Specialty rooms for all interests

specialty rooms
Home improvement spending is increasing to include specialty rooms (infographic from census.gov)

Prior to the Great Recession, home owner spending for remodeling and renovations was very strong.  Besides remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, many home owners also created specialty rooms (also known as special function rooms) in their homes.  Specialty rooms such as home theaters and media rooms were not just trendy because they were cool to have in the house, but they also added resale value.  According to Kermit Baker writing for Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, post-recession home remodeling spending dropped off by as much as 28 percent between 2007 and 2011.  That spending decrease meant that while home owners focused on saving and paying their mortgages, specialty rooms were no longer a necessity.

The return of the specialty room can be measured by the increased home remodeling spending over the past few years.  Specialty rooms are increasingly in demand.  The recent LIRA press release projects that home remodeling will remain strong at least through 2019.  Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies stated:

“Strengthening employment conditions and rising home values are encouraging homeowners to make greater investments in their homes…Upward trends in retail sales of building materials and the growing number of remodeling permits indicate that homeowners are doing more—and larger—improvement projects.”

Prior to the Great Recession, specialty rooms were a must for home owners.  However, many of these specialty rooms were primarily added for display and resale.  Home owners have since moved away from the large gaudy specialty room and are opting for more practical spaces focused on enjoyment and function.

Several years ago, panic rooms were in demand for protection.  It wasn’t just to protect from a home invasion, as portrayed in the movie “Panic Room,” but also to  offer shelter from severe weather.   FEMA even provides information on creating a safe room in your home.

Yes, specialty rooms are becoming popular again, but not in the way they were prior to the recession.  According to the 2017 AIA Home Design Trends Survey (aia.org), creating an outdoor living area is the currently the most popular specialty room today.  The outdoor living area is a way to extend indoor space and amenities (such as kitchen and home entertainment) to your back yard or roof top deck.

But home owners are opting for other specialty rooms too.  Building a fabulous mudroom comes in second in the AIA Home Design Trends Survey.  No longer that meager alcove separating the garage and kitchen, the mudroom has become a multi-purpose functional suite.  Obvious coat hooks, benches, and shoe cubicles are standard.  But mudrooms have become larger to accommodate storage units and desks, typically with high-end flooring and moldings.

Other specialty rooms mentioned in AIA’s survey include the home office and in-law suite.  However, other types of specialty rooms that are popular include fitness rooms and wine cellars.

As the economy improves, home owners have more money to spend on their passions.  Currently, there is a trend to build specialty rooms to help home owners pursue hobbies and talents.  Hobbyists are creating spaces for their collections and interests.  Many home owners are designing dedicated rooms as art studios.  Music lovers and musicians are finding that technology has made the music listening room and recording studio easy and affordable to create in their homes.

Over time, the home has evolved from a Spartan shelter to a space where we relax and express our personalities.  It is likely that specialty rooms will continue to evolve based the home owner’s lifestyle, finances, as well as technology.  Specialty rooms will also vary based on societal norms (consider formal dining and living rooms) and economic conditions.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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DIY Do It Yourself

DIY
Do it Yourself projects may need permits (infographic from census.gov)

Home owners are spending more on home improvements.  “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) projects are becoming popular again.  Besides being inspired by the increasing number of DIY home improvement shows on TV, there are numerous books, online sources and YouTube videos to show a DIYer how to take on almost any project in the home.  Being a DIY is ambitious and exciting, but for many becomes overwhelming and costly.

The notion of DIY is more than just being proud of getting your hands dirty.  For many home owners it’s really about money.  DIYers have a reputation for being thrifty, but a revealing research analysis asserts there’s more to it. Ryan H. Murphy (The Diseconomies of Do-It-Yourself; The Independent Review; Fall 2017; pp.245–255) provides ample evidence that many who engage in DIY have an anti-market bias.  Those who engage in DIY home improvements believe it is a zero or negative sum game, where there is no benefit from money spent on the home improvements.  He concludes that unless home improvement is your vocation, you’re better off sticking to your profession and hiring a (licensed) professional home improvement contractor.

One of the issues that is often noticed with DIY projects is that the result may be substandard.  The home owner may decide that although the project is not completed, it is “good enough” to save time and money.  Sometimes, the “good enough” attitude is evident by jerry-rigged components.  This can obviously be a problem when selling the home.  Home buyers have a keen eye and will be turned off by poor workmanship.  Even if the home buyer misses it, you can count on a home inspector to flag it.

Permits seem to be another issue for many DIYers. Some believe that obtaining a permit (when it’s required) is costly and time consuming.  However, inspectors are getting better at sniffing out unpermitted projects, so it is common for the DIYer to get caught before completing their improvements.

