Home improvement is a broad term that includes a variety of renovations and improvements on an existing home. Some examples include replacing a toilet, adding a bedroom or bathroom, updating the kitchen, painting or staining the deck and installing new flooring. Home improvement can also mean upgrading a home’s energy efficiency through replacement windows or a new heat pump, or making other changes that lower electricity bills.
According to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, spending on home improvement has grown more than 50 percent since 2010, when it hit its lowest point. The reason for the growth: a combination of higher house prices, which have left homeowners with more equity in their homes; an aging population; and a desire to make their homes more suitable to their lifestyles.
The most popular home improvement projects involve repairs and updates. Homeowners who responded to the American Housing Survey, which polls owner-occupied households, reported spending on 115 million projects last year alone.
Some homeowners also spend money on landscaping and other outdoor improvements. Adding a deck or patio is an easy way to add living space and boost curb appeal. Putting in a garden or planting trees can help improve the quality of your environment and potentially increase your property value.
In the past, homeowners have focused on increasing the home’s resale value through remodeling and additions. Whether it’s a new kitchen, master suite or garage, these projects typically provide the highest return on investment when it comes time to sell the home. Those looking to get the most bang for their buck should talk to real estate professionals before starting major remodeling projects.
The most popular home improvements also tend to be the most expensive. A primary suite, which includes a private bathroom, walk-in closet and possibly a dressing area, is one of the most costly home improvements, but can increase resale value by up to 20 percent. More cost-effective upgrades include refreshing shower areas, replacing vanities or sinks, laying new tile and fitting new fixtures. When choosing fixtures, look for midrange options that offer the same visual impact as high-end models but don’t break the bank. Remember that going into debt to finance a remodel isn’t a good idea, especially if you plan to sell your home soon. A professional home inspector can help you determine what projects are worth the expense. He or she can also warn you of any potential problems, such as a leaky roof or sloping floors, that may require additional spending to correct. If you do decide to hire a contractor, always read the fine print of any contract and don’t give a deposit before signing. Maryland’s Home Improvement Law requires that contracts for work be in writing and signed by both the consumer and the business before any work begins or money is paid. Also, avoid contractors who do not have a state license number. Contact the Department of Labor and Industry for more information.