According to numbers released by the IRS, the average refund was $2,893 on the more than 66 million returns filed as of March 20. That’s a big check you can do a lot with.
What if you used the money to improve the value of your home?
Mike Brocker-Querio, director of staff appraisal operations at TSI Appraisal, shared a few of his tips for maintaining and potentially improving the value of your home.
Do Your Research
If the goal of your home improvement project is to improve the value of your property, you’ll probably want to take a look at market preferences in your area.
How do you know what those preferences are without being in real estate? Brocker-Querio offered a nifty little trick: “A homeowner can just attend a walkthrough and see what the market’s preference is and if that fits within their budget,” he said.
For example, you might take a look at the design trends of homes for sale within your area. Do they have updated appliances? Wood flooring? What does the house have in terms of outdoor seating?
After attending the open house, you may or may not be able to take care of all the improvements on your list, but this will give you a good idea of how to prioritize them.
Easy Stuff First
A good place to start is to think about what you can do to add to your home’s appraisal value. You may not be looking to sell your home right away, but improvements over time can save you from having to do a lot of work should you want to sell down the line. The appraisal value is also very important if you decide to refinance.
The first thing appraisers look for is evidence that your property is well-maintained. Is anything in need of paint? How does the landscaping look? If you’re getting ready to sell your home, you can prepare by taking care of these little details ahead of time.
This sort of upkeep is an important component in determining the condition of the property because it shows appraisers that potential buyers won’t have to sink a bunch of money into maintenance.
The Little Things Help
When it comes to determining which home improvements to make, Brocker-Querio said that there are plenty of small things you can do to add to your property value.
“One of the things that appraisers really are focused on right now is condition and quality, little embellishments to the design of the house, to the finish of the house,” he said.
Condition refers to how well your house is maintained. Basic maintenance like the occasional coat of paint or re-shingling the roof probably won’t add to your property value, but missing these things will certainly hurt it.
Quality refers to any added touches that take your house above the usual models provided by builders. These are things that add to the property’s aesthetic value.
There are several things you can do as a homeowner to add to your property value on the inside and outside of your house.
You might look at making the following improvements to your home’s exterior:
- Adding shades on windows
- Building trelliswork to frame and create a backdrop for your landscaping
- Adding rails on the porch
- Sprucing up your entryway with columns
Another improvement you can make is to install a higher-quality entry door, something Brocker-Querio said can run anywhere between $750 and $1,500.
Another thing to consider from a cost-effectiveness standpoint is expanding your living space outdoors.
“If you put a cedar deck on the back of your property,” he said, it’s “going to be there for 15–20 years with very minimal maintenance, and it adds quite a bit of functionality to the backyard space.”
You can accomplish a similar effect with the addition of a patio. According to HomeInsight, there’s not necessarily a right answer as to which one provides more value. Whatever you choose, make sure you it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
When it comes to the interior, the things that will make the biggest impact are kitchen and bathroom remodels. Since these are expensive, there are small things you can do within these rooms that will make a difference:
- Update appliances if you can. Stainless steel is popular with buyers.
- If you have a smaller kitchen, granite countertops can probably be had for around $4,000. Other solid surface countertops like quartz and Formica are also popular.
- A tile backsplash can be relatively cheap to install yourself and adds a really nice design touch.
Brocker-Querio said that many of the improvements that will add value to your home involve upgrading from the basic builder-installed models. In the bathroom, for example, you could change the vanity and install a high-efficiency toilet. You might install a chandelier in the foyer for a touch of class. Along the same lines, you could put in crown molding. It can even be something as simple as replacing doorknobs with something more modern.
The Whole Package
It’s important to consider your improvements as part of the whole package. Little things strung together can add up to a big difference.
“If you have a very basic house and you upgrade one item, that’s not going to change the overall condition or quality rating,” Brocker-Querio said. “You have to do multiple things to do that, but it helps. It’s a step in the right direction.”
He cautioned that you should always take your own tastes into account regardless of their effect on your home value, especially if you’re planning on remaining in your house for a long time. After all, you have to live there.
For more information on how market value is determined, check out this post and video.
Are you planning a home improvement project with your tax return? Share your plans and ideas with other readers in the comments section.
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