Top 2017 Home Improvement Projects and How to Afford Them

By: Elizabeth Trach

When you own your own home, it seems like there’s always a list of projects to complete to keep it both beautiful and functional. Sometimes a broken air conditioner or garage door will force your hand and you’ll have to make a repair, but usually the decisions about which projects to tackle are all yours. Choose wisely, and you’ll reap the benefits when you sell your home for top dollar in the future.

So how’s a cost-conscious homeowner supposed to know which home improvement projects will bring the great return on investment for 2017? Each year, Remodeling magazine conducts a study about the cost of the most popular home improvement projects, and they calculate how much of the costs homeowners make back when they sell those properties. The 2016 results are the best way to plan your 2017 home improvement spending to get the most for your money.

Top 5 Home Projects for 2017

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It’s not surprising that some of the best investments you can make in your home are ones that add to its efficiency and curb appeal. Making your home more energy-efficient by adding insulation and blocking drafts will lower your heating and cooling costs so much that these projects almost pay for themselves. Additionally, making your house look great from the street will attract future buyers. Each of Remodeling’s top five projects will bring back some of the money you invest:

  • Adding Insulation: This is the only home improvement project that consistently pays for itself — and then some. You can’t see the results, but you’ll feel them every time you turn on the heat or open your electricity bill.
  • Adding Stone Veneer: Sprucing up your home’s exterior with luxury materials really pays off. If stone veneer would be out of place with your home’s architectural style, replacing the siding also provides an excellent return on investment.
  • Replacing Garage Doors: Upgrading garage doors provides an instant facelift and can boost your quality of life when you don’t have to worry about them getting stuck in inclement weather anymore.
  • Replacing Exterior Doors: Replacing exterior doors with steel or fiberglass models is a one-two punch that lets you improve the look of your entryway while stopping drafts in their tracks.
  • Remodeling the Kitchen: A minor kitchen remodel that includes cabinet refacing, efficient appliances, new fixtures and a clean color scheme will really pay off. You’ll enjoy cooking much more in a room you love, and future buyers will appreciate your good taste in this all-important room.

How to Cover the Costs of Your Remodeling Projects

Once you’ve chosen which home improvement project you’re ready to invest in this year, you’ll need to plan how to finance it. Depending on the total cost and your credit score, one of these popular payment methods should work for these mid-range projects:

  • Cash Savings: If a quick kitchen update is under $1,000, or if your state provides rebates for energy efficient projects, as some do according to Energy.gov, paying in cash can be easier than you think. Avoiding interest charges will save you money in the long run, so it’s a good option if you can afford it.
  • Credit Cards: Financing your home improvement project with a new credit card is a good way to take advantage of an interest-free period and/or bonus points. If you’ve received a pre-approved credit card offer recently, you could get a good deal if you do your research before signing up.
  • HELOC: A Home Equity Line of Credit typically offers low interest rates and a long payback period for homeowners, but you need to have paid off a certain percentage of your mortgage to qualify. If you’ve lived in your home for several years, it’s worth talking to a mortgage specialist to see if you should apply.
  • Mortgage Refinance: If you’re currently paying a high interest rate on your mortgage, you might be able to refinance your loan at a lower rate and cash out some home improvement money without raising your monthly payment. Talk to a specialist to weigh your options.

**Elizabeth Trach is a professional writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. In addition to scrupulously saving her pennies, she also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in extreme gardening at Port Potager.

If Your Kids Could Have Their Way, Where Would They Move

Young professionals without kids have the freedom to move based on personal preference, financial reasons, and job opportunities. Often, high-paying jobs and seemingly endless amenities for entertainment, dining, and sightseeing draw people to bustling, costly cities on the coast. Parents, however, operate under a different must-have list where high priority is given to finding family-friendly neighborhoods with ample outdoor space.

To define the best areas for kids, Zillow analyzed 100 of the nation’s largest cities, grading them on commute times, child population, and kid-friendly amenities like theme parks and playgrounds. Consider the following four cities that made the top 10 kid-friendly cities list.

