Home Improvement Worth It?

Experts share their ‘smart list’ of the best and most cost-effective projects to pursue
Fridays on the Homefront
What are the smartest home improvements to make to an Eichler? "There's two ways to look at it," says general contractor Ron Key. "Protection of a home is different than improving a home." Or, if you're about to sell your home, perhaps curb appeal (which this Eichler above has) is all you're looking for. We bring in two experts and ask them for their ‘smart list' of improvements. Photo: David Toerge
Fridays on the Homefront
New siding and paint: prime curb appeal improvements. Photo: David Toerge
Fridays on the Homefront
New roof: important consideration. Photo: courtesy Dura-Foam Roofing & Solar Center
Fridays on the Homefront
Eichler experts: Ron Key of Keycon (left) and
Eric Boyenga of the Boyenga Team (right).

What are the smartest home improvements to make to an Eichler? Sound easy? Guess again.

"Part of that depends on how long you plan on living in the house," states contractor Ron Key, owner of Keycon Construction & Design and one of two Eichler experts we consulted on the topic. "Five years or less, you won't want to put a lot of money in the house. You won't get a return on your investment."

"If you do the wrong things to an Eichler, it ends up having the reverse effect," warns our other source, realtor Eric Boyenga of the Boyenga Team, who, with wife and partner Janelle, has helped dozens of Silicon Valley homeowners prepare their Eichlers for the housing market. "We've done everything from minor updates to very, very major updates. It just depends."

Now wait a minute. If you're planning to sell, you're probably familiar with the concept of 'curb appeal.' Doesn't that make the home-improvement decisions easier?

"There's two ways to look at it," Key replies. "Protection of a home is different than improving a home."

Still, he concedes, "Curb appeal is a smart investment because it attracts people."

"If they're not wowed at the front of the house, they're not going to come in," agrees Boyenga.

Typical curb appeal improvements would be exterior repainting, new siding, and restoring or replacing the garage door without losing Eichler integrity. These may attract potential buyers—but from a home-value standpoint, Key says there are more important improvements to make first.

"The best return on your investment is obviously to protect your investment," says the Mountain View-based contractor. "The first thing you want to do is maintain the roof and the paint of your home…Those are the two most critical things you can do."

"It comes down to where you're going to get the most return for your investment," Boyenga says in comparing the value of various improvements. "A thousand dollars of paint can get you $10,000."