Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have a lot more free time — and they’re spending that time at home.
Earlier in the health crisis, economists predicted that spending on renovation projects would actually decline across much of the country. But recent data shows that there has been a marked increase in interest in some home improvement projects.
Just look at the lumber market: there is now a shortage of pressure treated lumber used to build decks across the country.
Meanwhile, the housing market has rebounded nicely since the start of the pandemic, with home sales rising significantly on pent-up buyer demand, fueled even more by record-breaking mortgage rates.
As a result, many homeowners may be considering the benefits of fixing up their home to make it more attractive to potential buyers – and a better place to live in the age of social distancing. And they may be considering DIY, given the extra free time many people have this summer.
“They’ve been sitting at home for a few months and they just want to spend a little bit of money, invest in their house and improve it a little bit,” said Steve Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Contracting in Williamsburg, Virginia, and vice- chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) renovators.
But not all DIY home improvement projects will provide homeowners with a solid return on their investment. Here’s what homeowners should consider before breaking out the toolkit.
To start, know your limits
Remodeling Magazine produces an annual tracking list of the cost of various home improvement projects versus the percentage that has been recouped in the resale value of the home. Many of the projects at the top of the list are not for the faint of heart – or for someone who isn’t a trained professional.
#1 on Remodeling Magazine’s list: Adding manufactured stone veneer to the exterior of your home.
“Their only limit would be their skills,” Cunningham said. “These do-it-yourself shows, they show a person starting, then you go to a commercial and come back and it’s ready to go. They only show you part of the process to do it right.
Getting in over your head can be extremely expensive. Take, for example, the tiling of a shower. If a homeowner doesn’t know how to properly waterproof under tile, their job could lead to leaks. And the moment they notice the leak, they could be looking at thousands of dollars in damages in terms of rotting wood and replaced tiles, Cunningham said.
““These do-it-yourself shows show a person starting, then you go to a commercial and come back and it’s ready to go. They only show you part of the process needed to do it right.”
The same goes for anything plumbing. In these cases, hiring a professional is often the cheapest route in the long run.
Projects that pay off
However, many projects that add value to a home aren’t as complicated as remodeling a shower.
A fresh coat of paint can do wonders, especially if you choose the right spot and the right color. “Paint the front door,” said Amanda Pendleton, ZG of Zillow,
specialist in home trends. “A glossy coat of exterior paint can really boost your curb appeal.”
When it comes to painting, however, the devil is in the details. Painting your front door black, in particular, could add up to $6,000 to the selling price of your home, according to Zillow research. Likewise, blue bathrooms can add almost $3,000 to the selling price of a home. In the rest of the home, aim for modern neutrals like gray and taupe to boost a home’s appeal. In addition, the paint is relatively affordable, which adds to the return on investment of these changes. At the other end of the spectrum, a house painted yellow sells for $3,600 less on average than similar houses.
Another relatively simple change a homeowner can make is to replace light fixtures with smart lights. “Not only will you save money on your electric bill, but you’ll sell your home seven days faster,” Pendleton said, citing additional research from Zillow.
There are also cheaper and easier alternatives to large home improvement projects, such as replacing the flooring in your home. A Zillow survey found that 87% of real estate agents suggest cleaning carpets before putting a home up for sale. Many homeowners will replace the carpet anyway, so rather than investing in installing a new one, a homeowner can hire a carpet cleaner from their local home improvement store and refresh their carpets for less.
Likewise, rather than installing new tiles around the house, a homeowner can safely re-point their floor. “You can even change the color,” Pendleton said. “If you have a beige that’s turned yellow, you can put a gray grout on and it’ll look a lot more modern.”
Cunningham recommended do-it-yourselfers think about finishes around their homes, including kitchen backsplashes and bathroom faucets. “It does so much for the look of something to do a little update,” he said.
And if money is a concern, it’s a good idea to prioritize the spaces that buyers are most interested in. “I love my remodeled kitchen, the kitchen is the worst place to spend your money,” Pendleton said. Instead, focus on the home’s main bathroom, which is often a big draw for buyers.
Don’t forget the outside
With crowded public spaces posing a threat in the age of COVID-19, homebuyers are much more interested in buying a home that offers outdoor living space they can safely enjoy.
“Good landscaping has been proven to help homes sell faster, so get to work making your yard spotless,” said Rachel Stults, associate editor of Realtor.com. “Gardening has become a hot trend during quarantine, so why not show buyers what they can do with your space by starting a small vegetable patch?”
Decorating your outdoor space doesn’t have to be difficult. Cutting overgrown trees, edging lawns and planting colorful flowers goes a long way. “
Homeowners who want to upgrade things might consider installing a fireplace. Homes with adapted pits mentioned in their listing description sell for nearly 3% more than similar homes.
““Good landscaping has been proven to help homes sell faster, so get to work making your yard look pristine.””
Home offices are not a foolproof investment
Millions of Americans have suddenly been forced to work from home because of the pandemic. And companies like Twitter TWTR,
even suggested that their workforce could stay away even after the coronavirus outbreak is over.
Indeed, listings with a home office fetch a 3.4% price premium and sell nine days faster than listings without an office, according to data from Realtor.com. “Buyers are going to be looking for a well-appointed home office space more than ever,” Stults said.
(Realtor.com is operated by News Corp NWSA,
subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, which is also a subsidiary of News Corp.)
But home office projects have their pitfalls. Many people’s first instinct is to convert their unfinished basement into a workspace, Pendleton said.
“What we found from our Zillow research is that you only get about 50 cents in resale value for every dollar you invest in renovating a basement,” Pendleton said. . “And at the end of the day, even if you work from home, you don’t want to do it in your dark, dingy basement.”
Also, people are very attentive to the needs of their home office. Some people will want space for multiple computer monitors, others will want larger shelves. Making a space too suitable for your current needs could alienate buyers down the road. “Every customer is a little different – it’s not a shoe that’s right for everyone,” Cunningham said.