Your kids have moved out and now you’re living in a big house with way more space than you need. You have two choices – remodel your existing home or move. Here are some things to consider about each option.
Choice No. 1: Remodel your existing home to better fit your current needs.
- Remodeling gives you lots of options, but some choices can reduce the value of your home. You can combine two bedrooms into a master suite or change another bedroom into a spa area. But reducing the number of bedrooms can dramatically decrease the value of your house when you go to sell, making it much less desirable to a typical buyer with a family.
- The ROI on remodeling is generally poor. You should remodel because it’s something that makes your home more appealing for you, not because you want to increase the value of your home. According to a recent study, on average you’ll recoup just 64 percent of a remodeling project’s investment when you go to sell.
- Remodeling is stressful. Living in a construction zone is no fun, and an extensive remodel may mean that you have to move out of your home for a while. Staying on budget is also challenging. Remodels often end up taking much more time and much more money than homeowners expect.
Choice No. 2: Sell your existing home and buy your empty nest dream home.
- You can downsize to a single-level residence and upsize your lifestyle. Many people planning for their later years prefer a home that is all on one level and has less square footage. But downsizing doesn’t mean scrimping. You may be able to funnel the proceeds of the sale of your existing home into a great view or high-end amenities.
- A “lock-and-leave” home offers more freedom. As your time becomes more flexible, you may want to travel more. Or maybe you’d like to spend winters in a sunnier climate. You may want to trade your existing home for the security and low maintenance of condominium living.
- There has never been a better time to sell. Our area is one of the top in the country for sellers to get the greatest return on investment. Real estate is cyclical, so the current boom is bound to moderate at some point. If you’re thinking about selling, take advantage of this strong seller’s market and do it now.
If your current home no longer works for you, consider looking at homes that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling. Get in touch with Tracie Gulit to discuss the best option for you.
Temperatures may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean we have to bid farewell to our herb gardens. Cold-hardy herbs, such as chives, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme, can often survive cold-winter temperatures while continuing to produce flavorful foliage, as long as they are provided with some protection or grown indoors. Even herbs like rosemary that are more cold-sensitive can survive winter using additional methods of protection. Let’s explore different ways we can prolong the herb harvest and enjoy the fresh taste of our favorite herbs throughout the cold of winter.
Herbs 1: Bachman’s Landscape Design – Tom Haugo, original photo on Houzz
Herbs 2: Home & Garden Design, Atlanta – Danna Cain, ASLA, original photo on Houzz
A glass cloche protects plants in the center of this raised bed in Atlanta.
1. Protect herbs from the cold by placing them in a cold frame or cloche. Covering herbs helps trap the heat that rises from the soil, elevating the temperature inside by several degrees. This can extend the growing season in both fall and spring.
Cold frames are topped with glass panes that slope downward and are situated so they face south. This ensures that the most sunlight will reach the plants inside, creating an environment that is several degrees warmer than outside.
Cloches are a smaller and more portable way to protect plants from the cold. Traditional ones are bell-shaped and made from glass. They can be expensive, but you can make your own by cutting off the bottom of a 1-gallon plastic milk jug or other large plastic container. Place each one over individual herb plants and nestle the bottom inch or two of the cloche into the soil to anchor it.
Herbs 3: The Room Illuminated, original photo on Houzz
2. Add a thick layer of coarse mulch over herbs. Many herbs can grow through the winter under the insulation provided from straw, shredded bark or other coarse mulch. In areas that experience moderate-winter cold, USDA Zone 6 and warmer, herbs will continue to produce some new growth despite some winter cold. Simply pull back the mulch and cut the herbs you need, then cover them back up. While they won’t produce as much new growth as they do in the warm season, you should be able to obtain a small harvest. Don’t worry if a layer of snow falls, as it will provide additional insulation for the herbs below. Once spring arrives, you can turn the mulch into the soil.
3. Pot up herbs and move them into a frost-free greenhouse or sun porch. If you’re growing herbs in the ground, you can transfer them to pots and move them to a protected spot. Select the herbs you want to keep growing over winter, such as chives, oregano, sage and thyme. Cut them back to 1 inch tall and, using a sharp shovel, divide them at their base, making sure to include the roots so each one will fit into the container. Use well-draining planting mix in the containers and plant each herb in a separate pot. They will grow back and you’ll be able to harvest their flavorful leaves until you transplant them back into the garden once spring arrives.
