By: Lynn Ettinger
Not feeling like a big spender these days? Check out the rewards of small home improvements.
How can myths sound so right yet still be wrong? Take the one that says homeowners need to do a big remodeling project (think HGTV gut rehab) to get a worthwhile return on investment or happiness. Not necessarily, according to the most recent National Association of REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Report.” The survey found that homeowners can get payback and joy from several smaller, lower-dollar-value home improvement projects.
That’s good news for the one in five millennials and Gen Xers who had to compromise on the house they bought in 2021. Ditto for potential buyers whose offers were rejected and who are staying put for now. If you’re coping with inflation but eyeing a home improvement, a smaller remodel is worth considering.
Small projects are suited to DIY, which can save you cash. NAR research showed that 10% of young millennials, between 23 and 31, want a fixer-upper home where they can work on DIY projects. The supply chain is also cooperating, as some products used in renovation are coming back into the market.
Of course, kitchen and bathroom makeovers will always have a place in our hearts — if not our wallets. The following five high-performing projects listed in the NAR report are less expensive — though admittedly less exciting — options. But then again, there’s nothing woo-hoo about your scratched and dinged hardwood floors or having your utility bills outpace your grocery bills.
#1 Hardwood Flooring Refinish or Replacement
“Interest in hardwood floors was definitely the headline from this year’s report,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of NAR Demographics and Behavioral Insights. In fact, refinishing hardwood floors grabbed the top spot for interior remodeling projects that bring the highest return. Remodelers estimated the cost at $3,400, and REALTORS® estimated the value recovered at $5,000, a whopping 147% return. Consumers gave the project a joy score of 10 out of 10. On top of that, 100% of consumers surveyed said they want to be at home more after finishing the project. For 64% of consumers, the most important benefits were durable and lost-lasting results and materials.
“With hardwood floors, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and they’re not that expensive,” Lautz says. “And people really like them.” Post pandemic, homeowners are still concerned about cleanliness, and hardwood floors are relatively easy to clean. Plus, with increased pet adoption, homeowners prefer surfaces that are less likely to stain or retain odors.
Refinishing makes sense when everyday life has left scuffs, dents, dullness, and scratches — all unwanted reminders of spills, accidents, dragged furniture, and ground-in dirt from foot traffic. Your options for refinishing will depend on whether the coating or the wood itself is damaged. The deeper the damage, the higher the refinishing cost.
New wood flooring snagged the second-highest score for interior projects, with a $5,500 cost and a $6,500 cost recovery, netting 118% in value recovered. Although it’s a bigger investment than refinishing, new flooring will let you opt for the hardwood and finish you prefer. And that will affect the floor’s durability and appearance.
#2 Insulation Upgrade
Buyers want to cut their energy costs where they can, Lautz says. “We see consumers who want a home that’s energy efficient. They want their utility costs cut and efficient heating and cooling. But the typical home they’re purchasing is 29 years old and quite dated. So, it may not have good insulation.”
Making this home improvement could factor into more than comfort level and energy prices by appealing to buyers when you’re ready to sell. In a survey of REALTORS®, 63% said promoting energy efficiency in listings was very or somewhat valuable. That’s in line with preferences of home buyers, who ranked the importance of heating/cooling and insulation at seven out of 10.
If you’re still on the fence, consider that an insulation upgrade, at an average cost of $2,500, is relatively inexpensive. And it recovers $2,500 for a break even. The joy score of 10 is worth shouting about.
You can tackle an insulation upgrade as a DIY project; some can be done in a short 15 minutes. Installing certain types of insulation materials, like fiberglass and mineral wool, are especially DIY-able, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. But spray foam and some other insulation types require a professional. The Department of Energy offers advice too: The maximum thermal performance, or R-value, of insulation greatly depends on how well it’s installed. So, it pays to stick within your skill level.
#3 Closet Renovation
Consumers surveyed took on a closet upgrade for two main reasons: to add features and improve livability, and to improve organization and storage. This update averaged $6,000, costing more than some of the other smaller projects. But the cost recovery was substantial, at $5,000, or 83%.
On the satisfaction side, more than three-fourths of consumers (79%) said that now that they’ve remodeled, they want to be at home more. Almost half said the most important result for them was greater functionality and livability. And the joy score? Another perfect 10.
Closets are using something like a Legos approach when remodeled, according to the pros. “You take the basic building blocks — like drawers, hangers, hampers, shelves — but you use them differently and add to them,” says David Cutler, president of The Closet Works in Montgomeryville, Pa. “People want storage for their particular needs. If you have 100 pairs of shoes, you need creative ways to deal with shoe storage: shoeboxes, slanted shoe shelves, straight shoe shelves, shoe cubbies.”