Fort Worth

Out of the top 10 cities for kids, Fort Worth holds the highest percentage of youngsters at 16.1% of the total population. In addition, 13.8% of homes listed for sale in Fort Worth include kid-friendly terms such as “playroom” and “custom treehouse,” which helps relocating parents narrow their scope. Fort Worth holds four parks and 0.02 theme parks per 10,000 residents, while the median yard size is a comfortable 5,742 square feet. M/I Homes’ Creekwood community in Saginaw, located just north of the city, is representative of Fort Worth family living. Creekwood holds recreational fields, lake access, and green space. Various amenities, including a duck pond, fishing pond, biking trails, playgrounds, and swimming pools, are fundamental for families with children. Plus, close access to I-35W minimizes driving time to and from work for employed parents.

 San Antonio

At no. 4 on the best kid-friendly cities list, San Antonio kids make up 14.6% of the city’s population. House hunters with kids might have an easier time finding the perfect place given 14.3% of listings depict kid-friendly amenities. What San Antonio lacks in accessible public parks – two per 10,000 people – it makes up in yard size at a median 6,211 square feet. San Antonio also holds one of the higher theme park proportions of the top 10 cities at 0.04 per 10,000 residents. If you’re searching for family-friendly homes near San Antonio, consider the Waterford Park community. Waterford Park includes a community pool, playscape, open space and cabana for both adults and children to enjoy. This Alamo Ranch new construction community is located within the highly-rated Northside Independent School District, which feeds into several distinguished elementary, middle, and high school public facilities.

 Charlotte

Charlotte is the sixth best city for child rearing, based on its large kid population (14.3%) and numerous tot-approved listings (8%). With four parks and 0.03 theme parks per 10,000 people, Charlotte doesn’t lack profuse amusement. Still, Charlotte’s distinct attribute is the city’s sizable backyards at a median 10,549 square feet. Avery Park, a new home site in Cornelius, is a prime example of kid-friendly living near Charlotte. Avery Park offers easy access to Lake Norman, parks, playgrounds, a community garden, and dog park. Residents benefit from a convenient location, just 20 minutes north of Uptown Charlotte, facilitating faster commute times throughout the work week.

 Dallas

Dallas comes in no. 10 of the best cities for kids with 15.7% kids and 7.6% of homes listed with kid-friendly terms. Dallas offers three public parks and 0.02 theme parks per 10,000 residents. The median yard size of 7,133 square feet designed to satisfy any energetic toddler proves everything truly is bigger in Texas. Castle Point is a prime community for single-family house hunters. Located in Garland, northeast of downtown Dallas, Castle Point is a few miles away from George Bush Turnpike and minutes from major highways. In addition, Castle Point is within walking distance of Springfield Park and the Rowlett Creek Preserve, while the greater Garland area holds thousands of acres of green space and nature trails.

While kids are destined to enjoy green space and neighborhood amenities, parents are wise to weigh job opportunities, local schools and real estate prices alongside family must-haves. Luckily, many of these major cities fit everybody’s best interest – regardless of age.

**Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow Blog.

Happy Homeowners: The Randolph Family

This new “Happy Homeowners Interview” features Gary and Cheryl Randolph, who recently built their new home in Charlotte.  Read below to hear about Randolphs’ homebuilding journey with M/I Homes!

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M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I home? What convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Cheryl and Gary: Yes, this is our first M/I home. We had our realtor take us around to see existing homes, but there was nothing that met our price/feature preferences. We soon noticed that some builders stuck houses wherever they saw a spot of land and had no thought of an overall community design. One place actually had someone’s front door opening out to the side of their neighbor’s home.

Once we started looking at new builds, we saw many different neighborhoods. Driving along Poplar Tent Road, we saw three developments in a row and we checked out each one. It was sort a Goldilocks experience. The first place we looked at was nice, but you were given a very limited floor plan selection, and there was no ranch style. The second place we looked at was M/I Homes. We fell in love with the neighborhood and the quality of the homes, but we did not think we could afford a home in this area. So, we went to the third development. Styles were limited, but not as much as the first neighborhood we saw. Prices seemed doable and we were willing to settle for a house that was not exactly what we wanted – no ranch style available there either though.

