8 Most Financially Savvy Home Improvements
Enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the best price tomorrow.
When it comes to home improvement, some dollars stretch more than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to spend those dollars wisely. Here are eight affordable (under $5,000) home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future. 1. Add the Finishing Touch of Molding Decorative molding is a classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans first installed it to add grandeur to their buildings. Centuries later, molding is still one of the most dramatic ways to dress up a room. It’s a budget-friendly improvement that trims a room for a finished and expensive look. Today’s wood moldings come in hundreds of options – from simple to ornate – that you can stain, paint, or leave natural. You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow. Buyers consistently rank both crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively), according to the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, "What Home Buyers Really Want." And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.) A few tips about molding:
Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. But be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.
Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion. Rule of thumb: Place chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height.
Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.
2. Install Quality Ceiling Fans If crown molding and chair railing were #3 and #7 on buyers’ decorative wish lists, what was #1? Ceiling fans. Over the years, ceiling fans have become quite the crowd pleaser. Once they were just a cheap solution to rising energy costs – ugly, wobbly, noisy eyesores endured because they were cheaper than air conditioning. Today, ceiling fans have evolved into an essential component of American homes as energy prices continue to rise. And since designs have caught up with the times, they come in a variety of styles and colors to complement any room. If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money. Some tips about ceiling fans:
Ceiling fans should hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor. If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
Size matters more than the number of fan blades. Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.
3. Plant Some Trees
Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age. A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market. There’s more. Trees also:
Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun
But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:
Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest.
Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property.
Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage. Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees.
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