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Southlake Style

Bang for Your Buck

May 16, 2012 03:02PM ● By tina

Home Improvements for Both Sides of the Brain

Opinions vary on exactly which home improvements add the most value to your home or help you command a higher price at resale time but the experts at HGTV, Forbes, and Smart Money magazine all agree that the bottom line in decision making depends on your goals and plans. The definition of what exactly is the best “bang” for your buck is entirely up to you.

Some homeowners would define getting the most bang for their buck as improvements made to increase the market value of their home, whether that means selling in one year or five years down the road. Smart Money calls this the “pragmatic approach, like buying an energy-efficient furnace or fixing a leaky roof.” Let’s call this the left-side brain approach. Scientists claim the left side of the brain is the one processing information for us. HGTV home experts advise that while you may dream of French doors heading out to a luxurious patio, if the kitchen is 15 years old having it updated will be a wiser, more pragmatic, use of home improvement dollars.

Other happy homeowners make improvements for the immediate enjoyment of the family, regardless of the effect of the change in future market value. Studies show that the right side of our brain is the creative vault, home to our imagination, so improvements made from this viewpoint may be completely specific to your family and that’s okay. If you’re planning on staying put for any length of time adding a pool or backyard kitchen that the whole family can enjoy could easily give a value that can’t be measured in dollars.

Whatever side of the brain you are using to evaluate the best renovation projects for your home, here are a few things to think about.

Cooking up a new kitchen

Typically, taking on a kitchen remodel is one of the most expensive improvement projects. According to Forbes, if your kitchen lags behind the guy next door, an investment to update the room completely will likely be made back, and then some, when it comes time to sell. Designing with the left-brain firmly in control, remember to be reasonable when choosing materials. Going all out with expensive granite countertops is “counter” productive if kitchen cabinets are stuck in the 80s. HGTV recommends keeping in mind the style and quality of the rest of the house and those around you in the neighborhood. Putting an over-the-top kitchen under the roof of a very conventional home may not pay off at listing time. Let your no-nonsense side do some careful planning and shopping to better balance the outcome.

If the home front is definitely your castle and you rule with a wooden spoon instead of a scepter then using the right side of the brain is absolutely in order. Studies show that for countertops, granite is still the material of choice so if cost isn’t a problem by all means, go for it. The seemingly endless array of colors and patterns guarantees finding granite to fall in love with. With a small amount of maintenance and the second highest hardness rating after diamonds, a granite countertop supplies a lifetime of beauty in your kitchen.

Stainless steel continues to be the hottest look in appliances so when considering the purchase of new fixtures keep stainless in mind. Left side thinkers will choose the appliances with care, buying good quality but steering clear of all the fancy trimmings. If you are feeling edgy, HGTV recommends thinking about a stainless steel counter for a sleek, contemporary, industrial look for your kitchen. If staying in your home long term is the plan, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

For right brain folks, if cooking is a passion, going all out with high-end Viking appliances is well worth the expense. The enjoyment experienced every time you cook is priceless.

Beyond the Bath

When it comes to remodeling a bathroom, especially a master bath, updating will not only enhance the value of your home but also add to daily enjoyment while your family is living there. Forbes recommends a left-brain approach when choosing what fixtures to replace in a bathroom update emphasizing caution before adding any individualized features like a sauna or steam bath. Any additions that might make a home stand out can work against a potential sale if buyers don’t share your tastes.

Making a bathroom both beautiful and functional can start with something as minor as changing the cabinet doorknobs and replacing outdated brass plumbing fixtures and lighting. The modern fixtures available today offer a wide variety of styles to the homeowner from old-rubbed metals, matte or shiny finish to a smooth, satin sheen. Judd Lord, Director of Industrial Design for Delta Faucets says, “The trend is to customize.” Thinking with the creative side of the brain, pick a faucet finish that will make anyone feel good every time they use it.

When choosing sinks, tubs, and tiles for the shower, consider using some of the trendier materials but stay with a classic style or color palette that has a broad appeal. Blending practicality with beauty creates the optimum situation whether remodeling for resale value or for your own gratification.

Being Green

Making improvements to increase the energy efficiency of your home are always a wise investment. Replacing older, less efficient windows and doors with modern efficient models can bring immediate savings on energy costs, which makes the decision a no-brainer for homeowners. Southlake’s own, James Anderson of A.I.R. Roofing & Construction says, “Energy efficiency is the growing trend we see every day in our business. Homeowners are installing radiant barriers and upgrading their ventilation systems to increase their homes efficiency as well as save energy costs.”

Choosing standard styles and staying away from highly customized windows and doors can also give an excellent return on your investment when it comes time to sell. Investing in a custom wrought-iron front door is more of a right brain decision that can add beauty and durability to a home. A meeting of the minds would be to evaluate the amount of time before a possible resale offering you an opportunity to recoup the higher expense.

Retrofits, like installing a high-efficiency HVAC system, can also pay for themselves relatively quickly according to the home experts at HGTV. Bill Stevens, of Berkey’s Plumbing says, “We also recommend tankless water heaters which can reduce operating costs by up to 40%. You can have an endless supply of hot water and no wasting energy by re-heating water over and over.”

The Great Outdoors

Here again, the definition of bang for your buck can vary widely. Both HGTV and Smart Money hold the opinion that swimming pools and extensive outdoor landscaping rarely payoff at resale time but it’s likely they haven’t spent a summer in the Texas heat. Here in North Texas, many homeowners truly enjoy their outdoor spaces whether that space includes a full outdoor living area or simply a relaxing patio and pool. Even if the left-brain thinkers fear the upkeep of a pool and numerous plant beds to weed, the many months that a pool can be enjoyed in our area may sway the opinion in favor of creating outdoor space for the family.

Outdoor spaces can actually extend the existing space of a home, providing a backyard experience without missing the comforts of home. If designed and planned properly, creating an outdoor oasis can add significant value to a home. The outdoor living trend is continuing to make homes more appealing to potential buyers while providing the current homeowners a great deal of satisfaction in the meantime. James and the team at A.I.R. stay busy creating the perfect right brain outdoor spaces fulfilling the dreams of homeowners. James said, “Most homeowners are expecting something on the back patio. We have been busy doing outdoor living or kitchens with just about everything you can imagine outside, from a his and her spa gazebo to Italian pizza ovens and 80 inch flat screens.”

People move to our area from all over the country to experience the great quality of life, excellent schools, and enjoy the beautiful homes. We truly enjoy our houses; we love our outdoor spaces, media rooms, and custom kitchens. Those who move here for their job often know in advance if Southlake is likely to be a permanent move or just a few year temporary rest stop on the career highway. The length of time you expect to be in your home is a key factor in deciding where home improvement dollars should be spent. Listening to the left side of your brain for planning before remodeling begins and indulging just the perfect amount of right brain imagination should guarantee the most bang for your home improvement buck.