The permitting process may increase the time and cost for your DIY project, but it’s there to assure that buildings and home improvements adhere to the building and zoning codes within the city or county.  Building and zoning codes are devised to help ensure that buildings are safe.  Finishing a project without a required permit can potentially cost you more money and time down the road.

If you are required to get your unpermitted DIY project inspected after completion, don’t be surprised that you may have to make alterations and/ or corrections to your work.  If you built a structure that is deemed unsafe or even encroaches on a neighbor’s property, you may even have to demolish the project and start over.  You may even have to hire contractors to assist you.  If you are selling your home, the home buyer may require you to have your work inspected.  It can be even more costly if the project was completed during past code cycles, because, rather than send county inspectors, you may be required you to hire experts to inspect your work.

If you’re planning a DIY project and not sure if it needs a county or city permit, check with your municipality’s permitting office.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Department of Permitting Services’ website lists additions and alterations that require permits (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov).  However, if you live in one of Montgomery County’s county’s incorporated cities, your city may have different permitting requirements.

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Keeping New Year’s home resolution

home resolution
New Year’s home resolution (infographic from lightstream.com)

Your home is an extension of your persona. The condition of your home impacts how you feel. So, what better way to start the new year than making a New Year’s home resolution to improving your living space?

There is disagreement about the need for and impact of New Year’s resolutions.  Many believe that making a conscious and purposeful declaration to better your life can get you on the right path.  However, many mental health professionals believe that making resolutions can be a set up for failure and disappointment if your expectations are too high.

Making a New Year’s home resolution can be achievable if you make it sensible  and meaningful.  Decide on the goal and make a plan detailing how you will accomplish it.  Ask yourself how the project will improve your life.  Sensory prompts, such as a picture of a clutter free family room or a carpet sample, can help you stay focused on the goal and keep you motivated.  You don’t have to go it alone either.  Consider hiring a professional.  If you decide to go the Do-It-Yourself route, make it a bonding opportunity by enlisting friends and/or family to assist you.

Whether you hire a professional or not, you need a plan on how you will actualize your home project.  It’s good to be ambitious with your New Year’s home resolution, but don’t fall into the trap deciding the project can be completed in one or two days.  Instead, be realistic.  After all, your daily routine is probably busy, if not hectic.  Decide on how much time you can realistically devote to the project, and put in on your calendar.

Whatever your New Year’s home resolution is, start with one room.  If need be, break the room down in sections to help organize where in the room you will begin and where to go next.  Collect and organize the materials you need for the project before you begin.  The greatest distraction from achieving your resolution is a trip to the store for extra supplies.

The most likely number one New Year’s resolution for the home is decluttering.  This makes sense because we all lead busy lives and collect stuff throughout the year.  But reducing the clutter in your home doesn’t only improve its appearance, it can also make you more comfortable.  Decluttering may also give a boost to your mental health.  Consider consulting with a professional organizer to help plan the project.

A home makeover is another popular New Year’s resolution project.  Fresh and new is always in.  Whether it’s painting a room or two, or installing new flooring, giving your home a new look can improve its appearance.  A new look can also affect how we feel.  Choose your color scheme carefully, because various colors elicit different responses.  For example, a blue-grays may seem relaxing, while reds are invigorating and exciting.

Catching up on deferred maintenance seems to be the New Year’s resolution that can get overwhelming.  Despite our best intentions, we all have put off some repair or regular upkeep at one time or another.  But repairs and maintenance are not static.  Meaning that over time, issues can get worse, and neglected systems can break down.  Instead of putting off repairs and maintenance, consider hiring a licensed contractor.

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Home remodeling to stay or sell

home remodeling
Home remodeling (infographic from census.gov)

The Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University predicts expanded growth of home remodeling and renovations through most of 2018.  That’s a good indication that the economy has picked up and the many homes that fell in disrepair after the Great recession are getting the much-needed attention to extend their functionality.

It wasn’t that long ago when Kermit Baker wrote about a crisis of the declining housing stock due to extensive deferred maintenance (The Return of Substandard Housing; housingperspectives.blogspot.com; February 27, 2013).  The article written for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University highlighted the considerable reduction of home maintenance as measured by home owner “maintenance spending” during the Great Recession.  This seemed to be a low point for the country’s housing stock.  The 28 percent decrease in maintenance spending between 2007 and 2011 essentially nullified the renovation spending during the housing boom.