Related: Move Herbs to a Sunroom for Full Sun
Herbs 4: J M Interiors, original photo on Houzz
4. Grow herbs in front of a sunny window. Herbs can be grown from seed or cuttings and make a great addition to a sunny kitchen window that gets at least six hours of sunlight. If using artificial lighting, 14 hours is usually sufficient. The temperature should range between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15.6 and 21.1 degrees Celsius, for best results. You can transplant herbs from the garden or begin from scratch by sowing seed.
The rewards of growing herbs indoors throughout the winter are great when the fresh flavor of summer is within arm’s reach. Chives, oregano, parsley and thyme are just a few of the easiest herbs to grow on a sunny windowsill. Use a well-draining planting mix in your container. Water deeply when the top inch of soil is almost completely dry.
Herbs 5: Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting, original photo on Houzz
5. Extend the life of fresh herbs by putting them in water. Herbs such as basil and mint grow quickly when placed in a container of water for a few weeks. Other herbs that work well in water are sage, oregano and thyme. When placed in water, they begin to produce roots and will grow new leaves. This is a useful way to prolong the harvest, whether you bring in cuttings from the garden or buy fresh herbs at the grocery store.
The process is easy. Simply cut the ends of each stem and put them in a small jar or cup filled with water. Be sure to remove any lower leaves so they won’t be submerged in the water. Place on a sunny windowsill.
The leaves produced indoors will be thinner and slightly less flavorful than those grown outdoors but will still add welcome flavor to your favorite dishes. Refill the water as needed and enjoy the prolonged harvest for several weeks to come.
Windermere is fortunate to have Chief Economist Matthew Gardner on staff to provide valuable analysis of the economy and housing market. Matthew recently completed his national forecast which details his predictions for the 2018 housing market.
Modern home appliances make our lives so much easier: They tackle dreaded household chores, saving us time and effort. There are lots of ways to use them, however, that you may not have thought of before. From cleaning your ceiling fixtures in the dishwasher to vacuuming your pet, here are 13 little-known tricks for getting more than your money’s worth from your appliances.
- Sanitize small toys and more. Use your dishwasher to wash and sanitize teething rings, small plastic toys, mouth guards, and even baseball caps. Place items on the top rack and run the dishwasher as usual with detergent (without any dirty dishes). Put smaller items in a small mesh laundry bag so that they don’t move around.
- Clean ceiling fixtures. At least once or twice a year, remove and clean your glass ceiling fixtures and light covers in an empty dishwasher. Run the machine on the normal cycle.
- Eliminate wrinkles from clothing. To smooth out wrinkled clothes or linens left too long in the dryer, toss a damp, lint-free cloth in with them. Run the load on the lowest setting for 10 to 15 minutes. Newer dryers also feature a steam setting that removes wrinkles and refreshes clothing between wears.
- Disinfect sponges and dishcloths. Kitchen sponges and dishcloths contain billions of germs. Clean and disinfect them daily by zapping them on high in the microwave for 2 minutes to kill germs.
- Freshen up your curtains. Vacuum heavy drapes with the upholstery attachment. Use the dusting brush attachment for lighter drapes. Wash sheer curtains in the washing machine on the delicate cycle, then hang them up while they’re damp to prevent wrinkles.
- Remove wax from fabric or carpet. To get rid of wax on a tablecloth, place it in your freezer until the wax is hard. Then put a flat paper bag over the wax and another under the fabric. Iron the top bag with a medium-hot iron until all the wax transfers to the bag. To remove wax from a carpet or rug, place an ice pack on the spot until the wax hardens. Shatter the wax and vacuum up the chips.
- Clean baseboards. Dusting baseboards can be a backbreaking chore. Use your vacuum cleaner and the dusting brush attachment to avoid having to bend down. Do the same to clean chair and table legs.
- Organize your fridge. Use the built-in features of your refrigerator to organize food by category. Designate certain shelves or areas for leftovers, preferably front and center, so you don’t forget they’re in there. Use special-purpose bins for their intended use: crispers for vegetables, deli trays for deli meats and cheeses, cold storage trays for meats. Newer models also feature convertible cooling zones to keep food fresh.
- Dust blinds. Extend the blinds fully and turn the slats to the closed position. Use the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean the slats from top to bottom. Then open and reclose the slats in the opposite direction and repeat the process.
