The housing market implosion may have put a screeching halt to your plans to sell. But while we wait for the inevitable rebound, now is prime time to add some equity to your abode so it will be bright and shiny when prices return to normal (or at least better). But what’s even better, these improvements won’t add any extra tax burden compared to, say, putting in a pool that may hurt while waiting for a buyer.
What follows is not a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point for folks who want to upgrade their home while also upgrading their equity. So put on your overalls, head to Home Depot, and keep the following in mind:
Paint it (just not fuchsia)
That peeling and ratty-looking paint is an instant turn-off. No one wants a house that looks like the Bates Motel. Fortunately, painting is one of the least expensive improvements you can undertake, and it gets you one of the biggest returns on your investment.
While a paint job can cost only a few thousand dollars, it recoups around 81 percent of the cost, according to the National Association of Realtors. Donovan Lord, owner of Dallas’ Novanlord Realty, suggests neutral colors for a paint redo.
"One thing I say don’t do is use garish colors," he says. "But that doesn’t mean it has to be beige."
Get cookin’ in the kitchen
If the key to selling a house is location, location, location, the key to upping its resale value is kitchen, kitchen, kitchen.
"Absolutely everybody looks at the kitchen," Lord says. "If the kitchen is completely updated and remodeled, buyers often will forgive other flaws. Typically the kitchen is the most costly to remodel, so if it needs improvements, they think, ‘Wow, I have this much work to do in the kitchen.’"
Start small with mere drawer and cabinet handles to sprucing up cabinets with new paint or stain.
Replace cracked tiles and clean the greasy backsplash.
Remember, you live in Dallas
While things like painting and improving the kitchen are virtually essential, Dallas presents its own special niche needs when it comes to upgrading. According to Lord, replacing single-pane windows with double-pane helps increase energy efficiency, an attractive attribute considering North Texas’ sweltering summers.
Little things mean a whole lot
If you are on a tight budget, Lord suggests at least replacing outdated fixtures and hardware.
"Even those little things can make a big difference," he says.
A landscaping remodel may not be practical, but consider planting at least one or two trees. "It’s easy to do—make sure you get the fastest-growing tree possible to get the biggest bang for your buck," he advises.
"Wood floors have been hot for a while," Lord says, so if you can afford to pull up that carpet and lay down some solid wood, go for it. Don’t opt for the cheap stuff. Quality wood or flooring, is always a star. A cheaper substitute will ring louder all the wrong ways.
But Lord puts it pretty plainly on one flooring choice.
"Do not," he says, "use laminate."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 5, 2010.