Home remodeling activity
Home remodeling activity Q3-2017 (graph from jchs.harvard.edu)

The Remodeling Futures Program releases a quarterly data for Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA). The LIRA is a “a short-term outlook of national home improvement and repair spending to owner-occupied homes.”  The most recent data indicates that home remodeling and repair spending will escalate from the fourth quarter of 2017 into the third quarter of 2018, estimating an increase from 6.3 percent to 7.7 percent.  The significant increase in home improvement spending is attributed to a strengthening economy, home equity gains, and low home re-sale inventory.  Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies is optimistic about maintenance spending.  Herbert said:

“Recent strengthening of the US economy, tight for-sale housing inventories, and healthy home equity gains are all working to boost home improvement activity…Over the coming year, owners are projected to spend in excess of $330 billion on home upgrades and replacements, as well as routine maintenance.

The current LIRA data doesn’t include the effects of recent hurricanes.  It is expected that those recent disasters will significantly increase the anticipated projected maintenance spending.

Home owners really have no choice but to spend on renovations, remodeling and repairs, especially if they are planning on selling their home.  Most home buyers want a turnkey home, where the home is fresh and new and offers minimal maintenance during the first year of ownership.  The desire for a turnkey home is probably why new home sales are at a ten-year high.  This week, the US Census Bureau (census.gov) released new home sale data that indicates a month-over-month increase of 6.2 percent, and a year-over-year increase of 18.7 percent!  To compete with other re-sales and new homes, home sellers must factor in the cost of home renovations.

There are many home owners who still can’t afford to move.  The fact that many are still priced out of the move-up market has been a major issue holding back the housing market.  This phenomenon is also responsible for continued low home re-sale inventories.  As a result, many home owners are staying in their homes much longer than anticipated.  The National Association of Realtors indicated in the Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report 2017 (nar.realtor) that home buyers anticipate staying in a home about twelve years.  This is an increase of about five years compared to a decade ago.

Although many home owners still can’t move, they are deciding to do home “make overs.”  The make overs will give their homes a fresh look, that typically include new floors and paint schemes.  Additionally, kitchen and bathroom renovations modernize the home.  However, home owners needing more room, are opting to expand their homes to give them larger spaces.  Some home owners are going beyond the basics and creating different spaces by moving walls.

Regardless of your reasons for home renovations and repairs, home improvement experts recommend to create a budget and stick to it, and always hire licensed contractors.

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The roof overhead

How to know your roof needs to be replaced (http://phoenixroofingteam.com)

People often ask why I frequently talk about home maintenance, and specifically the importance of maintaining the roof. The reason is simple; many issues can develop with an improperly maintained or neglected roof. Besides allowing water to penetrate directly into the inside of your home from a leaky roof, water can also penetrate a basement when the roof and gutters are not properly directing water away from the foundation.

Besides leaving unsightly stains, water entering the home from a leaking roof can seep through walls and ceilings deteriorating drywall and even possibly weakening floor trusses/beams. Water from improperly moved water can create standing water around the home, and enter into the basement. Additionally, any water penetration into the home has the potential to promote mold growth; which not only can affect your health but your home’s structure as well.

It’s obvious that a leaking roof is a problem; and now you know how an unchecked leak can damage your home over time. The good news is that proper maintenance can prevent major leaks and resulting damage. Visually checking the roof (from the ground) regularly can make you aware of general condition of the shingles, flashing, gutters and downspouts. Curling, lifting, broken or missing shingles as well as missing or broken flashing are potential water entryways into your home; and it may be an indication that you should call a licensed roofer to further inspect and repair the roof.

Debris on the roof can not only damage the roofing material, it can also clog or damage the gutters and downspouts. The purpose for gutters and downspouts is to carry water away from the home so as to prevent soil erosion around the home’s basement and foundation; which is a common cause of outside water penetration into the basement. Clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts should also be repaired in a timely manner. Experts recommend to clean and inspect the gutters and downspouts twice a year to ensure proper function.

The two most common roof types are the flat roof and the pitched roof. Flat roofs are typically covered by a membrane, and are thought to be more vulnerable to weather than pitched roofs because of the limitation of gravity’s water draining action. Pitched roofs can be covered in a number of materials. Although shingled roofs are very common, metal roofs are becoming more popular because of its durability. Shingles can be made of many different materials for aesthetic and architectural needs (including solar panel shingles); but in our region the asphalt shingle is most common, and generally has a life expectancy of twenty to fifty years (depending on the quality).

If it’s time to replace the roof, have several roofing contractors provide you with estimates detailing the materials used and estimated labor. A cheaper estimate may not only be the difference in the quality of shingles; but also may not remove the old shingles, leaving them intact under the new roof. Make sure your estimate includes contractor clean up, so you’re not left with piles of old roofing material in your yard.

Always hire a Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) licensed contractor. The MHIC maintains a Guaranty Fund that compensates homeowners for actual monetary losses due to poor workmanship or failure to perform a home improvement contract; however, The Fund only applies to work done by licensed contractors. The contractor’s license can be checked on the MHIC website (dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic).

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