A couple of months later, we visited Charlotte again (we’re from Buffalo, NY). We had eliminated most of the developments we had visited earlier and had pretty much settled on the development on Poplar Tent. We actually picked out a home and the options we wanted, and were almost finalizing the buy on the last day of our visit.

We had three hours before we needed to be at the airport to return to Buffalo. What the hey, let’s just stop and talk to Wendy (M/I Homes) one more time before we fly home. We gave Wendy our budget and told her that we loved the Cambridge model but we don’t need the second floor. Wendy worked with us to see which (of the many) options we really wanted. Two and a half hours later, we were $9,000 over our budget. The thing is, we loved what we had drawn up much more than we disliked the $9,000 overage. The difference between what we would settle for and what we loved was huge. At this point it was a no-brainer. Wendy became our best friend.randolph-family1-1

M/I: Are you happy with how your home turned out?

C/G: Oh yeah, very happy. To save money, we decided to go with the standard lighting fixtures, no garage door openers or ceiling fans, so we were pretty busy picking those things out online and installing them. We did save a lot of money, and the electricians’ prewire work did make the installs very straight-forward. Our home is everything we had hoped for.

M/I: What is the name of your floorplan, and what features of your home do you especially love?

C/G: Our floorplan is the Cambridge without the second floor. Our favorite room is the bedroom. That bay window extension is beautiful.

M/I: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes?  Did you get to pick out your homesite and the floorplan you wanted to build, or had the home already been started?

C/G: We have worked with at least three other builders on previous homes. This has been our best experience in home building. And yes, we picked out everything. Having lots of choices is both a blessing and a curse, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from the buying / building process?

C/G: Well, working with Wendy was fun. But our day at the Design Center was the most challenging. We picked out exterior colors, brick, fireplace stone, cabinets, countertops, toilets, kitchen upgrades, and so much more. We loved that Kelly was an expert at her job. She knew the colors of each neighbor’s home and guided us in picking out colors that would look great alongside them. Kelly was very skilled at helping us think about various aspects of each feature as we made our choices. Helping us think is much more beneficial than stating an opinion. She knew that.

Soon after the design center visit, we met John, the person supervising the construction of our new home. John made us feel comfortable when construction began but he was still an unknown to us at that point. As time went on, we realized that John really did mean it when he said that he builds each home as though he will own it. He kept things moving, kept us informed, and would not accept poor quality work. I guess that’s not really a fun memory, but it makes us really happy now.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

C/G: We like that it was clearly planned. We also love that it has curbs. That may sound silly, but our previous neighborhood had no curbs and there were always tire tracks on the lawns, unless the snow plows had completely destroyed the lawns. Then there were tire tracks in the mud.

M/I: Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

C/G: That depends on where the person is in their life. A young couple wants a starter home. We are at the opposite end of that. We wanted our last home. We wanted to get exactly what we wanted, so we would say now “don’t settle for something.”

M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home?  Do you have any pictures of that space you would like to share?

C/G: We could not pick just one because we are so happy with the layout. It has a large, well-planned kitchen space, the master bedroom with the extension looking out on the woods is so romantic and cozy, and the family room with stone fireplace is also our favorite!

M/I: What was something that surprised you the most with building / moving into a new home?

C/G: Wendy, John, and Kelly really listened to us, and really understood what would make us happy. They over-delivered and made this a home even better than our dreams. The upgrades, the wooded lot, the attention to our timeline, our budget needs – everything came together in our dream home.

M/I: Any suggestions you would give to someone building a new home with M/I Homes?

C/G: Take advantage of the opportunity to look at online pictures of other homes going up in the neighborhood! You can see how your neighbors put together different options to help you determine what you like and don’t like before heading to the Design Center. I know of no other builder who provides this view of their homes as they are being built. It was invaluable, especially because we were building our home in North Carolina while still living in New York.

