From The Boomer & Echo Mailbag: Renovating For Resale

From the questions we are receiving, it seems that some of our readers are on the move. They want to get the best bang for their buck when selling their residences.

Q. Which home improvements have the highest return on resale value?
Q. We are in the process of selling our “starter” house and moving up to a larger home. What can we do to maximize our sale price?
Q. What is the impact of landscaping and curb appeal on resale/selling prices?

A. How much you spend on improvements should largely depend on how long you plan to live in your home. If you are thinking of selling your home in the near future, it’s useful to consider any remodelling project from a buyer’s perspective.

It’s difficult to imagine spending thousands of dollars on a home-improvement project that will not be reflected in the home’s value when it comes time to sell. But, prospective buyers look at a home very differently than the homeowners do.

Related: Our shocking basement renovation bill

There is no simple equation for determining which projects will garner the highest return. But, a reasonable buyer should appropriately value these improvements:

  1. Kitchen remodel. This is considered by many to be the best boost to your home’s value – upgrade counters, cabinets and appliances, or redesign for efficient work-flow.
  2. Bathroom remodel. Bathrooms are considered the most effective rooms to update. Especially popular are improvements to master ensuites such as large, walk-in showers which have replaced whirlpool tubs as desirable. If your home has only one bathroom, consider adding another one instead of remodelling the existing.
  3. Increased living space. Adding outdoor living space such as a sun room, deck or patio increases the value of your house. Finishing a basement converts it to a functional area that can significantly add to the livable square footage in your home, especially one that can be converted to a suite or accommodate large families.
  4. Landscaping and curb appeal. A buyer gets their first impression from the exterior of your home. Money spent on landscaping can add a significant amount to the resale value of your home, 7 – 15 % of a home’s value according to HGTV’s Carson Arthur. Don’t over-landscape, though. Maintain a green and healthy lawn and neatly trimmed shrubbery. Mature trees can enhance property values 20%.
  5. Other. Hardwood flooring is the most sought after flooring by home buyers. Add more storage – options to consider include built-ins and garage shelving.

Every home owner’s first priority is maintenance. If you’re renovating with an eye to selling, make sure you’re not just covering up problems. Take care of the “boring” basics, especially in an older home – replace an aging roof and siding, update the heating/cooling system, replace windows and doors to be more energy efficient as they near the end of life expectancy.

Related: Singing the home renovation blues

Don’t spend your money on an extensive kitchen remodel when your roof is two layers of shingles and 30 years old. For a buyer, knowing the roof needs to be replaced is a bigger issue than a functional – but dated – kitchen, no matter how awesome the remodel is.

Renovating for resale

If you are selling soon and your renovation budget is limited, try these small projects:

Small budget projects (>$2,000):

  • New fixtures and hardware can have a big impact on the look of a space. Consider upgrading the hardware on bathroom and kitchen cabinets as well as towel racks and faucets. Caulk the tub and re-grout tile. Change the backsplash.
  • Update light fixtures and opt for new window coverings.
  • Changing and refreshing the wall colours can completely transform a space. It’s one of the simplest and most affordable renovations to do. You don’t necessarily have to paint the entire house, just high traffic areas and any brightly painted rooms. Use neutral colours – gray, putty, beige.
  • Nothing drives away would-be-buyers faster than grime and weird smells in a messy home. Take care of minor repairs. Do major decluttering and a thorough cleaning. Consider home staging.

Final thoughts

To appeal to a wider number of prospective buyers, ensure your renovations blend in with the overall style and design or your home. Don’t “over-improve” and price yourself too high for your location. Make sure the cost is in keeping with your neighbourhood or you will not get value.

Ensure workmanship is of good quality and materials are consistent with other homes in the area.

Financial Planning For Couples: Planning Your New Financial Life Together

Your loving give me a thrill,
But your loving don’t pay my bills

“Money (That’s What I Want)” – The Beatles

Financial planning for one person can be complicated enough. When you get into a long-term relationship with someone else and combine your households, you join your financial lives as well.

Just because your beloved is a great kisser and you have lots in common doesn’t mean that he or she is financially compatible with you or responsible.

Friction over how we spend and save is one of the leading sources of conflict in a relationship. Numerous studies have shown that money is the number 1 reason why couples argue – and often is the main reason for untying the knot.

It’s inevitable that money issues will come up between you and your spouse.

Your credit, financial reputation, and overall economic picture is closely tied to this person who may or may not have the same feelings and thoughts about money that you do. As a married couple, you and your spouse have a tremendous impact on each other’s financial picture and both of you are affected by the other’s financial situation.

