Renovate Your Home

renovate your home
Home improvements from the American Housing Survey (

Once thought of as a supporting actor in the housing industry, home remodeling is poised to take the spotlight.  The growing fascination with home remodeling is generating new renovation trends and research. It’s time to renovate your home! If you aren’t yet thinking of remodeling your home, chances are that you will be planning a home improvement project in the next five years.

Plaut & Plaut’s conclusion to their study (Decisions to Renovate and to Move; Journal of Real Estate Research; 2010; vol. 32; p.461-484) states, “Housing renovation is an important component of housing supply, yet one often ignored both in empirical analysis and in policy discussions about housing.”  They point out that that renovating a home was becoming a “substitute for moving.”  A possible cause for the trend in 2010 was twofold.  First, many homes fell into disrepair during and after the Great Recession.  During that time, many home owners could not keep up with regular maintenance, let alone emergency repairs. And second, there was a lack of quality homes for sale immediately after the Great Recession.  As foreclosure and REO home sales subsided, many homes for sale showed signs of neglect through deferred maintenance. 

Renovate your home.

Fast forward to 2019, home sale inventory continues to be a major problem for the industry (and will likely continue into the next decade).  But home remodeling is picking up the slack to improve the nation’s home stock, as well as help increase quality home sale inventory.  However, industry experts are learning there are other reasons that home owners are remodeling instead of moving.  Trends that have been identified include seniors who are “aging in place,” and multigenerational homes. 

Although a recent Freddie Mac study identified seniors who are “aging in place” as a cause of the ongoing home sale inventory shortage, aging in place is also stimulating home remodeling!  Homeownership rates for seniors are much higher today than in past generations.  Instead of moving to retirement communities or stereotypical senior housing, older home owners are staying put and renovating their homes for comfort and style.

Multigenerational homes became popular again after the recession, when grandparents, parents and adult children pulled resources to live in one home.  The trend continues as aging parents are moving in with their children, and young adults are moving back into their parent’s homes.  Remodeling a home to accommodate several generations may require turning a basement into an apartment, adding a main level bedroom and bathroom, or possibly building an addition to the existing home.

Even home owners who decide to move are remodeling their homes.  According to NAR’s Remodeling Impact Report (, functionality and livability are the top reasons to renovate for a home sale.  Most home buyers want a turnkey home that is functional, comfortable and energy efficient.  Home sellers who improve their homes before selling typically sell faster and for more than those who sell their home “as-is.”

While “going green” has become a standard in home improvement, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University ( publication “Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness” identifies healthy home remodeling as a growing trend.  Healthy home building practices are intended on maintaining the physical and emotional wellbeing of the home’s occupants by using healthier building materials, such as “low-VOC paints and formaldehyde-free woods.”

When planning to renovate your home, home improvement experts recommend: create a budget and stick to it; only hire licensed contractors; and make sure your improvements have permits.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright© 2019

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Home buyer preferences

home buyer preferences
Trendy renovations (infographic from

Homes can vary along a spectrum of many factors.  Size, style, location, are just the basic differences and are generally used by home buyers in their home search.  However, even similar homes in the same neighborhood can differ depending on the homes’ features.  Home buyer preferences and trends toward home features is usually the reason for price differences on similar neighborhood homes. This truth was validated by a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (How Features of a Home Impact Its Price;; November 30, 2004).  If you’re selling this spring, consider home buyers preferences and current home buyer trends.

In past columns, I talked about how most home buyers in the current housing market want a turn-key home.  And that still holds true.  Home buyers still prefer to buy a new home.  However, buying a recently updated/renovated home is the next best thing.  Generally, homes with new kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring get multiple offers and sell very quickly.  Alas, updating and renovating a home takes time and money.  Discuss with your listing agent how making (or not making) updates and renovations affect your sale price. You may have to adjust your pricing expectations accordingly.

So, what tops the list of home buyer preferences? The National Association of Home Builders latest “Trends in Home Buyer Preferences” ( indicates that the kitchen is a prime area of focus.  Current kitchen trends include a strong preference to either “traditional” or contemporary style cabinets.  The styling would depend on the kitchen overall (consulting with a design center would be helpful).  Additionally, water filtration has also become a desirable feature.  If not already installed, water filtration can be added when replacing a refrigerator, as it is now a common function of modern refrigerators.

