House’s Josh Garskof, gives us some insight with these 10 reasons to remodel:
1. Money is cheap. After years of overzealous lending to high-risk borrowers, banks have closed the proverbial barn door and tightened up their standards. But for anyone with three thing; a good credit rating, at least 20 percent equity left in his or her home, and proof of income, lenders are as eager as ever to extend fat lines of credit.
2. Contractors are taking small jobs. A few years ago, contractors could afford to choose only big-budget projects, but now they need smaller jobs to keep their crews busy.
3. You can get it done fast. “Two or three years ago, when you called a contractor, it could be six months before he even returned your call,” says Bernard Markstein, the director of forecasting and analysis for the National Association of Homebuilders. “Today, all you have to do is think about a project you want to do, and three contractors will call you.”
4. Materials prices have fallen. With the falloff in demand, construction materials are readily available, and many have come down in price.
5. You can cut a deal on labor costs. To fill their calendars, some contractors have begun discounting their services. “We’re offering a number of 10 and 15 percent off programs,” says Brian Hutto, a vice president of Home Depot’s Home Services, the company’s installation services unit.
6. Some of the bad apples are gone. When the home-improvement business was going gangbusters, anyone with a pickup truck and a metal clipboard could call themselves a general contractor. They didn’t need experience, skill, or good working relationships with subcontractors to find business. Times are tougher, and it’s the marginal guys who have gone under. Of course, you still need to do your due diligence and check references so you don’t wind up being a failing contractor’s unfortunate last client. Also, be wary of new-home builders trying to drum up renovation business; they may not have experience with older houses or working directly with homeowners.
7. You can enjoy the results. Given the state of real estate, you’re probably not going to be selling for a few years. And that means you can truly enjoy the improvements you make.
8. You won’t take a big tax hit. Just as a home improvement won’t drastically increase the sales price of your house, it won’t drive up your property taxes, either.
9. You can slash your energy bills. Had you done your project a few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have thought much about energy efficiency. But heating fuel and electricity costs have doubled over the last two years, says Paul Scheckel, senior energy analyst at the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. That means the additional cost of choosing a high-efficiency furnace, say, which might have taken 10 years of lower utility bills to recoup, could now be recovered in 5. And you’ll probably be in the house long enough to earn back that entire outlay. “Plus, energy efficiency will make your house more comfortable,” Scheckel says, “and it will reduce your carbon footprint.”
10. When the market picks up, you’ll be ready. If and when you do put your house on the market, shoppers will appreciate the upgrades you’ve made.
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.