Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Monday, September 9, 2013
Home Upgrades with the Lowest ROI
Published: August 26, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
File these six upgrades under wish fulfillment, not value investment.Of course, home owning isn’t just about building wealth; it’s also about living well and making memories -- even if that means outclassing your neighborhood or turning off future buyers. So if any of these six upgrades is something you can’t be dissuaded from, enjoy! We won’t judge. But go in with your eyes wide open. Here’s why:
1. Outdoor Kitchen
The fantasy: You’re the man -- grilling steaks, blending margaritas, and washing highball glasses without ever leaving your pimped-out patio kitchen.
The reality: For what it costs -- on average $12,000-$15,000 -- are you really gonna use it? Despite our penchant for eating alfresco, families spend most leisure time in front of some screen and almost no leisure time outdoors, no matter how much they spend on amenities, according to UCLA’s Life At Home study. And the National Association of Home Builders' 2013 What Home Buyers Really Want report says 35% of mid-range buyers don’t want an outdoor kitchen.
The bottom-line: Instead, buy a tricked out gas grill, which will do just fine when you need to char something. If you’re dying for an outdoor upgrade, install exterior lighting -- only 1% of buyers don’t want that.
Related: How to Buy a Gas Grill
2. In-Ground Swimming Pool
The fantasy: Floating aimlessly, sipping umbrella drinks, staying cool in the dog days of summer.
The reality: Pools are money pits that you’ll spend $17,000-$45,000-plus to install (concrete), and thousands more to insure, secure, and maintain. Plus, you won’t use them as much as you think, and when you’re ready to sell, buyers will call your pool a maintenance pain.
The bottom-line: If your idea of making it includes a backyard swimming pool, go for it. But, get real about:
- How many days per year you’ll actually swim.
- How much your energy bills will climb to heat the water ($760-$1,845 depending on location and temperature).
- What you’ll pay to clean and chemically treat the pool ($20-$100/month in-season if you do it yourself; $75-$165/month for a pool service).
- The fact that you'll likely need to invest in a pool fence. In fact, some insurance carriers require it.
Less expensive option: an above-ground pool
Lower maintenance option: natural pools
If you do put in a pool, you can save money by installing a solar heater.
3. In-Ground Spa
The fantasy: Soothing aching muscles and sipping chardonnay with friends while being surrounded by warm water and bubbles.
The reality: In-ground spas are nearly as expensive ($15,000-$20,000) as pools and cost about $1 a day for electricity and chemicals. You’ll have to buy a cover ($50-$400) to keep children, pets, and leaves out. And, like in-ground pools, in-ground spas’ ROI depends solely on how much the next homeowner wants one.
The bottom-line: Unless you have a chronic condition that requires hydrotherapy, you probably won’t use your spa as much as you imagine. A portable hot tub will give you the same benefits for as little as $1,000-$2,500, and you can take it with you when you move.
Related: What You Need to Know About Installing a Spa
Your fantasy: No more climbing stairs for you or for your parents when they move in.
The reality: Elevators top the list of features buyers don’t want in the NAHB “What Buyers Really Want” report. They cost upwards of $25,000 to install, which requires sawing through floors, laying concrete, and crafting high-precision framing. And, at sales time, elevators can turn off some families, especially those with little kids who love to push buttons.
The bottom-line: If you truly need help climbing stairs, you can install a chair lift on a rail system ($1,000-$5,000). Best feature: It can be removed.
Related: 4 Easy-Living Tips for Aging in Place
5. Backup Power Generator
Your fantasy: The power in your area goes kaput, but not for you. You were smart enough to install a backup power generator. While the neighbors eat cold hot dogs by a flashlight beam, you’re poaching salmon in your oven and pumping out Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes.
The reality: Power outages may seem to go on forever, but they don’t. Fifty dollars worth of batteries can power portable lights, radios, and TVs; a car adaptor will charge your cell phones and iPods; and some dry ice will keep freezer food cold for at least a couple of days.
The bottom-line: If you live in areas where power shortages are the rule, not the exception, spend the money for reliable backup power: Your still-frozen steaks, home office fax, and refrigerated medicine will thank you. But if the power goes out rarely, then installing a standby generator is overkill.
