Jason Robie: Renovation ROI

I sit and type this article in a finished basement/home-office. A couple years ago we re-painted the walls, updated the full bathroom and finished the floors with that cement etching paint stuff. Now it looks like a workout room/office and “counts” as additional square feet. One mistake the previous owners made was including a closet down here so now we have to count it as a bedroom, but that aside, the extra space is invaluable.

Basement remodels are one of the top projects you can do in your home that will provide significant return on investment or “ROI.” Lots of projects are valuable to you as the owner and may let you enjoy the home more while you are there. That does not mean that those projects will pay off when it comes time to sell. Today we’re going to explore a few of those top projects that will pay you back, not just while you are living there but when you are trying to woo those potential buyers.

The other notable factor as I sit here and type is that it is freezing in here! OK, not really, but we (sort of) refuse to turn on the heat yet so I’m layered up as we’re dipping into the upper 50s at night now. One of the best ways to tighten up your home and save money on heating is by fixing the gaps in your windows and doors. We all know that windows and doors are the biggest culprit when it comes to heat loss, so why not focus on those bad-boys before it gets even colder.

“I strongly recommend home owners get an energy audit before tackling those drafty windows and doors,” notes Badger Realty agent Susan Solar. “The audit allows you to focus on the worst offenders first and may even help you avoid unnecessary expense with windows that do not need any help,” he continued.

While we are on the topic of heat loss, look up. The insulation right above your head is likely in need of some supplementation or is missing entirely. Don’t force your roof to do all that work; bolster the insulation in the attic for some immediate cost savings. It helps to keep the warm air in the living spaces and out of the attic. You can simply buy rolls of the pink stuff or you can blow in insulation and fill that space with synthetic “snow.” Either way, be sure to get the highest R-value you can find and you’ll make this project even more valuable.

Since we’re moving our way up in the home, let’s consider your roof. Obviously, this is not a quick and easy weekend project, but if your roof is tired it is time. If you battle with ice dams and huge icicles hanging off your home all winter long, the attic insulation combined with a new roof is going to make a world of difference. Since the roof replacement is typically a few thousand dollars, you could even consider replacing or repairing the worst parts this fall and tackle the rest next year. Just know you have options and the return on this particular project will be immense.

Moving back into the home, let’s tackle one of those bathrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to scare homeowners (rightfully so!) because there is water and electricity involved. If you are out of your element, get professional help. Period. This is not the place to practice home improvement. Bathroom remodels can be rather pricey so consider doing it in phases or just upgrading the spots in worst shape (are you kidding me with that wallpaper?).

Adding a new fan/light fixture (before you add all that insulation in the attic) is a great project for the average homeowner. This will make for a brighter space and will help dry out the area during our “soggier” summer months. As we talked about in the last couple weeks, replacing the vanity is another great project that has a big impact both functionally and aesthetically. Of course this almost always means re-doing the floor as well, but since the area is one of the smallest rooms in the house, this is a project you can handle on your own.

Home remodels are my favorite projects to tackle around the home. Hiring professionals for the parts I can’t (or don’t want to) handle is also a fun part of the project. I almost always make a new friend and always learn something new about my home or about their area of expertise. The projects will invariably teach you about the workings of your home and you almost always get to buy a new tool! What could be better? Take a look around your home this weekend and identify a couple areas that could use some help. You’ll learn something and ideally you will get a fantastic return on your investment.