- Clean your microwave. The best time to clean your microwave is immediately after using it. Thanks to residual steam, all you have to do is wipe it out with a paper towel or damp sponge. To clean old messes, microwave 2 cups of water on high for 5 minutes. The steam will soften cooked-on spills, which you can wipe off with a paper towel or cloth.
- Exterminate dust mites. Dust mites live off human and animal dander and other household dust particles. They thrive in sofas, carpets, and bedding. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum your mattress and upholstered furniture regularly to minimize dust mites. Be sure to empty the canister in an outdoor trashcan.
- Groom your pet. If your dog or cat doesn’t hide when you get out your vacuum cleaner, try using the dusting brush attachment to brush your pet. It’s a gentle way to collect shedding fur.
- Remove grime from shower liners. Wash plastic shower curtain liners in the washing machine with hot water and detergent on the regular cycle. Throw in a small bath towel to help “scrub” mildew and soap scum off the liner. Then rehang the liner and let it air-dry.
Have you found any unusual cleaning hacks for your appliances? Share in the comments below!
Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper writes for The Home Depot about easy organization hacks, including the best ways to use your appliances. To view The Home Depot’s selection of appliances, click here.
This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.
The Washington State economy has been expanding at a rapid pace but we are seeing a slowdown as the state grows closer to full employment. Given the solid growth, I would expect to see income growth move markedly higher, though this has yet to materialize. I anticipate that we will see faster income growth in the second half of the year. I still believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017.
Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continue to see unemployment fall. The latest state-wide report now shows a rate of 4.5%—the lowest rate since data started to be collected in 1976.
I believe that growth in the state will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole and, with such robust expansion, I would not be surprised to see more people relocate here as they see Washington as a market that offers substantial opportunity.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
- There were 23,349 home sales during the second quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 1.1% from the same period in 2016.
- Clallam County maintains its position as number one for sales growth over the past 12 months. Double-digit gains in sales were seen in just three other counties, which is a sharp drop from prior reports. I attribute this to inventory constraints rather than any tangible drop in demand. The only modest decline in sales last quarter was seen in Grays Harbor County.
- The number of homes for sale, unfortunately, showed no improvement, with an average of just 9,279 listings in the quarter, a decline of 20.4% from the second quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 3.6% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
- The key takeaway from this data is that it is unlikely we will see a significant increase in the number of homes for sale for the rest of 2017.
- Along with the expanding economy, home prices continue to rise at very robust rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.9%. The region’s average sales price is now $470,187.
- Price growth in Western Washington continues to impress as competition for the limited number of homes for sale remains very strong. With little easing in supply, we anticipate that prices will continue to rise at above long-term averages.
- When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County where sale prices were 29.2% higher than second quarter of 2016. Eight additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
- The specter of rising interest rates failed to materialize last quarter, but this actually functioned to get more would-be buyers off the fence and into the market. This led to even more demand which translated into rising home prices.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by 18 days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
- King County remains the tightest market; homes, on average, sold in a remarkable 15 days. Every county in this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop from the same period a year ago.
- Last quarter, it took an average of 48 days to sell a home. This is down from the 66 days it took in the second quarter of 2016.
- Given the marked lack of inventory, I would not be surprised to see the length of time it takes to sell a home drop further before the end of the year.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. To define the Western Washington market as “tight” is somewhat of an understatement.
Inventory is short and buyers are plentiful.
Something must give, but unless we see builders delivering substantially more units than they have been, it will remain staunchly a sellers’ market for the balance of the year.
Furthermore, increasing mortgage rates have failed to materialize and, with employment and income growth on the rise, the regional housing market will continue to be very robust.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
After succumbing to the “Great Recession” ten years ago, the stock market has made a comeback. So, does that mean you should forget about buying a new house and invest in stocks instead? The answer to that question, say experts, depends on your investing savvy, your financial discipline, your age, and your current financial situation.
The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I disciplined enough to invest in stocks?” According to two professors who recently studied 30 years of personal-finance performance, you need to be someone with exceptional financial discipline if you want to earn real money in the stock market. Or, you could simply buy a house.
When you buy real estate, the down payment and monthly mortgage payments force you to set aside a significant amount of your earnings on a regular basis. It’s automatic. But if you can’t summon the same discipline to invest that same amount of money in the stock market on an equally regular basis, then stocks are probably going to be a losing proposition, according to the professors’ study.
“We find that if people don’t invest all the money, actually about 90% of the time, you’re better off buying real estate,” says Professor Eli Beracha, co-author of the study.
