Home Expert Tips from Alex Rosenstein
From Alex Rosenstein, REALTOR«  | Windermere Real Estate/East, Inc.
In This Issue
Common Remodel Mistakes
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor
Links that Make Life Easier
Is Your Home Equity Line Really Yours?
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A good remodel project boosts the enjoyment you get from your home and increases its market value at the same time.


However, plan a few things incorrectly and you can end up sinking time, money and stress into a project that loses potential.


Here are some common home remodeling mistakes to avoid.  Make your next home improvement project a successful one!


(Not remodeling, but know someone who is?  Feel free to pass this on by clicking the "Forward this issue" link.)
Common Remodel Mistakes
Sacrificing functionality for aesthetics
A wise remodel strategy is one that makes your home easier to live in and more visually appealing at the same time.
Improving just visual appeal can also create value (for example, replacing a fiberglass shower surround with high grade tile.)  However, be cautious when you start losing real functionality for the sake of an upgrade.
Bottom line:  Regardless of how pretty they are, homes lose value when they become less convenient to live in.

Mixing high and low grade materials


Mixing materials of significantly different quality in the same remodel can result in a "What's wrong with this picture?" scenario.


Examples include using a material like granite for countertops and vinyl for flooring in the same room, or laminate on the bathroom counters of what is designed to be an elegant master suite.


Bottom line:  Any time you break from the "feel" created by the rest of the remodel you risk detracting from the value of the completed project.


Giving up too much kitchen working space


In addition to being the unofficial heart of most homes, the kitchen is also a highly functional area, and that function depends highly upon counter and cabinet space.


In your quest for the optimal layout, conserve or add as much working area as possible, especially when it comes to counter space.


Bottom line:  Sacrificing too much cabinet or counter space can result in a kitchen that looks great but doesn't quite "work" for you or future buyers.


Making the master bedroom too small

For years new homes have been built with spacious, sumptuous master bedroom suites, and home buyers love them.

While enlarging the master bedroom is not a common project, it's one worth getting right if you do take it on.  Tour new construction to gain perspective, and call me for advice on the best approach to get you the effect you're aiming for.

Bottom line:  Learn what home buyers expect, and allocate enough master bedroom space that you gain "wow factor."



Closing off the kitchen


The separate formal dining room is still a popular item, but the trend in kitchens is to have them at least partially open to an informal gathering space such as a family room.


Bottom line:  Closing off a kitchen from the rest of the home, or not opening one up when the opportunity presents itself during a remodel results in a floor plan that is less appealing to the typical buyer.


Losing the only full bath


In a home with an older full bath (one with a tub), people are sometimes tempted to gut it and replace it with a luxurious, large stand-up shower arrangement (a three-quarter bath, with no tub.)


However, if your target market when you sell will include families with small children it's very important to keep at least one full bath in the home.


Bottom line:  Without a tub for bathing toddlers, many potential buyers will move on to the next home on their list.



Crowding the kitchen


Because the kitchen is both a gathering place and a work space, it's doubly important that it not be cramped.


When changing the layout, leave enough room for two people to work comfortably, and if you install a kitchen island make sure that it does not block the flow of the room.


Consumer Reports suggests a minimum of 42 inches between a kitchen island and surrounding surface edges.  (Click here to see their Kitchen Tips page.)

Bottom line:  If you find yourself constantly edging around a kitchen design feature, re-evaluate whether it should be there at all.

Being too bold with exterior paint


At some point, every real estate agent has walked up to a listing that was advertised as having "New exterior paint!" and winced, realizing that the well-meaning owners just spent money to decrease the value of their home with the wrong paint color.


The "right" color of exterior paint depends to some extent on how traditional or eclectic your neighborhood is, but in general it's very hard to get away with extremely strong, vibrant colors.


Bottom line:  Brilliant blue, green and yellow exterior colors tend to make home buyers look at each other and ask, "Why?"



Stopping just short of the big picture


Sometimes investing a relatively small additional amount ties your entire remodel together.


Here's a real-life example:


A lower-range remodel of a 1980's era bathroom included replacing the bathroom vanity, installing slate grey laminate counter tops, repainting the walls and adding a skylight.


However, on the advice of a contractor, the owners at first did not replace the dated, pink patterned vinyl flooring.  The result was that upon entering the master bathroom the first impression was simply, "This flooring will need to be ripped out."


Spending $250 on new vinyl made the floor a non-issue and allowed the thousands of dollars worth of upgrades to take center stage.

Bottom line:  Understanding the big picture and going for it is crucial to making your remodel pay off.
Not getting enough outside advice
With all of the choices involved, it can be very easy to lose perspective as you prepare for and engage in a remodel.
Remember that even casual decisions can translate into a large investment of money and effort, and allow yourself the time to run ideas past people who can offer another perspective.
One of the easiest ways for you to get input on which remodel choices are likely to pay off is to simply contact me!
Bottom line:  Give me a call, or click "Reply" to this email.  I would love to offer you my advice based on what I've seen work for others.
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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor
  • How many projects do you work on at one time?
  • How much of the work will you do yourself, and what will be done by others?
  • Do have employees, or do you use sub-contractors?
  • How well do you know your crew?
  • Do you do background checks on your employees? (This is especially important if children will be present.)
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Will you handle debris clean up? How often?
  • Does the completely finished product involve any material or labor which is not included in the estimate?
  • Will you write a timeline into the contract bid?
  • What happens if the project is not completed on time?
  • Will you obtain any necessary permits?
The FTC has a good page that goes into more detail about fact checking, payment types and how to avoid being scammed.

Links that Make Life Easier 
Some real estate-related, some not... these are assorted links that I think you'll find useful:
See the projected returns on a wide assortment of remodel projects throughout the U.S.
Click the link that matches your project type and plug in some details to get an immediate automated estimate.
Find low airfares and unadvertised specials on all airlines, including Southwest.
See seat diagrams for any plane, along with recommendations on which seats to avoid.
A frequently updated website with vacation rentals nearly anywhere in the world.
Visit My Blog!

My blog is the place to find information about anything remotely related to real estate and our great community. I encourage you to email me with any ideas or questions that you'd like to see featured there.

Is Your Home Equity Line Really Yours?
Are you planning to use your home equity line for an upcoming remodel?
If so, be aware that some lenders are freezing unused portions of home equity lines - even when they belong to borrowers with excellent credit.
According to the Wall Street Journal, this is most likely to happen in areas where home prices have fallen 10% or more, or if the borrower has had a change in credit score.
However, the New York Times reported that homeowners in areas where prices have increased also recently received freeze notices, in some cases resulting in an ongoing remodel project being put on hold.
Here's a CBS article that includes tips on what to do if your lender freezes your home equity line
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Have a great day,

Alex Rosenstein
Windermere Real Estate/East, Inc.
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