Nationwide, homeowners recouped 52.7% on their average $11,410 investment in a backup generator -- one of the lowest ROIs on the annual Cost vs. Value Report. If you need occasional emergency power, a gasoline-powered portable generator ($200-$650) probably will suffice.
Related: What I Learned About Portable Generators One Dark and Stormy Night
6. New Windows
The fantasy: Brand new windows that don’t stick, and slash energy bills.
The reality: A $10,000 vinyl window replacement project will recoup about 70% of your investment at resale, and if they’re Energy Star-qualified, they can save you around $300 in energy bills per year. So, plan to live in your house about another 10 years to recoup the cost of new windows.
The bottom-line: We get it -- new windows are sturdy, pretty energy savers. But unless old window frames are thoroughly rotten, most windows can be repaired for a fraction of replacement costs. And if you spend about $1,000 to update insulation, caulking, and weather-stripping, you’ll save 10%-20% on your energy bill.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
DIY Wish List: Function Trumps Form
Published: August 1, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
A new study examines which outdoor projects DIYers would love to do . . . but probably won’t.When it comes to picking outdoor DIY projects, we found it interesting that homeowners opt for functionality over form — and even finances, according to a new survey of U.S. homeowners. That’s music to our pragmatic ears.
By a wide margin, homeowners say they prefer functional projects (57%) over those that just look good (28.3%) or have financial value (14.7%).
But just because DIYers desire a project, that doesn’t mean they’re going to strap on a tool belt and actually do it. The survey also reveals the most-wanted projects a DIYer is least likely to do: High-skill/high-effort projects, like building a deck or privacy fence, probably will never make it off the DIYer’s wish list.
The most-desirable projects promise to make outdoor time more fun; but the ones homeowners probably will do are the easiest, like planting a garden or spreading around some landscaping pebbles.
Take a look at these numbers crunched by the Home Projects Council, a group of home improvement experts that sponsored the online survey of 1,278 homeowners planning outdoor home improvement projects in 2013.
Top 5 Desirable Outdoor Projects
1. Plant a garden (49.1%): Anyone with a shovel and some seeds can try this project, though it’ll take some experience to grow temperamental veggies, like tomatoes.
2. Landscaping with pebbles, stones, or rocks (28.3%): Attractive landscaping adds value to your home by boosting curb appeal. And it doesn’t take much effort to spread pea gravel in garden paths to add color and texture.
Tip: Edge your path to keep the gravel from spreading.
3. Build a deck (22.8%): A deck is a great way to create outdoor living space, especially when your yard is sloped. Deck maintenance is easy, too: A coat of sealer will keep it looking good.
4. Create a fire or BBQ pit (20.5%): This retro project evokes 1950s dads flipping burgers over a handmade brick pit. Today, you’re more likely to install a gas grill in the pit, which makes the stainless steel seem less industrial and more homey.
5. Build a patio or walkway with pavers or bricks (19.2%): These stone hardscapes are elegant, functional, and long-lasting.
Top 5 Projects DIYers Wouldn’t Do on a Bet
Hey, a guy can dream, and then hire a pro to:
- Build an outdoor kitchen.
- Pour concrete slabs for patios, steps, or sidewalks.
- Install a garden pond.
- Resurface a concrete driveway, sidewalk, or patio.
- Build a deck.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Does a Pool Add Value to a Home?
By: Julie Sturgeon
Published: July 10, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
Learn how a pool affects the value of your home, and get advice on construction and maintenance costs.In general, building a pool is not the best way to add value to your home. You’re better off making physical improvements to your actual house instead of adding a pool to your yard.
Related: What Home Projects Give the Most Value?
However, a pool can add value to your home in some cases:
- If you live in a higher-end neighborhood and most of your neighbors have pools. In fact, not having a pool might make your home harder to sell.
- If you live in a warm climate, such as Florida or Hawaii.
- Your lot is big enough to accommodate a pool and still have some yard left over for play or gardening.
- The style of the pool. Does it fit the neighborhood?
- The condition of the pool. Is it well-maintained?
- Age of the pool. If you put a pool in today and sell in 20 years, you probably won’t recoup your costs, especially if the pool needs updating.
- You can attract the right buyer. Couples with very young children may shy away from pools because of safety issues, but an older childless couple may fall in love with it.
But we can put a price tag on how much a pool costs to build and maintain.