Other issues that make stock investing risky
Investing guru James Altucher wrote a column in The Wall St. Journal titled, “8 Reasons You Stink at Trading Stocks.” In it, he argues that most non-professionals don’t have the investing savvy required to be successful in the stock market. Here are a few telling excerpts:
- “Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average drivers. Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average investors. Both are mathematically impossible.”
- “Most people sell at the bottom and buy at the top—the opposite of what you want to do as an investor—because they let emotions get in the way of patience and strategy.”
- “It’s really hard to own stocks. It’s not just picking a stock and watching it go up 1,000%. It’s buying it and sometimes watching it go down 80% before it ends up rising 20% above your purchase price. It’s waiting. It’s patience. Psychology is at least 80% of the game. And knowing when to sell? Even harder.”
When you’re young, many financial advisors encourage investing in things like individual stocks. With a long career ahead, you have time to wait for any bad investments to turn around before you may really need the money. But once you’re a little older, with a family, and starting to focus on your financial future, that’s when advisers recommend you buy things like real estate—a conservative investment with a long history of stable, predictable earnings.
The type of loan you choose also makes a difference
If you want to both own a home and invest in stocks, consider a 30-year home loan, which will significantly reduce your monthly payments and leave you with extra money for playing the market. (Just remember the tradeoff: You’ll end up paying thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of the loan.)
If you don’t have a burning desire to play the stock market, choose a 15-year home loan. You’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan, you’ll build equity faster, and, obviously, you’ll be mortgage-free 15 years sooner.
The tax advantages of owning real estate
As a homeowner, you’re entitled to a bevy of tax benefits you don’t get as a stock investor. You can deduct your mortgage interest and property taxes from your annual tax return. Plus, depending on your circumstances, you could also get a deduction or credit for any home-office expenses, moving expenses, capital gains, any “points” used to lower your interest rate, and more.
One caveat: investing in real estate takes time
No matter what some of those reality TV programs show, buying a home should not be viewed as a get-rich-quick scheme. But if you think you’re ready to put down roots for as long as seven years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate significantly during that time (even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way).
The non-financial benefits
Of course, not all of the benefits of owning a home are financial. For most Americans, their home is a source of tremendous pride, comfort, security and freedom. Most of us also use our homes to showcase our personality, through paint colors, furnishings, landscaping, yard signs, holiday decorations and so much more.
Yes, the stock market is on an upswing currently (depending on the week), but if you want an investment with a long-term track record of consistent returns—plus tax breaks and a variety of personal perks—you may want to buy a home instead.
If you have questions about the buying or selling process, or are looking for an experienced agent in your area, connect with me here.
How can you make your home more attractive to potential buyers? The answer is with some “home staging”. According to the Wall Street Journal, implementing some basic interior design techniques can not only speed up the sale of your home but also increase your final selling price.
It all comes down to highlighting your home’s strengths, downplaying its weaknesses, and making it more appealing to the largest pool of prospective buyers. Staging an empty house is also important to help buyers visualize how the spaces would be used, and to give the home warmth and character.
Cohesiveness Is Key
Make the inside match the outside. For example, if the exterior architectural style of your house is Victorian or Craftsman Bungalow, the interior should be primarily outfitted with furniture styles from essentially the same era. Prospective buyers who like the exterior style of your home are going to expect something similar when they step inside. If the two styles don’t agree or at least complement each other, there is likely going to be an immediate disconnect for the buyer. Contact your agent to help determine the architectural style of your home and what makes it unique.
There is always room for flexibility. Not all your furnishings need to match, and even the primary furnishings do not need to be an exact match to the architectural style of your home. To create cohesion, you simply need to reflect the overall look-and-feel of the exterior.
The Role of Personal Expression
Every home is a personal expression of its owner. But when you become a seller, you’ll want to deemphasize much of the décor that makes a place uniquely yours and instead look for ways to make it appeal to your target market. Keep in mind, your target market is made up of the group of people most likely to be interested in a home like yours—which is something your agent can help you determine.
Your Goal: Neutralize and Brighten
Since personal style differs from person to person, a good strategy to sell your home is to “neutralize” the design of your interior. A truly neutral interior design allows people touring the house to easily imagine their own belongings in the space—and to envision how some simple changes would make it uniquely their own.
