Jason Robie: Renovation refinement

By Jason Robie

If you have lived in your home for a couple years or the home itself is more than a few years old, chances are good that you have considered (even completed) some home improvement projects. I have had the pleasure of reading and learning about real estate for many years now.

One of the more enlightening things I've learned is how these home improvement projects can actually increase the value of the home. This is not to say that it is the only reason to remodel or refurbish. I am a huge proponent of upgrading the home for the simple reason of enjoying the space more. That said; let's look at a few projects that will accomplish both.

The projects we are going to cover today include a wide range of budget and skill needed to accomplish. Please be aware of your limitations and do a bit of planning (do a LOT of planning) before starting to swing that sledgehammer.

Let's get this first "homeowner fantasy" right out of the way up front. There's nothing more exhilarating and rewarding than taking a big hammer to a wall you've always wanted to remove. Some folks even take it a step further and tackle their friends into the wall in hopes of knocking it down in Patriots linebacker style. Suffice it to say, this is a fun project and tends to be rewarding both for the homeowner and the seller. Obviously, you are going to establish if the wall is load bearing and do your homework ahead of time, right?

Removing a wall opens up the living area, makes the space "feel" larger and gives the home a larger impression overall. Having done my fair share of remodeling, the main "pain points" I tend to focus on are both high and low.

Check where the ceiling meets the wall (on both sides) so you can determine how the ceiling will flow between these rooms once they become one. The floor tends to be more problematic since opposing rooms don't always share the same floor covering.

The knocking down of this wall is the fun and easy part. Realizing that you have hardwood on one side and carpet on the other is not a deal-breaker, but is something you will want to have planned for ahead of time.

While we are talking about walls, let's consider replacing those tired windows as well. If you have ever had an energy audit of your home, you know the cost of having lots of windows around the home. We have a great view from our house and eliminating those windows has never been a consideration.

If you're in the same boat, the next best step is to replace them with new, high-quality, dual (or triple)-paned windows. The more insulation you can get from your windows, the less it will cost to heat the home.

Some newer style windows even cut down on the summer heat making it more comfortable year round. While this can be an expensive undertaking, you can also work through it in stages (like we are) and do a few windows at a time to keep this project budget-friendly.

We all know that kitchens and baths are the key selling points in most real estate transactions so why not spruce up your kitchen, both for the potential sale and for your own enjoyment. Replacing the appliances will immediately upgrade your family's experience for nearly every meal. Water and ice dispensers are simply awesome, and a safer, more efficient stove will make even boiling water more pleasant.

"Kitchen upgrades, although potentially pricey, offer immediate and positive feedback for the both the homeowner and the seller alike," Badger Realty agent Kathleen Sullivan Head said. "You get the benefit of more efficient and beautiful appliances for everyday use and the added bonus of an attractive kitchen to show off to potential buyers."

Moving outside to the front of the house, and in the spirit of curb-appeal, consider replacing your front door and adding a walkway.

Allow me to digress for a minute. A few years ago, I owned a Mazda Miata. All summer long, literally every day I left the house, that little red convertible would put a smile on my face the second I walked out the front door. The experience of driving it around the beauty of the White Mountains was never lost on me and always filled me with anticipation of the next ride.

Your home should give you the same experience (minus the wind in your hair). When you get home from a long day, your home should make you smile and give you a sense of pride. Replacing the front door and installing a simple walkway up to the front steps gives your home a welcoming feeling and refreshes that feeling of accomplishment of a job well done. The added bonus of a more efficient and insulating door is just the icing on the cake.

If you have the itch to do some home improvements this summer, consider the above-mentioned projects when you are making your list. The goal should be two-fold. You want to make living there a better experience for yourself and you want to keep the potential sale of the home in the back of your mind so buyers will also be impressed by what you have to offer. Now let's get planning.