The money talk

Ideally you should have the money discussion once your relationship starts to get serious and before you co-sign a lease on an apartment together or walk down the aisle. However, most of us don’t know how to talk about money and tend to shy away from it.

We’ve been told it’s impolite to discuss money with others. It’s embarrassing to admit that our own finances aren’t in the best shape. People tend to get emotional and reactive.

Each of us tends to view money a little bit differently, depending on the role it played in our lives growing up, and often your partner will have a different take on it than you do. Many couples lack clarity regarding their financial compatibility. But every couple needs to discuss these issues.

Related: Couples Money – Savers vs. Spenders

Many times a lack of communication is to blame. One has dreams of travelling the world, whereas the other’s goal is to save for a comfortable retirement. Couples may initially talk about where they want to live, or how many kids they want to have, but almost never consider financial compatibility.

Sarah and Jerrod fell madly in love when they met 5 years ago. They married in 2012 and Sarah was pregnant a year later. Sarah wanted to quit her job to be a full-time mom after the baby was born. In her mind that was always the plan.

 

On the other hand, Jerrod just made the assumption that Sarah would return to work after the baby was born. In his mind he wanted to continue enjoying the lifestyle their dual incomes provided.

 

Then – surprise! Sarah had no idea that Jerrod had over $40,000 in student loan and credit card debt and he was worried he might not be able to support the family on his own.

 

Jerrod and Sarah simply had different expectations about what their lives should look like. They made assumptions that turned out to be wrong.

It may be easier to start out talking about a common goal, such as planning an upcoming vacation or wedding. You can bring up how you will save for it and your views on debt. Gradually, as you become more comfortable and trusting, you can discuss your current financial situation, dreams and goals.

The things that promote financial health have a lot in common with the things many people say promote a healthy relationship. A key part is having an open conversation about what their future plans are, and where each spouse stands in terms of income and debt. Confide in your partner. Discuss your worries. Keeping financial problems to yourself is destructive.

You need to know how each of you envisions your life together, how you’ll pay for it and who’s responsible for what.

Be open and aware of each other’s financial situation. Get to know each other’s spending habits.

Only by having a clear picture of assets and debts can a couple make the most of their financial resources and make a solid spending and investing plan.

Schedule regular meetings

Hashing out money matters may not be romantic, but a little communication can do a lot for your love life down the line.

Schedule regular “money meetings” monthly or quarterly to go over your budget, vacation ideas, children’s upcoming activities and plans for the future.

Related: Having that difficult money conversation

Use this time to set financial goals together, monitor progress, brainstorm creative solutions to problems, generate ideas to improve your future, and celebrate your successes.

As long as you’re making progress, don’t judge your partner for playing a round of golf or buying a new sweater. Finger pointing and blaming doesn’t help your balance sheet. Even if you’re spending your own hard-earned money, your decisions affect both of you.

Working together 

For many couples, your financial life together evolves over time. As a couple you tackle these goals as a team, often getting ahead financially much more quickly than a single person could. But you need to work together to come up with a game plan.

Rank your financial priorities and make a list of the steps it will take to accomplish these goals and where they coincide. When they collide you need to figure out which you can delay or even live without.

It’s important to understand each other’s money personality and work with it. One of you makes decisions instantly while the other deliberates for days. One of you hates paperwork, while the other lives for detailed spreadsheets. Focus on the positive outcome.

Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses on money management and then figure out who should take the lead and be accountable in which financial responsibilities. Who will be responsible for paying bills? Researching large purchases? Managing investments?

Related: Joint or separate accounts – How should couples handle finances?

No matter who takes the lead in managing a couple’s money, both parties need to participate in the process and know where your household stands financially. This will keep you both committed to your financial plans, eliminates misunderstandings, and minimizes the blame game when something goes wrong.

Identify areas where you might have differing approaches to money management. We all have different spending styles, expectations and approaches in the way we manage money.

You can figure out how to sort through and resolve those differences, but you can also celebrate them. If one of you is a saver and the other a spender, create a budget that allows for both. If your partner is a bargain hunter, put him in charge of the spending while you invest the savings.

Don’t ignore your partner’s needs. It may not be important to you, but if it’s important to your partner – it’s important to your relationship. Learn how to compromise so both of you feel satisfied. A plan should work for both of you even if it’s not what you had in mind initially.

Final thoughts

It all comes down to communication. Many couples find it hard to talk about money and this can lead to problems down the road. Don’t let small problems or assumptions grow into larger problems.

From the onset, be open with each other and talk about your money concerns. No two people have identical values when it comes to money so open communication will help identify what is important to each of you. Then you can make the best decisions about your money as a couple.

A good relationship is one in which each party helps the other make better choices – and you may be able to help each other become smarter about handling money.

Work together to achieve financial success.

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