In short, you want to downplay your own personal expression, while making it easy for others to mentally project their own sense of style on the space. Ideas include:
- Paint over any bold wall colors with something more neutral, like a light beige, a warm gray, or a soft brown. The old advice used to be, “paint everything white,” but often that creates too sterile of an environment, while dark colors can make a room look small, even a bit dirty. Muted tones and soft colors work best.
- Consider removing wallpaper if it’s a bold or busy design.
- Replace heavy, dark curtains with neutral-colored shear versions; this will soften the hard edges around windows while letting in lots of natural light.
- Turn on lamps, and if necessary, install lighting fixtures to brighten any dark spaces—especially the entry area.
- Make sure everything is extremely clean. You may even want to hire professionals to give your home a thorough deep clean. Remember, the kitchen and bathrooms are by far the two most important rooms in a house when selling, so ongoing maintenance is important.
The Importance of De-Cluttering
Above all, make sure every room—including closets and the garage—is clutter-free. Family photos, personal memorabilia, and collectibles should be boxed up. Closets, shelves, and other storage areas should be mostly empty. Work benches should be free of tools and projects. Clear the kitchen counters, store non-necessary cookware, and remove all those magnets from the refrigerator door.
The same goes for furniture. If removing a chair, a lamp, a table, or other furnishings will make a particular space look larger or more inviting, then by all means do it.
You don’t want your home to appear cold, un-loved, or unlived-in, but you do want to remove distractions and provide prospective buyers with a blank canvas of sorts. Plus, de-cluttering your home now will make it that much easier to pack when it comes time to move.
Where to Start
Contact your agent for advice on how to most effectively stage your home or for a recommendation on a professional stager. While the simple interior design techniques outlined above may seem more like common sense than marketing magic, you’d be surprised at how many homeowners routinely overlook them. And the results are clear: staging your house to make it more appealing to your target buyer is often all it takes to speed the sale and boost the price.
Source: Windermere Blog
In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. And it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.
What a standard homeowners policy covers
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.
Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.
If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.
How much insurance do you need?
Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:
· Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
· Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
· Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?
Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.
Protect your assets
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.
Rebuild your home
You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.
The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.
Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.
Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.
Replacing your valuables
If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.
There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectables. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.
To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.
Create a home inventory file
It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease. The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value. Simple inventory lists are available online. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:
· Item description and quantity
· Manufacturer or brand name
· Serial number or model number
· Where the item was purchased
· Receipt or other proof of purchase \Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser
· Date of purchase (or age)
· Current value
· Replacement cost
Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.
Storing your home inventory list
Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe incase your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.
We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.
75 million Baby Boomers control nearly 80% of all U.S. wealth, and as this generation ages, retires, and inevitably downsizes, they will have a significant impact on the housing market. Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains when we can expect to see Boomers start to sell, opening much-needed inventory and making home ownership available to younger generations.
Some good friends of ours just finished a master suite remodel. On the whole it went well: on time, on budget and generally to their satisfaction. Still, the process and execution were less than flawless, and as I listened to what didn’t go exactly to plan, I realized that other people could benefit from considering many of the lessons my friends learned before they embark on their own projects.
Bathroom Remodel 1: Tucker & Marks, original photo on Houzz
1. Have a plan. This is not just an idea in your head and some hand waving or rough sketches. A plan is dimensioned and intentional, and includes elevations showing what rooms look like from different directions. Plans are most frequently and effectively assembled by design professionals who know the amount of space required for common features in rooms, like showers and vanities, and are accustomed to working out solutions for challenging spaces.
The purpose of a plan is twofold: to show homeowners what they should expect, and to show contractors what they are expected to build. Without a plan, you have only hand waving, and that’s not much on which to base a contract, or from which to build.
Having a plan also enables homeowners to interview a short list of contractors and to evaluate their thoughts on the likely cost. Without a plan, every contractor you talk with will have a slightly different idea of what you have in mind.
Hire a design professional to create this plan. Design professionals do this all day, every day, and will put together a functional plan that 99.9 percent of the time will be better than anything you could come up with yourself. It will also have some beautiful feature or function that you never would have thought of (or would have thought impossible). Spend the money. It’s worth it. If you’re not convinced, talk with a friend or two who decided to forgo professional design and see how their project turned out.
Bathroom Remodel 2: Susan Lachance Interior Design, original photo on Houzz
2. Specify materials. A corollary to plans is specifications. This list of materials and methods outlines what will be installed and in what way. Specifications provide the opportunity to outline everything that will be installed and mention things like where seams will be in countertops and how many seams are acceptable. These kinds of things can have a large bearing on cost, so documenting what you expect will help contractors provide pricing for the specific things you want.
