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Spend post recession remodeling budget wisely

Courtesy photo Whether you’re planning to sell your home or stay in it forever, consider these remodeling projects as an investment.

A good indicator that things are looking up for the economy is an increase in the number of homeowners who are investing in home renovations.

In fact, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that home improvement projects will continue to increase through the rest of the year. That’s a change for many Shreveport/Bossier homeowners, who put off adding onto their homes, updating their kitchens or remodeling their bathrooms during the past few years because of worries over job and income security.

Whether you’re planning to sell your home or stay in it forever, consider these remodeling projects as an investment in the value of your home—for resale or for your long-term comfort and safety:

1. Upgrades that will allow you to age in place. Just a decade ago, one-third of homeowners were older than 55, based on Joint Center statistics. Today, that number is around 45 percent. If you’re part of that age group—or getting there—and would like the home you live in to be the one where you retire, then consider retrofitting bathrooms, the kitchen, hallways and doorways. Doing so will accommodate rather than contribute to your growing aches and pains.

Some examples: Install comfort height toilets. Also, tall bathroom or kitchen cabinets will save you from bending down as far. More light to stairways, the foyer, the kitchen and every bathroom will help you see better—at any age, really. Wider doorways and hallways mean they’ll be ready for anyone in your family who eventually may rely on a walker or wheelchair to get around in the house.

2. Extra space for parents and grandkids. Consider whether you might want an older parent to eventually move in with you. Is there room at your home for several generations of your family to co-exist comfortably and with adequate privacy? Before you spend your remodeling dollars on cosmetic improvements to your home, think about adding a suite for live-in parents, adult children who might need to move home temporarily after college or grandchildren to visit as often as possible.

3. Repairs and replacements that you’ve been putting off. While it is more fun to devote your remodeling dollars to granite countertops or state-of-the-art appliances, purchasing a new roof or replacing rotting or malfunctioning products on the exterior of the home may be more important. If the recession prevented you from keeping up with routine maintenance and repairs, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you spend it while tending to “disasters waiting to happen.”

Ask a contractor or a home inspector to evaluate your home, inside and out, for problems that need solving—from the roof to the foundation. Replace shingles, windows, siding, columns, your central air conditioner or any other building materials that are deteriorating—before they cause a bigger problem for you, like a structural weakness or mold.

4. Energy-efficiency upgrades. Even if your old windows aren’t rotting, they could be causing air conditioning bills to skyrocket, especially if they’re made with single-pane glass. A water heater, refrigerator or a/c unit that is older than 10 years is less energy-efficient than the new models on the market today. Inadequate attic insulation can allow your expensive, air-conditioned air escape right through the attic.

An idea: Ask an energy performance expert or “auditor” to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency. You’ll learn where the house is “leaking” conditioned air and where it makes the most sense to invest money to prevent those leaks.

The Joint Center reports that about a quarter of households undertaking home improvement projects are doing it to improve their energy efficiency.

5. Updates in the kitchen and bathrooms. Whether you’re staying put or moving, upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms is a high-value strategy. Most families congregate in the kitchen, so enlarging and redesigning it will allow your cook and guests to visit while snacks are being prepared. Replacing appliances with more reliable and efficient models will make the most popular room in your house more of a pleasure to spend time in. If you’re ready to sell, those same improvements are the ones that appeal to buyers.

The same goes for your bathrooms. They’re the most visited rooms in your home. So renovations there make the rooms more comfortable for your family and more attractive to potential buyers.


Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.

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