#4 Add or Upgrade Laundry Area
Laundry wrangling is more of a chore if you don’t have enough work space or you’re missing certain features, like a countertop or a sink. Consumers in the survey said they focused on laundry room improvements to add features and improve livability or because they had just moved into their home and wanted to customize it. Sixty percent said the most important result was better functionality and livability, so they met their goal. The overall joy score was 9.5.
Laundry room remodeling costs $4,000 to $12,000, according to FixR. Why the broad range? Laundry rooms can be located in different parts of the home and vary in size and shape. Most people pay around $7,000 for a 35-square-foot laundry room that includes mid-range upper and lower cabinets, a laminate countertop, and front-loading appliances, FixR says.
Of course, you can upgrade an existing laundry room or space by adding à la carte features. Popular add-ons include stock or custom cabinets, a sink, countertops for work space, good lighting, and durable flooring. Some of the fancier options include units for hanging wet items like T-shirts so they can drip into the sink and racks that pull out of drawers for drying fine woolens, Cutler says.
Don’t forget about small DIY improvements — like painting walls or cabinets and adding lighting. They’ll help you customize the space so you might almost enjoy doing laundry.
#5 Paint One Interior Room
Painting an interior room is one of the most DIY-friendly small home improvement projects. There’s nothing like it to freshen a room or fix a quirk or two. More than half of the consumers in the survey chose it because they wanted a change. And more than a quarter wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials. Most of us fit into one or both of those groups, right? Beauty and aesthetics were the most important results consumers mentioned. And the joy score? 10.
Hiring a professional to paint a room costs $990 to $1,320, according to FixR. The variation stems from the type of room and its square footage, plus the type of finish.
With practice and a little advice, even a novice DIYer can get great results. If you’re stuck on what colors to pick, there’s more advice out there than you can shake a paintbrush at. Most major paint manufacturers have released a color or palette of the year for 2023. If you want to follow your own preferences but would like a little guidance, you can get tips about how to choose complementary colors you’ll like over the long term.
The NAR remodeling survey also includes info for the big projects, like bathroom and kitchen renos, and basement and attic conversions to living areas. But depending on your priorities and budget, a smaller upgrade may make you happy and bring a healthy return.
Senior Real Estate Specialist Jason Gelios breaks down the home selling process step by step.
Homeowners are increasingly focused on aging and safety when they renovate their bathrooms, and they’re incorporating universal design features that address their future needs and are functional for people of all ages and abilities.
That’s one takeaway from the recent 2023 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.
It’s good news because bathrooms often are among the most dangerous rooms in the house for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults ages 65 and older.
Houzz found that 66% of homeowners address special needs during a bathroom renovation, up from 54% who did so in 2021. Nearly half (44%) of homeowners anticipate special needs to arise within the next five years.
As such, they’re incorporating an array of safety features, including:
Another area that affects safety is flooring. Houzz found that 83% of homeowners upgrade flooring during bathroom renovations, with one-third choosing nonslip floors outside the shower.
Though not necessarily for safety reasons, primary bathrooms are growing, with (22%) of homeowners saying they expanded their primary bathroom during a renovation by taking square footage from closets (44%), bedrooms (24%), and hallways (7%). Nearly 3 in 5 bathrooms (59%) measure 100 square feet or more after renovation.
In addition, 26% of homeowners remove their tubs during renovation, and the majority (77%) enlarge the shower space. For one in five, their new shower is 50% larger than their old one.
Low-curb (43%) entries grew in popularity since last year, increasing by 1%. Curbless entries were the choice for 24%, representing a 3% increase since last year.
Sustainability is another trend gaining traction, with 87% of homeowners incorporating environmental features that include:
For 69% of homeowners, such features’ long-term cost-effectiveness is one motivation for the choices, and 54% said it was for their environmental friendliness.
Other study highlights:
Learn more about fall prevention:
Medicare open enrollment
Heads-up: Medicare open enrollment ends on December 7th. If you haven't reviewed your options, it's time to do so.
After all, Medicare is complex, and it takes time to understand all the options, especially if you're signing up for the first time. Plus, your choices will affect your care and costs for all of 2024. By making rushed, last-minute decisions, you could miss out on plans that could save money and provide the coverage that best fits your needs.
Article courtesy of SRES
Are you financially ready for retirement? Here are some ways that people over 50 are choosing to stretch their resources and find more economic security:
Utilize Retirement Catch-Up Programs:
The IRS offers an opportunity for individuals who are 50 years or older to increase their yearly retirement contributions through catch-up contributions. This provision allows people who may be underprepared for retirement or those who want to further bolster their already-healthy retirement savings to invest more each year as they approach retirement age. The specific catch-up contribution limits vary depending on the retirement plan and the year, but you can get more information about these contributions by consulting with a financial planner or reaching out to the IRS.
