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Home Remodeling: Why Choosing the Right Room Matters

by Jane Brown on Mar 16, 2016

Home renovation can be an overwhelming task. On top of choosing colors and styles for new materials, you have to figure out how much work you can afford to do, and which rooms to prioritize for time and financial returns.

While the exterior of a home creates curbside appeal, it often receives a de facto renovation courtesy of mother nature. That is, over time the outside experiences enough weather degradation that we periodically repaint and repair, and we can typically make a style update at the same time with new colors or materials.

So once we get indoors, we have to decide which rooms need our attention the most. If we plan to keep the home long-term, this process will proceed in one way. If we are looking to flip or at least, to eventually sell the house, it will go another. Right now we'll focus on renovating with an eye toward potential resale, and on finding the rooms in the house that will recover the most renovation dollars for us when we sell.

The Kitchen

Perhaps nowhere is the technology treadmill more visible in our homes than in the kitchen. The icebox of yesteryear has been replaced by a computerized refrigerator that has a wide range of temperatures, makes ice, and saves energy in ways our grandparents never thought possible.

So an update to appliances is a very important first step in the home. Remember that these are functional items, things that a new owner would use many times a week. So look past the stainless steel veneer or the sleek lines of an appliance and think instead about how its functionality is an improvement over the old units.

Once you've thought about appliances, you may find that the new ones you like are not a good physical fit in your current configuration. You may need to install new custom kitchen cabinets to accommodate today's massive new equipment. But you aren't buying cabinets just so you can have room for appliances. New storage for a kitchen is also very important to buyers. Empty a few of your drawers or cabinets and check their condition. Look at scratches, rusty or rickety hinges, and wobbly drawer tracks. Now imagine that your buyer is seeing all the spaces emptied, and you'll see why you should make a change.

The Bathrooms

Again, we are looking at functional spaces here with daily demands from the homeowner. Bathrooms are not only a source of practical activities such as daily grooming, but they are also an oasis for recovering from a stressful day. Spacious garden tubs and showers with luxurious spray patterns can do a lot to increase the relaxation factor for residents. Think about what will make the daily routine more pleasurable for a new owner.

But don't neglect the practical! Many consumers today are very in tune with green issues. They want bathrooms that reduce their water and energy consumption. Investigate low-volume commodes, high-pressure (and again, low-volume) showerheads. Consider instant water heaters that don't require a tank to maintain a steady supply of hot water. Look at the insulation in the room, and think about whether that ventilation fan in the ceiling is giving up too much of your climate control to the attic.

Home Systems

Perhaps the least glamorous renovation is the one that can do us the most good on the market. If you have an older home with an older heating and cooling system, you may be sacrificing thousands of dollars a year in energy costs. Savvy buyers will likely want to review utility usage, and if you can install a new HVAC system and use it for a few months before selling, you will be able to produce hard evidence from your utility providers that the new investment is paying off. Buyers love to think they are not just getting more attractive and functional home, but also one that is going to save them money every single month.

The same goes for water heaters, windows, insulation, door gaps, and landscaping. Trees can save us on cooling costs if strategically placed to defer sunlight from the house. Showing a stand of beautiful young oaks on the south side of the home is a good start to a conversation with a buyer about utilities.

We all get a bit of a high from renovating, but it's important to think about the price tag, and which expenditures are most likely to pay for themselves. When we approach it that way, we have a better financial outcome.

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