Home Improvement Worth It? - Page 2

Experts share their ‘smart list’ of the best and most cost-effective projects to pursue
Fridays on the Homefront
Landscaping upgrade: "a lot of bang for your money." Photo: David Toerge
Fridays on the Homefront
Adding skylights: "you can never have too many in an Eichler."
Fridays on the Homefront
New flooring: "you don't need to spend a lot on flooring to have a big impact." Photo: courtesy Joe Barthlow

The realtor and contractor agree, however, that a leaky roof or weak infrastructure will degrade your home and drive away a potential buyer no matter how much appeal was seen from the curb.

"If you don't maintain your roof, you can develop mold, and dry rot, and damage to interior parts of the structure, plus interior furnishings as well," Key points out.

Boyenga says a reroofing project should also include adding insulation if you haven't done so already, and maybe an additional skylight or two.

"You can never have too many skylights in an Eichler," he says with a smile, perhaps overstating slightly. Also, the realtor added, "If you have a tar and gravel roof, and you're replacing it without [adding] foam insulation, you're crazy."

"Doing these things in conjunction with each other is the smartest move," concurs Key.

To protect your home from earthquake damage, the most cost-effective move is to more securely bolt it to the slab foundation. Considerable quake damage to an Eichler, Key says, "comes from the house slipping off the foundation."

Once you have secured your roof and foundation, then you can turn to sexier projects that add major value to your home whether you're planning to sell soon or not.

"Most Eichlers, for sure you would replace the siding," says Boyenga, hastening to add that any replacement should be consistent with the original trimline siding. Key pegs the job as costing around $20,000, but he basically agrees about its long-term value.

With regard to bigger projects, Key says, "Your biggest return on your investment is in terms of kitchens and bathrooms, and of course adding some square footage."

Some sources disagree, however. A 'costs vs. value' report on U.S. homes last year in Remodeling magazine found bathroom additions and remodels to have a less than 60 percent return on investment in resale value, among the lowest of any improvements studied.

Boyenga loves the idea of adding a bathroom with access from the backyard, noting of the return on investment, "People think kitchens first, but bathrooms have higher ROI [return on investment]."

At the same time, regarding the size of original Eichler kitchens, he says, "I don't know what trends are coming in the future, but we are not going back to 'galley' kitchens."

For smaller budgets, Boyenga favors reflooring and modest yard projects.

"You can do a lot with just gravel, some shrubs, and a little concrete hardscape," he observes. "Landscaping and hardscaping get you a lot of bang for your money."

Likewise, he says, "You're going to get great ROI putting in a consistent floor…You don't need to spend a lot on flooring to have a big impact."

"Flooring can enhance an Eichler tremendously," the realtor promised. "You really want to keep uniformity. It's really what makes an Eichler—it's the simplicity."