October 8th, 2017 8:17 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
File these six upgrades under wish
fulfillment, not value investment.
Life is a balancing act, and upgrading your home is no
different. Some upgrades, like a kitchen remodel or an additional bathroom, typically add value to your home. Others,
like putting in a pool, provide little dollar return on your investment.
course, home owning isn’t just about building wealth; it’s also about living
well and making memories — even if that means outclassing your neighborhood or
turning off future buyers. So if any of these six upgrades is something you
can’t be dissuaded from, enjoy! We won’t judge. But go in with your eyes wide
open. Here’s why:
The fantasy: You’re
the man — grilling steaks, blending margaritas, and washing highball glasses
without ever leaving your pimped-out patio kitchen.
The reality: For
what it costs — on average $12,000 to $15,000 — are you really gonna use it?
Despite our penchant for eating alfresco, families spend most leisure time
in front of some screen and almost no leisure time outdoors, no matter how much
they spend on amenities, according to UCLA’s “Life At Home” study. And the
National Association of Home Builders’ 2013 “What Home Buyers Really Want”
report says 35% of mid-range buyers don’t want an outdoor kitchen.
The bottom-line: Instead,
buy a tricked out gas grill, which will do just fine when you need to char
something. If you’re dying for an outdoor upgrade, install exterior lighting — only 1% of buyers don’t want that.
The fantasy: Floating
aimlessly, sipping umbrella drinks, staying cool in the dog days of summer.
The reality: Pools are money
pits that you’ll spend $17,000 to $45,000+ to install (concrete), and thousands
more to insure, secure, and maintain. Plus, you won’t use them as much as you
think, and when you’re ready to sell, buyers will call your pool a maintenance
The bottom-line: If
your idea of making it includes a backyard swimming pool, go for it. But, get
How many days per year you’ll actually swim.
How much your energy bills will climb to heat the water ($760 to
$1,845 depending on location and temperature).
What you’ll pay to clean and chemically treat the pool ($20 to
$100 per month in-season if you do it yourself; $75 to $165 per month for a
The fact that you’ll likely need to invest in a pool fence. In fact, some insurance carriers require
The fantasy: Soothing
aching muscles and sipping chardonnay with friends while being surrounded by
warm water and bubbles.
The reality: In-ground
spas are nearly as expensive ($15,000 to $20,000) as pools and cost about $1 a
day for electricity and chemicals. You’ll have to buy a cover ($50 to $400) to
keep children, pets, and leaves out. And, like in-ground pools, in-ground spas’
ROI depends solely on how much the next homeowner wants one.
The bottom-line: Unless
you have a chronic condition that requires hydrotherapy, you probably won’t use
your spa as much as you imagine. A portable hot tub will give you the same
benefits for as little as $1,000 to $2,500, and you can take it with you when
Your fantasy: No
more climbing stairs for you or for your parents when they move in.
The reality: Elevators
top the list of features buyers don’t want in the NAHB “What Buyers
Really Want” report. They cost upwards of $25,000 to install, which requires
sawing through floors, laying concrete, and crafting high-precision framing.
And, at sales time, elevators can turn off some families, especially those with
little kids who love to push buttons.
The bottom-line: If
you truly need help climbing stairs, you can install a chair lift on a rail
system ($1,000 to $5,000). Best feature: It can be removed.
Your fantasy: The
power in your area goes kaput, but not for you. You were smart enough to
install a backup power generator. While the neighbors eat cold hot dogs by a
flashlight beam, you’re poaching salmon in your oven and pumping out Red Hot
Chili Peppers tunes.
The reality: Power
outages may seem to go on forever, but they don’t. Fifty dollars worth of
batteries can power portable lights, radios, and TVs; a car adaptor will charge
your cell phones and iPods; and some dry ice will keep freezer food cold for at
least a couple of days.
The bottom-line: If
you live in areas where power shortages are the rule, not the exception, spend
the money for reliable backup power: Your still-frozen steaks, home office fax,
and refrigerated medicine will thank you. But if the power goes out rarely,
then installing a standby generator is
The fantasy: Brand
new windows that don’t stick, and slash energy bills.
The reality: A
$15,000 vinyl window replacement project will return about 80% of your
investment at resale, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And if they’re Energy Star-qualified,
they can save you around $300 in energy bills per year. So, plan to live
in your house about another 10 years to recoup the cost of new windows.
The bottom-line: We
get it — new windows are sturdy, pretty energy savers. But
unless old window frames are thoroughly rotten, most windows can be repaired for
a fraction of replacement costs. And if you spend about $1,000 to update
insulation, caulking, and weather-stripping, you’ll save 10% to 20% on your
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