In today’s growing awareness of environment and sustainability, it’s a given that home buyer preferences show a strong preference toward energy efficiency.  When updating, consider Energy Star ( certified appliances.  Energy Star appliances typically use 50 percent less energy than standard models.  Additionally, consider having an energy audit prior to listing your home.  The energy audit will reveal the home’s energy efficiency.  It will also highlight where improvements are recommended.  The report itself is useful to the home buyer, even if you don’t follow all the recommendations. 

New flooring is also important to home buyers.  The preference towards wood flooring has always been strong.  However, be aware that there are differences in quality of flooring products, as well as workmanship of installers.  Even if you purchase top quality hardwood, poor installation can actually negatively impact the sale price.  If you’re installing wood, tile or similar flooring, hire an MHIC licensed flooring contractor.  Your flooring contractor can also help with trendy flooring options.

As a home seller, you certainly consider your home as being special.  And you probably spent a good amount of money on customizing your home over the years.  However, a problem many home sellers encounter is that over customization and personalization can negatively affect the home sale price.  The truth is that home buyers have preferences too, and their preferences may not reflect yours. 

Home buyer preferences and trends are constantly changing.  Your listing agent should be able to help understand how current home buyer preferences and trends impact your home sale.  Additionally, consulting with a home staging or interior design professional can assist you with deciding on making relevant updates to your home.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Resurgence of solar power

House Solar Once considered too costly, solar is getting hot (pun intended). Many factors are making it easier for consumers to choose solar; including lower installation costs and tax credits. Solar energy has also become a selling point for some home builders in sunny states such as California; where builders have offered the option of solar panel installation during construction.

Solar technology has come a long way. Manufacturing advances have not only made the technology more affordable, it has paved the way to new applications as well. Besides the panels with which we have become accustomed, photovoltaic (PV) technology is now available as roof shingles and windows; and some companies that can even apply the PV to other exterior home surfaces.

Is the investment worth it? A recent Washington Post piece (March 26, 2014; Real Estate Matters: Are solar panels worth the investment?) explores the value of installing solar panels – and concludes that it depends on your individual costs and savings. Authors Glink and Tamkin take into account the installation costs, tax credits and a monthly power bill of $120. Assuming that their system would supply all of their electricity needs, they applied the $120/month savings to repay the loan taken to cover the solar panel installation; and based on their calculations – there would be no savings for the first ten years.

However, your actual utility savings can vary on a number of factors, including (but not limited to): the amount of solar power produced; system size and placement; and available sun energy. Additionally, the cost of maintaining your solar panel system can vary; regular maintenance is required to ensure your system is producing power efficiently. Maintaining your system typically entails cleaning the panels (debris, dust, bird droppings can collect on surfaces) and testing other components. Furthermore, because the average life expectancy of a solar panel is about 30 years (depending in manufacturer), you should consider the time you intend to live in your home and resale. Home buyer attitudes on existing systems and possible replacement costs is not entirely clear.

If you’re considering a PV system, offers these tips: measure the amount of sun available; calculate the size of the system to meet your needs; predetermine the best location for the system, as well as making sure it will fit; decide if the system is a standalone or connected to the power grid; and how will the safety needs be met (

Before choosing a contractor, recommends due diligence. Ask about the company’s time in business and experience installing the type of system you have chosen (technical differences can exist). Check the contractor/company for complaints, judgments or liens. And, of course, make sure the contractor has appropriate valid licenses; according to the Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation website, “a home improvement contractor or subcontractor license is required to install solar panels for a homeowner, regardless of whether the panels will be installed on the home or an outbuilding adjacent to a residence, or will be attached to the land next to the residence. A licensed master electrician is required to hook the panels to the electric system.”

Finally, also recommends getting multiple installation quotes because panel efficiency can vary depending on the manufacturer. The estimates should include the total cost of getting the PV system up and running, including hardware, installation, connection to the grid, permitting, sales tax, and warranty.

© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Renovate your home with FHA 203k

FHA 203k
Renovate your home with a FHA 203k

If you’re like many home buyers, you’re probably looking for a home that is “turnkey” or an updated home that is ready to move right in.  However, since inventory is tight, competition can get intense.  But rather than passing on the “diamond in the rough,” consider the FHA 203k.