** Recently retired, Gary and Cheryl Randolph moved from Buffalo, NY to Charlotte, NC in order to be near their grandkids and enjoy a moderate climate. Their retirement is an active one as they both love to bike and run. Cheryl has run a marathon and Gary completed a full Ironman (Lake Placid) at the age of 60.

Happy Homeowners: The Carter Family

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M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I Home and what convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Tom & Maureen: Yes, this was our first M/I Homes experience. We worked with a Realtor to help us find our ideal retirement home. After seeing several homes, we preferred the open floorplan of the Newport more than any other we had seen. Also, the New Home Consultant Michael Colo and later, Beth Vogl, were great. They were very nice, helpful, and informative.

M/I: Are you happy with how your home turned out?

T & M: Yes, the home has worked out well for us. There are some items that we will have to go back and do on our own but we are very impressed with our home overall. The space has worked out well; we have our things laid out where we like them. We purchased some new furniture and we were able to put our own touch on it so that it is different from the place we came from and it is very enjoyable.

M/I: What is the name of your floorplan and what features of your home do you especially love?

T&M: The Newport– We loved this ranch plan immediately. It was perfect because we knew we did not want a two-level home. We are able to get around well but wanted a home that was prepared for 15+ years down the road. We loved the open concept of the kitchen flowing to living room. We came from a condominium so space was very important to us. It was also great to have the master bedroom on one side and the three secondary rooms on the opposite side of the home.

M/I: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes?  Did you get to pick out your homesite and the floorplan you wanted to build, or had the home already been started?

T&M: Our overall experience was positive, our community had some restraints on interior design choices at the time but the individuals made up for it. Customer service was and continues to be spectacular. Kelly in the Charlotte Design Center was able to make a lot of our interior desires happen and she was very professional, Dax, our Personal Construction Manager had great communication with us, and Beth was the helping hand along the way. We were able to pick a homesite and we chose one that backed up to woods.

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from the buying / building process?

T&M: Our homebuilding experience was probably different from most because we were relocating from Boston. We only came down to Fort Mill twice and that was the Design Center appointment and Closing. Everything else was done remotely. Dax would walk through the house with his iPhone showing us the progress. Once they began construction, we could visit the website and see the progress which was helpful.

M/I: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

T&M: We really liked the Newport floorplan and the community. The floorplan flows from the kitchen, to the great room, out onto the deck giving us maximum space when entertaining. Nobody feels overcrowded and if guests want to step outside, they can do that.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

T&M: We had two sets of friends that moved to the Fort Mill area before us. When we came to visit them, we loved the area and started looking at the quality of homes that you could get for your money and decided this was the community for us. It isn’t a huge community which we liked and we also liked that it was new. It has made it easy to make friends and know everyone in the neighborhood. There is another couple in Sutton Mill that we have become close to and several others who are friendly acquaintances. The people have been very friendly and daily walks with our dog, Savannah, has allowed us to meet many people. We love that the community is diverse and that there are young families, retired families, and everyone in between.

M/I: Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

T&M: Take in consideration the lifestyle you’re looking for as far as location. It is important to see what surrounds you and if it matches your interests. Also, make sure it fits not only your current needs but your potential needs in the future.

M/I: What is your favorite memory in your new home thus far?

T&M: Getting all the rooms painted was very exciting for us. We painted ourselves and it gave the home a nice personal touch.

M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home?  Do you have any pictures of that space you would like to share?

T&M: There are a lot of them. The deck is lovely. We asked for and got permission to put in a larger deck as part of the construction process. So it is quite large and it looks out onto the woods. It’s really quite nice, especially as the weather gets a little cooler. We sit out and eat breakfast and dinner out there a lot.  It is also good for entertaining, which we do a frequently.

M/I: Any suggestions you would give to someone building a new home with M/I Homes?

