increase home value

Ways to Increase Home Value Before Selling

Inexpensive and Simple Changes Can Boost Your Home’s Value

While North American real estate sales have continued to struggle over the past several years due to the economy, experts predict that homeowners will see an increase in sales in the spring of 2010. Low mortgage rates, tax benefits and lower prices will contribute to this increase in real estate sales. However, are homeowners prepared for the upcoming increase in home buyer traffic?

increase home value

Most homeowners would like to purchase a home that’s move-in ready. However, most home seller’s aren’t interested in making, or can’t afford, major changes or improvements to a home that’s being sold. There are a few simple changes that homeowners can make to boost the value of their home before putting it on the market.

Curb Appeal

curb appeal

First impressions are important, right? Curb appeal, the first thing potential buyers see when driving up to a home, is as important as the home’s inside appeal. Most homeowners feel that the condition of a home’s exterior is an indication of a home’s interior condition.

Paint is an inexpensive way to spruce up a home’s exterior. When painting a home for resale, homeowners should choose a neutral color that would be attractive to a wide variety of homeowners. Any damaged siding or porch floorboards should also be repaired before painting.

Lawn maintenance is also something that the homeowners should take into consideration when preparing to sell their home. Bushes and shrubs should be trimmed and grass should be cut. If landscaping is at a minimum, homeowners should invest in sturdy, colorful plants that complement the home’s exterior color.

Interior Paint and Floors

interior paint and floors

Experts agree that flooring is an essential key to boosting a home’s interior appeal . Homeowners don’t need to invest a lot of money to replace flooring. However, homeowners should be willing to invest time into rebuffing and waxing floors and steam cleaning carpet.

Paint is another way to freshen up a home’s interior. A fresh coat of paint will give a room, or an entire home, a new smell and feel that is enticing to prospective home buyers. Homeowners should be careful when choosing colors for repainting. Like the exterior of a home, interior paints should be a neutral color that will appeal to a wide variety of homeowners.

New Appliances and Fixtures

Replacing appliances and fixtures is an expensive change that some homeowners don’t want to commit to. However, simple fixture changes and an addition of one inexpensive appliance doesn’t have to be a budget buster for home sellers. Faucets in bath and kitchens can often be changed by almost any do-it-yourself novice and be picked up inexpensively at many home improvement stores.

New appliances can be costly. Homeowners should scour home improvement stores for discount, close-out or clearance appliances. Even adding one new appliance to a kitchen can modernize it enough to be appealing to a buyer. If homeowners are on a tight budget, used appliances can be purchased online or at local salvage stores. One thing that homeowners should consider when purchasing used appliances: there will be no warranty to offer home buyers, and used appliances will need to be checked for electrical issues.

Repairs and Improvements

home repair and improvement

Most prospective home buyers aren’t interested in purchasing a home that requires costly repairs and improvements and most are willing to pay more for homes that are already in tip-top shape. When considering putting their home on the market, homeowners should take inventory of all major areas of their home like the roof, electrical and foundation.

If possible, homeowners should make any repairs to these areas before listing their home for sale. Odds are, when the home is sold, an inspector will find any areas that need repair and the home buyer will request these be taken care of before the purchase is finalized.

Getting Rid of Clutter and Cleaning

getting rid of clutter

It seems that cleaning and getting rid of the clutter is a given. However, a lot of home owners tend to bypass this very important step. By presenting a clean and clutter free home, homeowners are presenting to buyers that home has been taken care of.

Homes on the market should be free of any unnecessary clutter and personal items. Family photos and artwork should be put away so that buyers can imagine their family mementos filling the walls and mantel. Also, any unnecessary furniture should be put into storage to that rooms appear larger.

As important as getting rid of clutter, cleaning is also an important step in the home selling process. Homeowners need to take a hard look at bathrooms and kitchens and make sure they are thoroughly cleaned before any viewings of the home. Mold and mildew should be cleaned away and mirrors should be free of spots and streaks.

Even though a homeowner’s furniture is probably not being sold with the house, all furniture should be neat and tidy. Slipcovers and a dust cloth can be an asset to a homeowner when trying to sell a house.