The FHA 203k is HUD’s rehabilitation loan.  The “203k” actually refers to the section within the National Housing Act that provides HUD with the ability “…to promote and facilitate the restoration and preservation of the Nation’s existing housing stock;” in other words provide mortgages to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes.  Although the program is not allowed to provide for “luxury” upgrades (such as hot tubs), the program may be used “…to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items…”

If you’re purchasing a home that is not a total rehab project, there is a streamlined version of the program that can assist you to purchase the home and provide additional funds (up to $35,000) for improvements and upgrades.  The FHA 203k-streamline is a “limited loan program” designed to provide quicker access to funds so your home move-in ready relatively quickly.

The “203k” process is relatively straight forward.  After identifying a home, you should consult your 203k lender and consultant about the feasibility of a FHA 203k.  A project proposal is prepared detailing a cost estimate for each repair/improvement.  During loan underwriting, the appraisal is completed to determine the value of the home after the proposed repairs/improvements are completed.  If the mortgage is approved, the home is purchased with the loan and the remaining funds are placed in escrow to pay for the project.

Much like a typical mortgage, you must qualify for the program by meeting underwriting standards for borrowers.  However, unlike the typical mortgage, additional underwriting requirements include review of architectural plans and repair estimates (materials and labor) from licensed contractors.  HUD approved consultants/inspectors examine and evaluate the project’s progress to ensure work is completed and compliant with HUD standards.  Funds for the repairs/renovations are released in draws to ensure the work is completed as intended as well as meeting all zoning, health and building codes.

Of course, the home must also meet eligibility guidelines.  The home: must be one to four units; must be at least one year old; and must meet neighborhood zoning requirements. The program allows for major rehabilitation on homes that have been razed provided that the foundation still exists.

But what if you’ve decided to renovate your home rather than move?  The FHA 203k allows for home owners to make renovations, updates, and sometimes additions.  The possibilities seem endless (as long as your vision stays within the loan limits).   Besides painting and updating kitchen and bathrooms, you could possibly even expand your existing house with an addition.  The FHA 203k even allows for many “green” upgrades to make your home more efficient.

FHA guidelines have been revised in recent years, and may undergo further revisions.  It is important for home buyers and others who are interested in the FHA 203k to consult with an approved FHA lender for borrower and home qualifying guidelines, loan limits and 203k acceptable improvements.  Additional information (including a list of lenders) can be found on the HUD website (

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Remodel instead of Move?

Moving up has been a right of passage for families for years. Families have been moving up for one reason or another, usually because of the need for space or just to move to a new neighborhood. However, spiraling home prices made many to rethink the usual move up, and instead make improvements on their homes. Rather than buying the four bedroom colonial they need due to a growing family, homeowners are adding rooms and enlarging the spaces they already inhabit. They’re thinking remodel instead of moving.

If you are unsure of making improvements or selling your home, there are some factors to consider. ( lists the top reasons for remodeling instead of moving includes: you like remodeling; you like your home floor plan; you like your neighbors; you like your yard; you have a great location; you will get exactly what you want; and you feel that it can enhance the value of your home. If you’re trying to decide whether remodel or move, you may find some of the reasons to remodel resonate.

If you decide to remodel rather than move, there are some considerations. According to you should consider how long you are going to be in your home, the costs involved, and the timing of the remodeling before you move.

If you are planning to stay in your home less than a year, you should consider the actual cost of the improvements against the return you may get on your upcoming sale. However, if you plan to be in your home for a few more years or longer consider the factors of personal pleasure and comfort.

If you are concerned with cost vs. value, a great resource that every turns to for their annual report is Remodeling Magazine ( According to Remodeling Magazine, return on investment depends on the value of the house itself, the value of similar homes in the immediate area, and the rate property values are changing in the surrounding neighborhoods. Some projects will recoup more than 100% of the original investment, however overall in 2004 the return of investment was 80.3%.

The following are the top improvements listed listed in this year’s Remodeling Magazine annual report in order of return on investment: minor kitchen remodeling -92.9%; siding replacement-92.8%; midrange bathroom remodeling- 90.1%; deck addition- 86.7%; upscale bathroom remodeling- 85.6%; and window replacement- 84.5%. You can view the rest of the 2004 report on the website.

Both selling and remodeling can be large propositions that can bring a lot of joy. There are many resources available to help make your decision. But you should verify the information you get, especially from the internet. Additionally, you should consult a local contractor and a Realtor to assist with costs of improvements and neighborhood home values.

By Dan Krell © 2005.