Work pays dividends

Some remodeling projects - often those in the kitchen - affect sales far better than others

Some remodeling projects - often those in the kitchen - affect sales far better than others

August 29, 2005|By JULIE E. GREENE

When Kim Lancaster put her Colonial home in the North End on the market in August 2004, the biggest complaint from potential buyers was her dated kitchen.

It hadn't been painted recently and the floor, which probably was from the late '70s, was worn and dirty-looking because someone waxed it without cleaning it first.

Lancaster pulled the house off the market and remodeled the 400-square-foot, L-shaped kitchen and adjoining mudroom, doing much of the work herself.


This past winter she put the house back on sale with nary a complaint about the kitchen. It is now under contract to be sold.

Minor kitchen remodels like Lancaster's were the remodeling project for which homeowners could recoup the most cost when reselling the home, according to Remodeling magazine's 2004 Cost vs. Value Report.

For a minor kitchen remodel, 92.9 percent of the average $15,273 cost could be recouped, according to the report. How much can be recouped is based on the professional judgment of members of the National Association of Realtors about each project's anticipated resale value.

Home improvement has grown increasingly more popular with the number of home-improvement permits issued by the Washington County Department of Permits and Inspections on pace to go beyond 1,400 this year.

The department had issued 738 home improvement permits as of June 30, compared with 1,291 in all of 2004 and 1,152 in 2001, Office Manager Sandy Schulte said. These permits include remodeling jobs, deck additions, swimming pools, porches and storage sheds.

Home improvement projects are important for as many reasons as there are people doing them, said Sal Alfano, editorial director for Remodeling magazine.

According to a study the magazine did a few years ago, those reasons include customizing your home because you don't want to move and remodeling it to make it bigger and better, Alfano said.

Sometimes remodeling is done to improve the ability to sell a house, Alfano said. For example, if your home is the only one in the neighborhood that doesn't have a deck or doesn't have two full bathrooms, a remodeling job could bring the home up to the buyer's expectations and the standard of the neighborhood.

Alfano recommends people check with their remodeler about a project's cost and check with a Realtor to see how the home stacks up with comparable properties in the area.

The minor kitchen renovation was a new addition to Remodeling's list.

The rest of the top five were replacing siding, remodeling a midrange bathroom, adding a deck and adding a midrange bathroom.

Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms is popular because they are the "sexiest rooms" in the house. They are highly used rooms that people enjoy customizing with the latest and greatest decor and appliances, Alfano said.

Kitchen's where it's at

In addition to remodeling her kitchen, Lancaster subdivided her property, selling a side lot, so the price for the house was reduced.

But she feels the kitchen made a difference too because so many people commented on it the first time.

"It made a difference. People walked in and it was much better. It was just much cleaner looking and it just showed so much better," said Lancaster, who is a Realtor with Advantage Realty in Hagerstown.

Gone is the dirty, dull brown linoleum floor in favor of professionally installed checkered black and white linoleum.

She took down the preppy '80s curtains, replacing them with black and white ones with stripes and a print.

The ceiling, walls and woodwork were once creamy white. Now the ceiling and woodwork are a white white and the walls are green tea color.

And instead of two mismatched white refrigerators she has side-by-side stainless steel refrigerators.

Lancaster estimated the project cost about $6,000, including hiring a contractor to replace the floors in the kitchen and mudroom. Lancaster said she is recouping most of her remodeling investment in the sale price.

Remodeling magazine's minor kitchen remodeling job cost an average of $15,273 but encompassed repainting the kitchen, refinishing cabinets with new cabinet doors and installing a new energy-efficient wall oven and cooktop, laminated countertops, sink and faucet, wall covering and resilient flooring in a dated 200-square-foot kitchen.

For more information about Remodeling magazine's Cost vs. Value reports, go to remodelingmag and click on 2004 Cost vs. Value Report. The magazine's 2005 report is expected to be published in November.

For keeps

Mac Elser doesn't have any immediate plans to sell his roughly 100-year-old Hancock home, but he's chosen his remodeling jobs with an eye toward improving the value of his home as well as his own comfort.

About a year ago he and his domestic partner, Valerie Repsher, had the bathroom remodeled by a contractor for about $7,500 to $8,000, and six years ago they did almost all the work in renovating the kitchen.

Repsher described the bathroom before as '70s with horrible harvest gold wallpaper and a gray linoleum floor.

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