Using Wood Heat as a Primary Heat Source

Heating Your Home With Firewood is a Viable Option

Budget-conscious home-owners are getting in touch with their wood-burning roots. But while the majority of wood stove users burn wood to supplement their primary heating systems, there are a number of dedicated home-owners who burn wood as their only heat source.

Indeed, there are thousands of people across Canada and the United States who use wood as their only source of heat. And not only are these wood stove enthusiasts saving money, but they are also one passionate bunch!

This two-part series discusses:

• The financial benefits of heating with wood
• The personal benefits of heating with wood.

Financial Benefits

primary heating systems

In order to understand the financial benefits of heating with wood, home-owners must think in the long-term. This is because purchasing a modern wood stove can be a substantial cost. However, the purchase of an efficient wood stove is a one-time cost, which is followed by lower annual costs. Over the long-term, wood heat is generally a more economical way to heat one’s home.

The Gordon Family

Take the Gordon family, in Phoenixville, PA, as an example. Darren Gordon, his wife Malia, and their young son live in a 2500 square-foot open-concept home, which they heat entirely with wood. A few years ago, the Gordons purchased an EPA-certified wood stove, a chainsaw, and everything else needed to successfully heat their home with wood. Their purchases totaled just over $3,000.

But now it’s a few years later, and the Gordons have already paid for everything needed to heat their home. With a year’s supply of free firewood stacked and ready to burn, the Gordons anticipate that the family’s heating expenses over the next year should be, in the words of Darren Gordon, “almost zero.”

So the Gordons won’t have a heating bill this year. Nor next year. Nor the year after that! And, if they continue living in their home as they are today, in fifteen years their story will sound a lot like the Ballenthins’ story below.

The Ballenthin Family

Jim and Jean Ballenthin live outside of Backus, MN, and have been heating their home with wood since 1990. Being without a monthly heating bill for the past eighteen years, the couple conservatively estimates that they have saved between $20,000 to $30,000 in heating costs.

Is it actually possible to see such substantial savings by switching to wood? Consider the following example, using today’s numbers:

• Average annual home heating costs in the United States range from $3 000 to $4 500 per year.
• Multiplying $3 000 per year over an eighteen year period adds up to $54 000 in heating costs!

Firewood

A key factor in both families’ savings is that both households have access to free firewood. Both families obtain their firewood supply for free off their own property or through connections (and hard work).

Darren Gordon jokingly calls his firewood-collection methods “scrounging.” Gordon confides, “Once you get good with a chainsaw, you also have an instant side business; people will pay you to remove fallen trees from their property, and you get free wood at the same time.”

Jim Ballenthin, on the other hand, cuts all of his family’s firewood from their own property. “I rarely cut down live, healthy trees,” says Ballenthin. “I take down diseased, dying, or storm damaged trees.”

But, unlike the families mentioned here, not all wood burners have access to free firewood.

Nonetheless, purchasing wood is still a financially viable option. Estimates suggest that it’s common to cut one’s energy bill in half by purchasing firewood instead of oil or natural-gas.

Darren Gordon is pleased with his family’s financial savings. But, with a smile, he warns, “I must admit, I wouldn’t do this for the money savings alone. It’s simply too much work. I heat with wood for a long list of reasons.”

Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

Krypton or Argon-Filled, Low-E, Double-Hung Energy Star Units

Windows aren’t what they used to be. Plenty of contractor-grade windows are installed by residential building contractors, but an upgrade to a krypton or argon-filled, low-e, double-hung model will quickly pay for itself.

A residential energy audit will quickly point out which windows will benefit most from replacement.

Why Krypton or Argon-Filled Windows?

Argon is in fact a very useful gas. It’s used inside incandescent light bulbs to keep oxygen from degrading the tungsten filament. It’s used in processing the silicon to make the semiconductors that make reading this article possible.

With the advent of double-paned windows, manufacturers originally flushed the cavity with nitrogen or simply filled it with air. But they quickly discovered that a slower-moving gas reduces conduction, thus minimizing the transfer of heat and cold from the inside to the outside of the dwelling.

Both krypton and Argon fit the bill. Both are non-toxic which places them in the green building arena. Krypton is the more efficient of the two gases, but more expensive, so it is used in cases where the cavity space between the double panes needs to be reduced.