The Cost to Build a Pool
The average cost in the U.S. to install, equip, and fill a 600-sq.-ft. concrete pool starts at $30,000.
Add in details like safety fences (most states require them), waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and you’re easily looking at totals approaching $100,000.
Costs also depend on the type of pool you choose.
Gunite is the most popular in-ground pool. Gunite is a mixture of cement and sand, which can be poured into almost any shape. It has replaced concrete pools as the sought-after standard.
Fiberglass shells and those with vinyl liners fall on the lower end of the budget scale, but the liners typically need replacing every 10 or so years. Changing the liner requires draining the pool and replacing the edging (called coping), so over time, costs add up. Most homebuyers will insist that you replace a vinyl liner, even if it’s only a few years old.
Related: Fences for Pool Safety
Filtration and Heating
The filtration pump is the biggest energy hog in a pool system, so you want to get the most efficient pump possible. The good news here is that new, variable-speed pumps use up to 80% less energy than old single-speed pumps, cutting operating expenses dramatically. At about $500, these cost more up front, but some local utilities offer rebates through participating pool dealers. You can further cut energy costs by setting the pump to run at non-peak times, when rates for electricity are lower.
If you’re planning to heat your pool, gas heaters are the least expensive to purchase and install, but they typically have the highest operation and maintenance costs. Many pool owners opt instead for electric heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. Heat pumps take longer than gas to warm the pool, but they’re more energy-efficient, costing $200 to $400 less to operate per swimming season. Regardless of heating system, covering the pool with a solar blanket to trap heat and reduce evaporation will further lower operating costs.
Related: Solar Pool Heater Costs and Facts
All pools require that the water be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine has traditionally entered the picture.
These days you have a variety of options, including systems that use bromine, salt, ozone, ionizers, or other chemical compounds that can be less irritating to skin. Chlorine remains the most popular because the upfront costs are reasonable, and you don’t have to be as rigid about checking the levels on a set schedule. But as far as your wallet is concerned, they all even out in the end.
In a seasonal swimming climate, budget about $600 annually for maintenance if you shoulder the chemical balancing and cleaning yourself; in a year-round climate, it’s more like $15 to $25 per week.
To save yourself the task of once-a-week vacuuming, you can buy a robotic cleaning system for between $500 and $800 that will do the job for you. In locations where the pool must be opened and closed for the season, add another $500 each time for a pro to handle this task.
Related: Natural Swimming Pools
Insurance and Taxes
A basic homeowners insurance policy typically covers a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount.
It costs about $30 a year to bump coverage from $100,000 to $500,000. Many underwriters require you to fence in the pool so children can’t wander in unsupervised.
In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price. For that reason, try to keep your total building cost between 10% and 15% of what you paid for your house, lest you invest too much in an amenity that won’t pay you back.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
NeverWet Lives Up to Its Name — But Questions Remain
Published: July 23, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
Yes, it repels water from all sorts of surfaces at home, maybe even better than the hype suggests, but what’s the catch?Rust-Oleum is rolling out its new NeverWet, water-repelling spray with such fanfare, we’re expecting a parade any minute.
NeverWet is a “superhydrophobic” (not just a regular hydrophobic), two-part spray that makes water bead up and run off just about any surface – plastic, wood, stucco, cement, tennis sneakers you want to keep white.
Take a look at the company’s video.
NeverWet, a nanotechnology innovator, has teamed up with Rust-Oleum to bring this miracle coating to the masses. The company “loves” its new product for low traffic-low abrasion items like:
- Exposed brick and masonry
- Porous wood, like decks
- Stucco – claims of warding off mold and mildew have been made
- Toilet brushes
- Cat boxes and dog beds
- Outdoor gear – hiking books, tents, gloves
The coating wears off quickly on surfaces that you rub or walk on often, like a walkway. Also, it has a matte finish and dries with a little white, hazy, and velvety feeling. So you shouldn’t spray it on:
- Glass you’d like to see through (like your car’s windshield)
- Black surfaces, like dress shoes
- Nice clothing that you don’t want to redesign with a whitish, velvety finish (though the company is working on a fabric coating)
A NeverWet white paper says key ingredients in the top coat are used in food products. “Yes, you have eaten them,” it says.
But — and this is a big but — the company doesn’t vouch for the solvents used in the product.