T&M: Aside from assessing your individual needs and making sure the location fits your interests, figure out what you want interior-wise and make sure that the homebuilder and community you choose offers it. We dove in head first and fortunately it worked out in our favor. Also, take a look online to figure out what you like because the Design Center consultation can be an overwhelming experience. We narrowed down our options before our appointment to ensure we could pick everything out in a day.

M/I: Any additional items / stories you would like to share about your new home?

T&M: We’ve been very happy in the home. The space has worked out well for us. Now that we’ve got everything laid out, we have our own touch on it so that it is different. We’ve explored the area and there are a lot of good restaurants.

 

**Tom and Maureen Carter recently retired from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  They are very pleased with their decision on relocating to the Fort Mill area. They spend time hanging out with friends, trying local restaurants, walking their dog Savannah, and Maureen has a passion for designing custom jewelry, which they have dedicated a room in their home to.

 

Convert Your Garage Into a Bedroom – 12 Creative Ways

In the hope of making every space in your home valuable, garage conversions have become pretty common. Many homeowners convert unused garages to usable spaces like offices or bedrooms.

If you want more living spaces in your home, you might want to toy around with the idea of converting your garage into a bedroom. This bedroom can be a good spare room for guests or a new room for a new member of the family.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Install large windows. The usual mistake made by homeowners converting their garages is keeping the garage look in their new bedroom. To remedy this, install big windows. This gives a roomy and livable kind of feel to your newly converted garage.

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  1. Transform it to a tropical paradise. Your original garage might look dry and sad, but your new bedroom does not have to suffer that same fate! Make your new space sunnier by adding tropical details. Go for pillows with palm trees and furniture that mimics tropical resorts. Wooden and rattan chairs make your space look classy and vacation-esque.

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  1. Turn it into a comfortable guest room. An extra bedroom in your house can be a comfortable guest room if you frequently have family or friends over at home. You can even put two beds to accommodate more people.

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  1. Insulation. This is an absolute necessary if you are converting a garage to a living space. Normally, garages don’t have adequate insulation. Installing insulation during conversion is an absolute necessity to keep guests or your family comfortable during the cold winters or hot summers.

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  1. Add a homey vintage feel. If you are already starting to decorate your new space, you might want to stay away from the old feel of your garage. Create a homey feel to your new living space by utilizing vintage pieces.

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  1. Go for colors. Ditch the dreary colors of your old garage by adding pops of colors all throughout your space. The easiest way to incorporate color in the bedroom is choosing bright sheets and pillowcases. If you are feeling adventurous and want to be bold, a brightly colored wall can add flair as well!

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  1. Change up the door opening. Nothing shouts “I’m an old garage” more than having the usual garage door still in place. When converting your garage, make it a point to replace the doors. You can experiment and go for interesting ones. Large sliding doors can make your bedroom look classy and more spacious. Depending on the look of your home, you can change up your door to match its architecture and design.

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  1. Keep it simple. After doing all the necessary steps in converting your home, the key to finishing it off is keeping things simple. You don’t need to go overboard with your bedroom (save your money for structural changes like larger windows, insulation, and changing your door). Just purchase the basic needs in a bedroom. Make sure you have a bed, mattress, dresser, and a bedside table. Once you get the basic needs covered, you can build on from there.

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  1. Go modular. If you had a small garage and you want to make every inch matter, you can go modular. Incorporate storage spaces under the bed and create multiple uses for some furniture. This ensures that you have everything that you need in one small space.

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  1. Turn it into a master bedroom. Large garages can be great for a master bedroom, especially if you need more space than what your home is already providing you. Transform it into a comfortable haven complete with a king-size bed and a nice dresser.

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  1. Incorporate modern pieces. One way to make your room look like it wasn’t even a garage is to add modern furniture. Industrial and contemporary decorations can make the room feel more current instead of drab.

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  1. Add rooftop elements. If you have money to spend, some rooftop design elements can make a huge difference in your garage conversion. You can add a roof deck or a simple dormer window to really mimic a livable space. This can be a fun addition to your home that your family will enjoy.

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** Written by Kristy Jones,the blog author of A Click Away Remotes – Garage Door Opener and Remotes Blog.

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