More information can be found on the IRS website’s “Retirement Topics” section titled Catch-Up Contributions: bit.ly/retirement-topic Wait on Social Security: Signing up for social security benefits as soon as you are eligible for benefits seems appealing, however, there are pros to delaying. Those who opt to receive benefits starting at 62 received a reduced amount, while those who hold off receive approximately 8% more year after year. Those who choose to delay until they are 70 to claim their benefit end up with about 132% of the regular benefit amount, meaning they will experience less financial pressure as they age. If you are able to work longer and forgo benefits in your 60s, holding off can allow you more financial freedom in your 70s, 80s, and beyond.
Stay in the Workforce:
As people approach retirement age, some are opting to stay in the workforce longer. If you are looking to make your savings stretch, continuing in your current career, transitioning to a different company, or exploring a new industry is an option. Depending on your ability, staying in the workforce can alleviate financial strains and, in some cases, enhance your wellbeing. Working part-time or in a role that is less stressful and more enjoyable can make the prospect of work more appealing. Beyond the financial benefits, staying employed can also provide social and emotional advantages.
Research Social Programs for Seniors:
There are many federal and local programs that support seniors. Most communities have numerous resources that can help. Connect with local nonprofit organizations and senior-focused groups in your area to learn about the programs and services that are available to you. Visit your local senior center for help, or reach out to one of these nationwide organizations to learn more about the assistance you qualify to receive:
NATIONAL COUNCIL ON AGING:
Phone: (571) 527-3900
THE UNITED WAY
Article courtesy of SRES
Many factors can influence your decision to sell including downsizing, moving closer to family, or seeking a more manageable living situation. Have you considered selling the home as-is? Selling as-is means putting the property on the market without making any major repairs or improvements—even when they are needed. This approach has both advantages and disadvantages to consider and discuss with your Senior Real Estate Specialist® to help you decide if an as-is sale is right for you.
1. Time and Cost Savings: Avoiding costly repairs and upgrades can accelerate the selling process and allow you to move on to the next stage of your life more quickly.
2. Reducing Stress: In situations where the emotional toll of staging or repairing a home is too much to handle, an as-is sale may be for you. Eliminating the need for extensive renovations, financing updates, negotiations over repairs, and dealing with contractor hassles can save you stress and allow you to focus on selling and moving more quickly.
3. Attract Investors and Flippers: Investors and property flippers often look for homes in need of renovations. Selling as-is often attracts these types of buyers, sometimes leading to a quicker sale. Investors and flippers generally expect to handle some repairs and have experience buying homes that are not move-in ready.
4. Transparency: When you are listing a home, you are expected to provide a full disclosure about the condition of the property. Selling the home as-is is a possible solution when you do not have all of the information about the property’s condition. If you inherited a home, or are selling on behalf of a loved one who is unable to provide you with the history of the property, ask your Senior Real Estate Specialist® about selling as-is. Your transparency might build trust with potential buyers, free you from liabilities, and lead to a smoother transaction.
Selling a home as-is is a decision that requires careful consideration, especially for individuals 55 and older. The choice has legal, financial, and personal implications, so it is advised that you consult with qualified professionals, including a Senior Real Estate Specialist®
1. Lower Sale Price: One of the largest drawbacks of selling a home as-is is that you are likely to sell your property for a significantly lower price. Buyers typically expect a steep discount to cover the costs of necessary repairs and improvements and the additional liability they take on in as-is sales.
2. Limited Buyer Pool: Homes in need of repairs or updates often have reduced market appeal. Selling a home in its current condition will limit the pool of interested buyers. This can result in the property sitting on the market for a longer period, delaying the sale and your ability to move on. Talk with your agent about market conditions in your area to understand if an as-is sale is likely to move fast or take longer to sell.
3. Potential Inspection Issues: Selling as-is does not free the seller from the need to disclose known defects or issues with the property. Buyers are still likely to conduct inspections, and any significant problems discovered can complicate or even derail the sale. Each area is different, so talk with your Senior Real Estate Specialist® and a real estate attorney to find out what your state requires you to disclose and how long buyers have to back out of an as-is sale.
Sources: Bankrate. (2023). How To Get the Most Out Of Selling Your House “As-Is.” bankrate.com/real-estate/selling-your-house-as-is/#pros-v-cons Investopedia. (2021). Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for Renovations? investopedia.com/should-you-sell-your-home-as-is-or-spring-for-renovations-5184172
Jason Gelios, SRES-Senior Real Estate Specialist, Author, Public Speaker, and Expert Media Contributor of real estate expertise across the globe.