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Increase Home Value: Tips From The Builder

When Mary and Todd Harmon bought they’re first home in early 2012. A 2000-square foot fixer- upper in Pt. Pleasant Beach, NJ. They assumed they’d be living there for at least 10 -15 years. So they embarked on a series of home improvements to make the home fit their style and needs. They refinished the kitchen cabinets, installed new stainless steel appliances and remodeled a bathroom. New laminate floors replaced the old mix of linoleum and warn out high maintenance carpeting. All with one question in mind. How to increase home value.

Outside they removed the old siding and installed new cedar shake impressions. They also used that opportunity to wrap the house in rigid insulation, improving its overall energy efficiency. Though the Harmon’s saved a lot by some of the work themselves. The total investment was still close to $80,000.

When forced to sell in 2014 do to work issues they set the asking price at $425,000. The first open house was like a feeding frenzy. Attracting buyers from all over NJ looking to move into the much desired Pt Pleasant Beach area. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. When a home is move in ready and people know they don’t have to do anything to the home except move in that’s a big plus.

The house sold for $452,000.

Granted, some of the roughly $200,000 increase in home value had to do with the increase in home values in Pt Pleasant Beach. But it’s also due to the Harmon’s great instincts about what today’s buyers are looking for. Especially now that millennials, all 75 million of them, have become the leading home buyers, purchasing about 32% of homes in NJ.

So let the following renovation guidelines driven by shifts in the current housing market inform your decision to improve your home and its value.

Disclaimer: Do The Work Right

Hire a professional Home Builder or home remodeling company like Gambrick that can guarantee you the work will be be done right. Not just quality but also timing and price has to be guaranteed. A top new home builder will put these things in writing. Check references and look at their past work. If you don’t do the work right your throwing money away. And don’t get ripped off. Contractors can be shady in NJ. Check any company out that your giving money to. And also ask about their subcontractors. The builder may be good but if their using bad subcontractors it’ll effect your home’s value increase.

1: Increase Home Value – The Kitchen Is Still King

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Buyers of all kinds have always focused on the kitchen. It continues to hold the top spot among priorities of homeowners. A modern kitchen topped the list of ideal home features in our survey of home buyers for the last 5 years. Ranking #1 to more than a third of respondents. If you plan to sell, you don’t necessarily need to redo the entire kitchen to make a serious impact. For as little as $10,000, you can add new appliances, countertop and flooring. Apply a fresh coat of paint to the walls or cabinets and update the hardware. Breath new life into the space rather than gut and redo the entire kitchen. You won’t make as much as if you remodeled it all but it’s still a very solid way to increase home value.

Value Added Kitchen Remodeling Buzzwords

Stainless steel.
Stainless steel has been around for decades. The epitome of clean, contemporary design. Used in the highest end homes which cost in the millions. Considered a luxury item and definitely not a fad that will go out of style any time soon. Look for new versions of black stainless steel from KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung. Considered to have a softer, less reflective finish but the same cachet as the original. Stainless steel appliances is one of the few times you can use the same item as in a multi million dollar luxury new home.

Quartz countertops. Increase home value with high quality countertops in both the kitchen and bathrooms. engineered from stone chips, resins, and pigments. Quartz has started to chip away at granite and marble as the must have material in higher end luxury kitchens. It shruggs off heat, scratches, cuts, and stains. Requires none of the upkeep of comparably priced natural stones. And it looks beautiful when matched with the right tile and cabinets. Expect to spend $40 to $100 per square foot installed.

Potential bump in sale price: 3 to 8%

2: Open Floor Plan

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Bigger isn’t always better in today’s market. Strategically increasing the amount of living space is sure to increase home value. An “open floor plan with flexible living space” was second only to an updated kitchen on our list of most desired features. Open floor plans make a home feel much bigger than it actually is. Interior walls use up square footage and make a house harder to navigate.

Finishing a basement or attic is the most common way to add usable square footage to a home. Most homeowners spend anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 converting a basement. Size of the basement and what goes into it are huge drivers of cost. We’ve finished basements that cost over $100,000 that included kitchen, bathrooms, living rooms, etc. You can finish it to the same level as the rest of the home. What you put in your finished basement should match the finish quality of the rest of the house. The average attic remodel costs a little less since attics tend to be a bit smaller.

Many buyers envision the added living space as a home gym or office, especially if they work from home. A playroom, study or entertainment rooms are also great options. Check out our article on bonus rooms for more great ideas on what to do with your new square footage.

Value Added Basement Remodeling Buzzwords

Flex rooms.
Also known as a bonus room. You’ll see flex rooms advertised as an additional living areas that can serve a variety of purposes. From a study, to a home office, playroom or home gym. These rooms are flexible and can become almost anything. They can also be changed over time to meet your family’s changing style and needs. Today you may need a playroom for the kids and tomorrow a home library.

Mother-in-law suite. They can house an additional family member or provide rental income if allowed. We’d have to check the local codes to see what’s allowed because it varies from town to town. It’s great to have a separate living area when you need it.

Upstairs laundry rooms. More and more home buyers say they want a dedicated laundry room and they prefer it upstairs. Manufacturers are obliging with washer/dryer sets with a matching fit and finish integrating nicely into the look and feel of the house. Having a laundry room upstairs is so convenient because that’s where most of the laundry ends up anyway.

Potential bump: 4 to 6%

3: Be Energy Efficient

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Lowering your home’s energy costs will save you money and increase home value. This has been a major selling point as people become more and more interested in climate change. “Energy-­efficient” was second only to “safe community” on the list of attributes that would most influence a purchase decision, according to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders.

Older homeowners who’ve felt the sting of escalating energy costs tend to be driving the interest along with first time home buyers who tend to live on a tighter budget. Installing energy efficient heating and cooling saves money over time and is a great selling point. Don’t forget about R-values of windows and doors as well as insulation. These things are not sexy headline topics but they make money. Most buyers appreciate a home that’s energy efficient and will pay more to own one.

This is also a great way to set your home apart from the rest in a crowded real estate market.

And don’t forget about that water heater.  It accounts for about 15% of the energy costs in a typical home. Spending $1,800 to $2,400 on a new energy efficient unit is another way to impress efficiency minded buyers.

With these types of changes return on investment tends to vary quite a bit based on where you are so do your research. In some areas of NJ people are really concerned about the subject and in other places not at all. Also this tends to vary a lot based on the value of a home.

Overall increasing energy efficiency in a home tens to be a great way to increase home value.

Value Added High Efficiency Buzzwords

High-efficiency windows.
Energy Star certified windows can lower your home’s energy bills by 7 to 15%.

That will be a great selling point with buyers. However replacing every window in a home can be expensive. Depending on the amount of windows, sizes and brand you choose of course. When it comes to windows prices vary a lot by brand and series.

LED lights. Some listings emphasize their “green” credentials by mentioning the presence of LED lighting. It’s a newer thing but people seam to respond positively to it and it’s getting more and more popular.

Potential bump: 1 to 4%

4: Keep It Simple and Stress-Free

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Stone countertops, overly ornate cabinets, and plush wall to wall carpet used to be symbols of luxury. But today’s home buyers are more likely to be turned off and those things as items they’ll likely want to change in the future. Buyers nowadays want stress free living. The most sought after finishes are simple, clean and low maintenance.

It’s also important to keep the major mechanical systems in working order. Most home buyers use all of their savings on the down payment. They want to know that the heating system, plumbing, and electricity are in good working order and will last. Make sure all your mechanical systems are clean and in good working order.

Increase home value with Central air conditioning. It’s in high demand because no one likes taking window units in and out. Their heavy, need to be stored somewhere when not in use and are pretty inefficient when compared to central air. ­

Want a good pro tip. Make sure the filters are all changed. It’s cheap and shows you updated your systems and keep them working properly. It’ll put that potential home buyer at ease. A small dollar thing you can do to increase home value and help make a sale.

Value Added Buzzwords

Updated systems.
Include the age of the system and point to its reliability. For example, Consumer Reports surveys have found American Standard and Trane to be among the least repair prone manufacturers of gas furnaces. So if your replacing one buy one of these and point the study out so home buyers know.

New roof. This helps potential fears of water damage from leaks, pest infestation, and other home disasters that can result from an old, shoddy roof.

Hardwood floors. More and more carpets are being replaced with oak hardwood flooring. Many come pre-finished with a durable factory finish so you don’t have to deal with messy sanding or the harsh odors from wood finishes. Engineered wood flooring is also a great option. It costs a lot less and is very durable.

Potential bump: 3 to 5%

5: Build a Home for Multiple Age Groups

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By 2040, there are expected to be almost 80 million seniors living in the US. The existing housing stock isn’t equipped to safely accommodate that many retirees. If you live in an area that has a large number of retirees looking to downsize and your home is a good fit you may want to think about making some changes. Some very small changes can increase home value and give you an extra edge when marketing the home to potential buyers in your area.

The best thing is that many of these improvements can be enjoyed by everyone. Not just the elderly.

Value Added Buzzwords

Walk in shower.
People in the 50 plus age range don’t want to step over the tub to take a shower. Add a walk in shower with separate tub. Make the door wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair if you can. This is a fantastic feature because most of the high end luxury homes we build have this included anyway. Most high end master baths have a walk in shower with a bench seat, free standing tub and his and hers sinks.

Master on main. A floor plan in which a master bedroom is on the first floor reduces the need to climb stairs. You can still have a master bath attached to the master bedroom upstairs. This is just another larger, full bath on the 1st floor.

Comfort height toilets. These toilets are a few inches taller, which makes getting on and off easier. You can buy one of these toilets online for around 100 bucks so it’s no big deal and a cheap way to increase home value.

Potential bump: 1 to 2%

6: Paint Is a Great Upgrade

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Paint is a great way to keep your home looking its best and it’s something you can do yourself on a weekend off. If you’re getting ready to sell don’t blow thousands having the entire home repainted. Instead, focus on high traffic areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms and entry. use a great paint scheme to make a first impressions potential buyers will remember.

Make sure to cover up any noticeable wear and tear. Dog scratches on walls, trim and doors is a no no.

Value Added Paint Buzzwords

Neutral color scheme.
Whites and off whites remain the top selling interior colors for a reason. They appeal to the highest number of home buyers. Neutrals appeal to all generations of buyers and don’t really turn anyone off. Stick with basic color schemes. Grays tend to go well with nice white trim. White ceilings, trim and doors is a standard. Keep everything clean and neat. Nothing too loud which could potentially ruin a sale. You want the buyer to envision themselves living in the home as is. If they thing to themselves I need to paint over that bright red wall that’s a bad sign. 

High quality paints. Increase home value with high quality paints. Home Depot’s Behr Marquee, $43 per gallon, is our top-rated interior paint. For outdoor projects, Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior, $39 per gallon, and Clark+Kensington Exterior from Ace Hardware, $35 per gallon, offered the best protection. Good paint is worth the money. It’s not that much more than cheap paint but it covers better.

Potential bump: 1 to 2%

7: Don’t Forget the Outdoors

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Your home’s property is another opportunity to expand its living space. Adding a deck or patio with room for seating is a great way to do it. In door out door living spaces is one of the most asked about features when designing new homes for our clients. Everyone seams to want a deck or patio to entertain on.

But remember the rule of low upkeep and keep it simple. If you build a deck with wood they’ll see something they need to upkeep every year. If you build a composite deck and tell them it’s maintenance free that’s a huge plus.

And keeping the colors neutral applies to the outdoors as well. Coordinate the outdoor color scheme with the overall colors on the house including the siding, roof, doors and shutters.

Value Added Outdoor Buzzwords

Curb appeal.
Trimming overgrown shrubs and making minor repairs including painting the front door can deliver quick results. Replacing worn out siding can be expensive up front but you’ll get your money back if your home desperately needs it. It’s hard to sell a home if it doesn’t look great from the street. Siding is a very cost effective way to increase home value.

Potential bump: 3 to 5%


If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you.

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