Home & Garden

New year good time for home updates

Is 2010 the year you plan to sell your home?

How's that bathroom or kitchen looking?

Remodelers say the first half of the year may be the perfect time to consider a renovation - with the work finished in time for the busy spring and summer selling seasons. The work could set your home apart from others on the market - and increase resale value for the future even if you aren't ready to sell.

"Kitchens and baths do have a high resale value. Kitchens are No. 1," said Bin Wilcenski of Columbia Remodelers, a council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia. "And down here in the South, outdoor living does very well. Outdoor kitchens are good for resale."

Mark Karas, a certified master kitchen and bath designer and the 2010 president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, has spent 32 years in the remodeling industry.

"Every survey that's ever been done . . . any money you invest in your kitchen and bath you get back 90 to 100 percent. It's always been an investment you could get back," Karas said. "It can make the difference between selling and not selling that house. There's value to that."

Even with a slumping housing market, people look at location first, followed by kitchen, baths and closets.

"If you spent $3,000 or $5,000 to put new (kitchen) countertops and a backsplash, hang a new light fixture and it sells the house in the first 30 to 60 days versus being on market for three or four months or longer, it may be a very good investment for you," he said.

What should people consider in a remodel?

"Naturally, being in the kitchen and bath industry, I want everybody to rip their house out and bring it back brand new and give me that $150,000 job I need on my books. But that's not a reality," Karas said.

Instead, he tells people there are a variety of ways of handling renovations in advance of a home sale, depending on your existing home and how the work fits your budget.

"People need to do a little bit of homework and be realistic about where they are," he said. "A good kitchen and bath dealer will work with you to help you accomplish your goals within your budget. The key is to pick the right person and be honest with him."

Karas said the first thing he tells people before any project - "whether it's a $1,000 paint job or a $150,000 remodel, people need to have realistic expectations."

Wilcenski cautioned against doing so much remodeling work before a sale that you price your home above what a home in your neighborhood will bring.

Realtor Susie Satterfield Carlson of Coldwell Banker United agreed with being cautious before starting a renovation on a home you plan to sell soon.

"I'm always one who thinks you should, in a market like this, get your house looking as good as you possibly can with the least amount of money," Carlson said.

She recommends pricing a home competitively to make it more attractive for a potential buyer.

"I highly recommend renovations; I'm not against that. But since you're not going to get the real benefit from it, get the house clean and clutter free and spic-and-span and sparkling and then price it where the next person can come in and do the renovation."

She said homes priced lower close quicker than ones where a lot of money was spent on renovations.



What work can or should be done on a kitchen or bath before you put your home on the market?

We asked Mark Karas, certified master kitchen and bath designer and the 2010 president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association make suggestions for future homesellers considering bath and kitchen renovations. Here are some of his tips:


Paint. "The No. 1 thing is fresh paint. You would be surprised what fresh paint would do to a house. I don't think there's a real estate agent in world who wouldn't tell you that," he said.

In the kitchen, he suggests choosing colors that are pleasing to people other than you.

"If they're going to be in home 10 or 15 years, I tell them to do anything they want. But if you want to sell your house . . . you may love plum, but the rest of world may not," he said. "Keep it friendly. Keep it neutral. But keep it bright."

Counter tops and backsplashes. Replace outdated countertops and backsplashes.

As for replacing cabinets: "If the cabinetry is so outdated or such a disaster, you have to consider if it's worth putting new countertops on top of what's already not working," he said.

If cabinets are in good shape with all the doors and drawers working well, "find a refinisher or a very, very good painter - someone who can paint or glaze cabinets. That will bring it up to date into something more in line with the styling and trend today."

New hardware for kitchen cabinets is an inexpensive update that can go a long way.

New hardware, a paint job on the cabinets and new countertops and backsplash can offer a totally new look. He said granite is still the most popular choice for custom kitchens, and there are some affordable versions available.


These rooms are typically very small, but renovations can be costly. Part of the expense is because the work touches so many types of repair workers - including plumbers, electricians, carpenters, tile workers and painters.

Assess what's there. Check on the foundation of the bathroom. If the tub and tile are in good shape, use that as a starting point.

"Maybe the vanity and the toilet are terrible. Or maybe everything is in good shape but it's pink or it's blue."

Change colors. If the bathroom is pink and white, you can glaze the tub and tile and change out the sink and toilet. "Get those colors changed to neutral whites," he said.

Update plumbing. Replace the toilet with an energy-efficient model.

While you are looking at the plumbing, determine if you want to do some updating. For example, some older homes have separate hot and cold knobs in the shower. Consider updating that to a single knob.

"Let's face it, most homeowners who are buying houses are stretching to limit. The least amount they have to spend once they have the house, the more attractive the house is to them."


The Columbia Remodelers, part of the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia, features a link to reputable remodelers on its Web site: columbiaremodelers.com.