Low-Emittance (Low-E) Coatings as a Radiant Barrier

Low-e coatings are metal or metallic oxide layers that are microscopically thin and almost invisible to the naked eye. The manufacturer applies them to window and skylight glazings. The end result is a reduction of the U-factor by quelling radiant heat flow.

In this respect, low-e coatings, combined with a gas-filled void, function in a manner similar to radiant barrier foil or paint used in conjunction with attic insulation.

There are two categories of coatings which should be taken into account when selecting energy-efficient windows. High solar gain glazing is more effective in winter, but low solar gain (also called sputtered) wins the prize during the summer.

The home’s dominant weather pattern should determine which type will result in lower utility bills.

The Role of Window Frame Material

energy-efficient windows

Many homeowners focus exclusively on the window and its thermal properties. But consider that the frame itself comprises anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the unit’s surface area. It’s no surprise that the material has an impact on efficiency.

Aluminum: This material is extruded so it’s a good choice for complex arcs and other shapes. A disadvantage is high thermal conductance. It’s also notorious for condensation and even frost inside the home in very cold weather.

Aluminum with a Thermal Break: In an attempt to reduce thermal conductance, the inside of the frame is separated from the outside and a less conductive material is place between the two sides.

Vinyl: Actually this is polyvinyl chloride, or the familiar PVC used in residential plumbing applications. It provides a good insulating factor and the color is permanent since it goes all the way through; there’s no need to paint.

Insulated Vinyl: This is the same as regular vinyl with an insulated core designed to improve thermal performance.

Fiberglass: This material is also known in the industry as glass fiber reinforced polyester. It’s extruded like aluminum, but offers superior thermal qualities.

Wood Window Frames: Wood is the most traditional of all frames. Since it needs to be painted, changing the home’s color scheme is a snap. It can also be fashioned into complex shapes. Routine maintenance is important since wood is susceptible to rotting.

Add an Outdoor Room to Your Home

Outdoor rooms add area and allow a connection with the outdoors

Yards can be used as additional rooms (living, kitchen, dining, etc.), adding square feet, a connection to the outdoors and as an alternative to cranking up the air conditioner. No longer are yards solely the domain of grills and plastic chairs. Today, many are outfitted with ovens, refrigerators, lamps, heaters and sofas.

outdoor rooms

Think about the type of room you would like to add. What are your needs? Think beyond the grill. Outdoor rooms should reflect your lifestyle. How will it be used? Do you entertain a lot? Are you a red meat aficionado? Is pizza your thing? Will this outdoor space be used solely for lounging?

• The range of appliances available is enormous. Explore all of your options. An outdoor kitchen does not have to be limited to a grill and a fridge. Think about a warming drawer, beer dispenser, wood-fired pizza oven, sideburner, smoker, rotisserie, refreshment center or ice machine.

• While you can grill almost any day in some climates, outdoor kitchen appliances are typically only rated to 32 degrees F, so warranties become void in many states due to extreme temperatures, wind and moisture.

• The room/space should be protected by architectural elements such as overhangs and partially enclosed areas. Not that you will necessarily be entertaining outdoors in February, but it does not hurt to block wind and the occasional sprinkle of rain.

• Anything connected to plumbing will need to be winterized (disconnected, blown out and stored). This is a major consideration if you decide to add water lines for sinks, ice makers and more.

• Limit material choices to those that can survive being hosed down (think after-party clean up, mid-summer rainstorms and winter snow as well). Stainless steel, stone, pretreated and exotic woods and brick are perfect for storage and the structure itself. Think about materials that survive well in the climate in which you live.

• Use waterproof and fade-resistant materials for furnishings, cushions and rugs as well. It is better to invest in sturdy pieces rather than replacing them every other season.

• Lighting is crucial. Entertaining and cooking often occur in the transition time between day and night. Add direct lighting to shine on the grill and over the countertops. Consider ambient or mood lighting for seating areas. Many manufacturers make lamps specifically for outdoor spaces.

• Heaters and fireplaces extend the season and allow you to stay outside longer. To create a cozy gathering spot, consider a firepit. For heating and lighting, think about a heater/lamp, which can be used separately or together.