Anyone who's undergone home renovations knows: You want to wind up with a nicer place to live. But especially after the collapse of housing prices after 2008, you also want to make an investment that will pay off when you sell your home or condominium.
That was very much on the mind of Sara Schecter and her family when they found a great fixer-upper on a pretty street in Marblehead, Mass. “Knowing what our budget was, what we could add to the house, and then come out and still be ahead’’ was a top concern as they gutted and redid a house owned by a couple who’d lived there for 60 years without upgrading much of anything.
“Everything needed to be done,’’ Schecter said.
As it turned out, the Schecters went four for four in what a Remodeling Magazine survey found to be today’s financially smartest home upgrades.
On top of their list – replacing wood siding with “cement board” siding. Remodeling found home sellers recoup 78 percent of the cost of cement board, a higher percentage than any other kind of fix-up.
“I didn’t know that,” Schecter said when we interviewed her. “We did it just for the maintenance purposes. We know how it expensive it was to paint a house.’’
Russell Busa, president of Sterling Homes Development Corp., who did the work for the Schecters, said there are lots of great reasons besides investment recoupment to put the siding on. “It’s a no maintenance product, comes prepainted, saves on any kind of insects. It's also fireproof material,’’ Busa said.
Number two on Remodeling’s list was a new front door, which can make a vastly improved first impression on any future buyer, and number three is converting unfinished or badly finished attic space into a bedroom.
“It adds a lot of value, because we actually have another bedroom here as well,’’ Busa said as he showed us around the airy third-floor space that has a play space and television-watching area for the three Schecter kids and a bedroom and bath – which make this one of the only four-bedroom, 2 1/2 –bath homes in this part of Marblehead.
Number four on the best remodeling moves in Remodeling’s survey is what they call a mid-range refreshing and updating of the kitchen. Busa credits the Schecters with smartly avoiding a mistake he’s seen others make over and over for home resale value: Going for bold or quirky colors and finishes that future buyers may dislike. “We’ll try to suggest to clients to keep more of a neutral color as you can see with the granite’’ they chose for their counters, and a plain palette of colors a future homeowner could easily accessorize with wall hangings or kitchen objects.
Making remodeling pay off has grown more and more important because the percentage of the cost of improvements recouped at the time of sale has been falling steadily – from 82.5 percent in 2003 and 87 percent in 2005 to just 57 percent in 2012, according to Remodeling. Along with big energy efficiency improvements, the Schecters managed to do exactly the right things for maximizing the return whenever they finally sell the house – and maybe best of all, Sara Schecter can say: “I’m very happy with the way it turned out.’’
With video editor Lauren Kleciak and videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan