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Author Topic: Prioritizing home improvements  (Read 29612 times)
schoolmarm
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« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2012, 2:43:27 PM »

I would also caution putting more money into a house right now.  If your estimate of price increase is from 1.5 years ago, you may or may not have a property that appreciates.  The housing market is totally nuts right now.

I would do the windows for the tax incentive and energy savings.
I would do the kitchen because I cook a lot.
I would do the driveway if it is a hazard.

I would also learn how to do some of this myself. Some of these are bigger home repairs and I would probably contract out.  Also, you don't have to do all the windows at once.
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madhatter
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« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2012, 2:45:26 PM »

Typo, right?  You meant $50k purchase to $70k current value (and kudos to you for that appreciation with seemingly no sweat equity).
No, no typo, we are in the mid-atlantic area, with $50K we unfortunatey can't even buy a studio apt:)....It was  a $500K purchase, and approx mid $700 current value judging from the most recent comparable sale in the neighborhood 1.5 years ago...

I seriously question that valuation. A 1.5 year old comp isn't worth anything.
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oldadjunct
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LIFO. Enough said.


« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2012, 7:39:40 PM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.
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spork
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« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2012, 9:29:01 PM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

None of what the homeowner has posted here makes any sense.
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

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madhatter
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« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2012, 10:45:05 AM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

Concur. While upgrades can help a house sell, cheap upgrades actually diminish the value, I think. We saw one memorable house -- fairly new construction (within the past five years), great curb appeal, excellent location and school district, spacious with a good layout -- but the cheapest quality materials were used throughout the interior -- hollow-core doors, bad paint, builder-grade cabinets, everything. That house continues to sit unsold, after numerous price drops.
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fleabite
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« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2012, 11:33:43 AM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

None of what the homeowner has posted here makes any sense.

What the homeowner posted makes perfect sense in the Middle Atlantic region where he/she lives. In a number of areas in that region, house prices bear no resemblance to those found in most of the United States (and have been much less impacted by the recession). A $500,000 home, assuming it's even available (because most will be over $1 million) is going to be small, at the low end of the market, and is likely to be a handyman's special. You are paying for the location, not for luxurious decor.
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spork
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« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2012, 1:51:51 PM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

None of what the homeowner has posted here makes any sense.

What the homeowner posted makes perfect sense in the Middle Atlantic region where he/she lives. In a number of areas in that region, house prices bear no resemblance to those found in most of the United States (and have been much less impacted by the recession). A $500,000 home, assuming it's even available (because most will be over $1 million) is going to be small, at the low end of the market, and is likely to be a handyman's special. You are paying for the location, not for luxurious decor.

The OP started with the following:

Hello friends,

I need your help making some home improvement decisions.

We bought our house 10 years ago (around $500K, now value at about $700K) and we are happy with the location, schools etc. We don't see ourselves moving or selling in the next 20+years.

Since we bought the house, we have painted some of the rooms (5+ years ago) and the exterior (2 years ago). We have done no other work in the house.

We have about $10K to spend but we are trying to figure out the best way to prioritize.  We would like to do the following (not in priority order):
(a)  paint interior (~$5K)
(b)  change single pane windows (~$20K)
(c)  change 1960's kitchen (~$10K from IKEA)
(d)  re-pave driveway (~$3K)
(e)  remodel front steps (~$2K), and,
(f)  remodel 1960's master bathroom (~10K)

We also pondered remodeling the kitchen and extending the kitchen/den but the cost estimates (~$200K !!!) were forbidding ---  if we had $200K to spend I would rather buy another house than doing construction in our current house.

[. . . ]


An extension costing $200K on a house worth $500-700K? When the owner is considering a kitchen remodel for $10K? Is the debate whether to put down gold plated floor tiles in the extension?

Hiring someone to paint the interior in an area with such high home prices for only $5K? Is this house 1,200 square feet, or is the painter a guy who rides around the neighborhood on a bicycle with a stepladder over his shoulder, ringing doorbells?

$20K for replacement windows implies a house much bigger than 1,200 square feet. In my region, a house with, oh, let's say, eight rooms, 2,000 square feet, 25 windows, would mean $7500 in new, highly efficient replacement windows. Just doing storms would be less. 
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

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larryc
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« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2012, 3:14:28 PM »

Jeez, some you guys would string up a Girl Scout for trying to sell cookies! "Wait one moment--at first you claimed you had Thin Mints for $6 a box and Peanut Butter treats for $4, and now you are saying that Thin Mints are $5 and the Peanut Butters are really Samosas?! I call troll!"

If your heating and cooling bills are high I would start with windows. Old House Fan makes a good point that wooden windows can actually be restored to a pretty good thermal efficiency in most cases. When they were made they sealed up pretty tight when your turned the catch, they can bet hat way again (if they aren't too rotted), and probably for a lot less than replacement windows. Plus, if your house has any architectural personality at all, the windows are an important part of that and any replacements should mimic the originals and not just be the cheapest replacements at Home Depot. I did all the windows in our old Missouri place with good results, if you hire it out make sure you get someone who knows old windows.

If you heating/cooling is not that high, I would do something in the kitchen.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 3:14:56 PM by larryc » Logged

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hegemony
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« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2012, 3:49:24 PM »

I'm with Larry.  Having been investigating houses in several regions, as well as extensive renovations, this all sounds extremely plausible to me.  Those of you who think $500,000 is a high house price, well, I envy you your region.  And $200,000 does not sound out of bounds for what some contractors charge for an extension, depending on a lot of factors, of course.  But in general, estimates are rarely higher than the real cost.

OP, I know there are a number of house-renovation boards on the web, even one populated by contractors (not customers).  I've learned a lot from those on occasion, though I'm blanking on the board names right now.  Anyway, it might well be worth digging those up and listening in for a while.
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tee_bee
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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2012, 3:57:04 PM »

Bookmarking, but I'd just pitch in with this: we have a similar set of needs, but we are doing the windows first. Fortunately, my wife is very good with this sort of thing, and she's been installing them herself, one room at a time, one room every month/paycheck. So far, this works because of the casement windows being relatively inexpensive at Lowes. Yes, they are not top of the line--but since they replace the original early 1960s windows, we are already seeing an immediate benefit in keeping drafts under control in the two drafty rooms she's already fixed. Also, FWIW, we live in the South, so doing windows in the winter isn't quite as daunting as up north!

I also agree that one should avoid putting too much into a house now. We could easily do 100k worth of improvements in our house and realize, at sale, a whopping $50k increase in the value of the house, because of the nature of the market and the prevailing style of houses in our neighborhood, which are quite modest. We focus on improvements that will yield a return in a few years (windows), make us happy (ripping out cruddy carpet and old linoleum and replacing with hardwood), or increase curb appeal of the house if we sell (both).
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oldadjunct
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LIFO. Enough said.


« Reply #25 on: February 23, 2012, 1:59:45 AM »

I'm with Larry.  Having been investigating houses in several regions, as well as extensive renovations, this all sounds extremely plausible to me.  Those of you who think $500,000 is a high house price, well, I envy you your region.  And $200,000 does not sound out of bounds for what some contractors charge for an extension, depending on a lot of factors, of course.  But in general, estimates are rarely higher than the real cost.

OP, I know there are a number of house-renovation boards on the web, even one populated by contractors (not customers).  I've learned a lot from those on occasion, though I'm blanking on the board names right now.  Anyway, it might well be worth digging those up and listening in for a while.

Let's all agree that there are too many variables here for more than reasonable head-scratching about the OP's situation.  For example, in 2002 I know from first hand experience $500k got you within commonly accepted commuting distance of central Boston, with 1/4 acre, good schools, granite countertops in the kitchen, multiple updated bathrooms, and multipane windows, and about 2.500 sq ft.  In 2008, I can also say with great certainty  that $492k (NB the precision of that number) purchased a 2b/1b half duplex in Alexandria, VA.  The very small galley kitchen in that place recently cost >20k in order to be both reasonably functional, and an asset to the property.  So I do know whereof I speak on high housing cost areas.

Yes, OP's scenario is certainly possible.  Frankly, it sounds like Bethpage, NY, which is why I never intended to dismiss it out of hand.  Even so, that last thing you want to do, OP, is drop a cheesy Ikea kitchen in.

Fix the windows first.
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anon99
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« Reply #26 on: February 23, 2012, 9:12:58 AM »

If you are in a colder area (or even one where you need A/C in the summer), replacing the windows over a period of time is a good idea.  Others mentioned replacing all those on one side of the house at the same time, but if you can't do that, start with those on the higher floors where heat loss is higher.
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spork
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« Reply #27 on: February 23, 2012, 2:41:26 PM »

Well for $10K here's what I'd recommend:

1) Get an energy audit, often provided free by your local utility
2) Follow recommendations of the audit; e.g., additional insulation in the attic, insulate the walls, sill plates, etc.
3) Only then go for windows.
4) A kitchen remodel will cost more than $10K to do properly. Maybe the bathroom is the same.
5) Painting and the exterior stuff can wait. You don't live outside, so landscaping, etc. will not affect your comfort level. The only reason to do the driveway is if there's a major structural problem (e.g., erosion and a big hole).

Window options range from tuning and storm installation, to restoration with storms, to replacement with insulated windows. If you are unable to do your own cosmetic repairs inside the house then probably you are not going to do your own work on the windows.

I have no idea what tuning costs but if the house was built pre-1975 or so, there's lead paint and any work that disturbs that will cost more, assuming you have hired a reputable person. If the sashes or stops are in bad shape, panes are loose, or the paint is coming off, then the paint will need to be dealt with.

Restoration down to bare wood with new hardware and re-installation can cost $500 per opening or more. Few homes are architecturally significant enough to make this a cost effective option at resale. Insulated windows will repay themselves over the 20 years you expect to live in the house (mine will start saving me money after only 7 years, and they are fairly high end). 

All of the above is moot if you don't have insulation in the attic or walls.
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a.k.a. gum-chewing monkey in a Tufts University jacket

"There are no bad ideas, only great ideas that go horribly wrong."

"Please do not force people who are exhausted to take medication for hallucinations." -- Memo from the Chair, Department of White Privilege Studies, Fiork University
mayjohn
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« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2012, 2:53:30 AM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

Concur. While upgrades can help a house sell, cheap upgrades actually diminish the value, I think. We saw one memorable house -- fairly new construction (within the past five years), great curb appeal, excellent location and school district, spacious with a good layout -- but the cheapest quality materials were used throughout the interior -- hollow-core doors, bad paint, builder-grade cabinets, everything. That house continues to sit unsold, after numerous price drops.
We do not plan to sell but live in the house and do not have or see the reason to spend $50K+ for a kitchen.
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mayjohn
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« Reply #29 on: February 25, 2012, 3:02:04 AM »

I have a hard time imagining dropping a ~10 IKEA kitchen in a $500k-700k house. That's a starving artist loft kitchen.

None of what the homeowner has posted here makes any sense.

What the homeowner posted makes perfect sense in the Middle Atlantic region where he/she lives. In a number of areas in that region, house prices bear no resemblance to those found in most of the United States (and have been much less impacted by the recession). A $500,000 home, assuming it's even available (because most will be over $1 million) is going to be small, at the low end of the market, and is likely to be a handyman's special. You are paying for the location, not for luxurious decor.

The OP started with the following:

Hello friends,

I need your help making some home improvement decisions.

We bought our house 10 years ago (around $500K, now value at about $700K) and we are happy with the location, schools etc. We don't see ourselves moving or selling in the next 20+years.

Since we bought the house, we have painted some of the rooms (5+ years ago) and the exterior (2 years ago). We have done no other work in the house.

We have about $10K to spend but we are trying to figure out the best way to prioritize.  We would like to do the following (not in priority order):
(a)  paint interior (~$5K)
(b)  change single pane windows (~$20K)
(c)  change 1960's kitchen (~$10K from IKEA)
(d)  re-pave driveway (~$3K)
(e)  remodel front steps (~$2K), and,
(f)  remodel 1960's master bathroom (~10K)

We also pondered remodeling the kitchen and extending the kitchen/den but the cost estimates (~$200K !!!) were forbidding ---  if we had $200K to spend I would rather buy another house than doing construction in our current house.

[. . . ]


An extension costing $200K on a house worth $500-700K? When the owner is considering a kitchen remodel for $10K? Is the debate whether to put down gold plated floor tiles in the extension?

Hiring someone to paint the interior in an area with such high home prices for only $5K? Is this house 1,200 square feet, or is the painter a guy who rides around the neighborhood on a bicycle with a stepladder over his shoulder, ringing doorbells?

$20K for replacement windows implies a house much bigger than 1,200 square feet. In my region, a house with, oh, let's say, eight rooms, 2,000 square feet, 25 windows, would mean $7500 in new, highly efficient replacement windows. Just doing storms would be less. 

The cost of the interior paint was quoted by a private, licensed contractor and national painting company. Both within $200  of each other.

The cost of construction in the area for simple extension (nothing gold plated) is at $150-$200/sq.ft. As the different contractors told us, that is the norm and we can of course, pay substantially more if we want more perks.

The house is contemporary style (~2800 sq ft) with about 18 (large) windows. It is about $1200/window.
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