Think about cars as a comparison. Do you just ask for a 14-foot-long black car with a 6-cylinder engine? That could be a lot of different cars at different price points. Think about the kinds of details you’d consider for ordering a car, and make sure you ask for all of the features you’d like in your project, or you might end up with a base-model bath or kitchen.
As in item No. 1, hire a professional to do this. It will be money well spent.
Bathroom Remodel 3: Sutro Architects, original photo on Houzz
3. Don’t be frightened. The dollar amount you will spend on your remodel can be high, particularly if the plan for the project you really want costs twice what you thought it would. It’s not unusual for homeowners to start with a wish list and then make decisions to bring the scope of work for their project back in line with their budget. Expect this to be part of the process.
The first step of budgeting for a project is to talk with your design professional about how much you are willing to spend. Make sure you account for at least a 10 percent contingency amount in that so you are aiming for a realistic number. When the first round of pricing comes back from contractors and it’s higher than your budget, it’s probably because it includes your entire wish list.
This is when value engineering (VE) comes in. When you value engineer a project, you identify parts of the scope of work (either the materials or the size of the project) that can be deleted or substituted. In most projects there’s a decent list of items that will reduce costs and allow you to bring the project into the range of your budget.
Working with design professionals through this process will allow you to benefit from their expertise and delete or change items that won’t substantially affect the finished project.
Bathroom Remodel 4: FINNE Architects, original photo on Houzz
4. See the value of CA. CA is not California. It’s construction administration, and it’s one of the key services that architects offer their clients.
When the construction set of plans is done, the elevations and electrical plans are complete, and the project is ready to start, it is not time to bid your architect adieu. Construction administration keeps architects on through construction, usually attending weekly meetings and providing design details as needed, assisting with electrical and tile layout, and providing feedback to the contractor as they build.
Architects also provide clients with an objective and experienced eye as construction proceeds. They can scan the room and notice whether framing is installed as they designed it and whether the materials they specified are being used — particularly on the components of the house that are inside walls.
I can unequivocally say that the projects we work on where CA is part of the project go more smoothly and have more consistently excellent outcomes, because of the collaboration that is built into the process. Would you rather have your contractor work out design details, or the architect to whom you entrusted the design of your project? Let all the professionals do their jobs, and keep your team together during construction.
Bathroom Remodel 5: Dick Clark + Associates, original photo on Houzz
5. Ask how and why. If you aren’t entirely certain about how something is done or why it’s being done, ask. Construction professionals’ work is usually routine and expected. Because of that, tradespeople sometimes will install things a certain way because it’s the simplest and easiest way to do it. But sometimes the path of least resistance won’t yield the result you want.
Why does that ductwork need to go there? Probably it doesn’t. It can go in one or two other places, and having a conversation about where it will go can make a big difference in your finished space. The same thing with plumbing lines and other infrastructure.
In residential jobs, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work is almost always bidder-designed, meaning that your construction plans won’t give instructions about how to get utilities to their locations — it will just show where they need to end up. That means a deliberate discussion is needed. If you don’t ask, and your contractor is not proactive, don’t be surprised to see ductwork or plumbing in places you don’t want it.
Bathroom Remodel 6: Sketch Building Design, original photo on Houzz
6. Ask how long and how much. When changes are made during construction — and they inevitably will be — don’t just ask whether a change can be made, but know the cost and the impact on schedule. Change orders are supposed to detail the change made and all of its effects, but sometimes they don’t capture everything. For instance, you might like to add an outlet to an existing wall. There’s the obvious cost of the electrician, but what about the demolition where the outlet will go, patching the Sheetrock and repainting the wall at that location? Oh, and protecting the floor while the work is going on. It never hurts to ask, “Is this really all of it?”
One other thing to make sure you ask with change orders is whether the decision you’re making affects anything else. An example might be changing the size of a vanity sink base from standard to custom. There’s an obvious change in cost for the cabinet, and perhaps an adjustment to the countertop cost if the size of the cabinet makes it larger or smaller, but did you think about the sink and faucet you selected months ago for the standard cabinet? Changes to casework almost always have a cascade of effects, from countertops to tile to millwork, and can necessitate revisiting sinks and faucets to make sure they still fit.
By Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS, Houzz