Home Improvement Projects That Really Pay Off

Many of us watch TV shows and see the miraculous transformation of homes and gardens by professionals and amateur do-it-yourselfers. Is it really that easy, we ask ourselves. Could I do it? Where do I begin? What home improvement projects will generate the biggest increase in the value of my home?

What Do You Want and What Can You Afford?

There are several good reasons for wanting to redecorate or remodel your home. If your residence no longer reflects your changing tastes and lifestyle but you don’t want to leave a desirable neighborhood, maybe all you need to do is make one or two basic changes. Altering a color scheme, converting a bedroom into a home office, or upgrading the kitchen and bathroom are practical improvements that add esthetic appeal and financial value. If a move is in the future, you want home improvement projects that will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it’s time to sell.

Whatever your motives for improving your home, make a wish list with three categories:

* Must have

* Would like to have

* Dreams can come true

When your list is complete, consider the amount of money you have available or are prepared to borrow. Unless you have unlimited funds, make a realistic estimate of what you can afford. Are you planning major renovations that will require the services of an architect or a contractor? Will you need an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a painter, or all four? How much work can you do yourself? All these factors must be taken into account as you pare down your list into affordable home improvement projects.

How Do You Begin?

Every project starts with a plan. Itemize everything you want and think you can afford, and include a design of rooms to be remodeled. If you are going to require professional help, now is the time to talk to contractors, plumbers, and other tradesmen, and to ask for estimates. Comparison-shopping is a must. If you are an accomplished do-it-yourselfer, price materials and tools needed. If you can’t afford to do everything on your list, reassess your prime needs and make a new plan.

What Projects Are Key?

The best projects for improving the value of your home are, happily, the most affordable and the easiest to do yourself, even if you are a super klutz. Ask any real estate agent for tips on how to prepare a home for resale and you will be told that the house and yard should be cleaned and all clutter removed. Creating suitable home storage facilities and cleaning and painting the interior and exterior of your house, therefore, are the jobs that top the list of desirable improvements. The premium projects that usually require professional help are kitchen remodeling first and bathroom remodeling second. These particular upgrades will provide the best return for your money, and the real estate industry has statistics to prove it.

Clean Everything in Sight

Cleaning your home and yard is a great improvement project, and if you are remodeling, it will be the final step after the dust has settled. You will need something heavy-duty like tri-sodium phosphate or its equivalent to wash most surfaces inside and outside the house. There are also special cleaners for glass, tile, porcelain, stainless steel, and wood, and for getting rid of unpleasant molds and mildew. Visit your friendly hardware store and read labels. There are cleaners for almost every material and for solving almost every cleaning problem. Make sure rooms are well ventilated whenever you are cleaning, carefully follow directions, and wear gloves and a mask.

Removing clutter is another worthwhile project and requires adequate home storage with a combination of cabinets, shelves and bins, and sufficient strength of mind to discard all junk, no matter how much you love it. You can buy easy-to-assemble shelving and cabinets in a great variety of sizes and materials at affordable prices. Small, decorative containers can be used to organize and conceal the ongoing accumulations of such items as incoming mail. In the yard, removing clutter means getting rid of dead trees, dead branches, broken slabs and stones in patios and walkways, and tidying up the garden and lawn. When faced with clutter, ruthlessly throw it out, recycle it, hold a garage sale, donate it to the charity of your choice – get rid of it.

Interior painting and exterior painting should be next on your list of preferred home improvement projects. Fresh paint helps make your home look clean, bright, and spacious. When selecting colors for the exterior, don’t forget to do something about that bland front door. Have fun! Fresh, harmonious colors add beauty and personality to your home both inside and out.

Put Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling High on the List

Although remodeling a kitchen seems like a daunting task, a complete overhaul pays great dividends if and when you sell your home. Purchasing new cabinets and appliances are worthy goals, but you can also make minor changes that will create impact. If you can’t replace the kitchen cabinets, replace the cabinet doors at least. If that is also beyond your means, add molding to the cabinet doors, paint them, and replace the hardware. It’s not that difficult or expensive to replace an outdated sink, and if you can’t afford a new stove, fridge and dishwasher, don’t hang on to those gold or avocado monstrosities – buy attractive reconditioned replacements.

Bathroom remodeling is the next most important improvement and the biggest dividends come from installing a new sink, bathtub, toilet, and shower stall, as well as attractive tiles and custom cabinets. Again, if you can’t manage a complete makeover, replace the tired old taps, faucets and showerhead; add shelves; and paint and redecorate the cabinets.

Other Projects to Consider

After you have decided on and planned for the most important home improvement projects, new window covering and upgraded flooring should receive your attention. You can choose from a large array of window dressings and styles, or simply buy fabric, turn hems with iron-on tape, and dramatically drape the material over attractive curtain rods. Shutters are another possibility and lend themselves to many different decorating styles.

Your choice of flooring is limited only by your taste and budget. Rip up the old carpet and replace it with contemporary hardwood flooring or laminate flooring. If you already have hardwood, simply sanding and re-staining it or giving it a clear finish may give your rooms the lift they need. Other flooring replacements that can transform a room include tile, vinyl, linoleum, or textured rubber.

Finally, save a little energy and money to improve the appearance of your yard. Maybe all you have to do to improve the garden is trim, mow, weed, and then plant a few flowers. Adding or upgrading an existing patio, deck, or walkway can also be very worthwhile. Consider adding a plastic storage shed to help organize all your outdoor stuff which will help remove the clutter from your yard.

Choosing the best modeling and redecorating projects will not only increase the long-term value of your home, they will also provide satisfaction and pleasure for you, the smart homeowner.

Home Equity Loan Tips: 5 Steps to Earn Equity in Your Home Quickly

According to a Federal Reserve Bank report published in 2002 thirty-five percent, the biggest share, of home equity loan dollars goes back into the borrowers house through home improvements and maintenance projects. Considering the benefits and the ease of leveraging the equity you already have through a second mortgage or mortgage refinancing, this is hardly a surprise. ”The cake itself is the equity, and that is the important part of ownership,” Richard Wakelin, of Wakelin Property Advisory. If you are smart about building equity you can earn it even faster and with less investment. Some of the best ways to increase equity are simple such as:

1. Buying a home in the right neighborhood is critical. If the real estate values are rising, you could build equity without doing anything more than holding on to the property.

2. Curb appeal is key to raising a home’s value. It doesn’t take much money to install irrigation and landscape a property, but the first impression from the outside can be worth a lot. If you have some equity in your property already, a home equity credit line may be a better way to fund these smaller improvements than using a credit card. The interest is lower and so are the payments.

3. Remodel the kitchen if you really want to increase the value. Buyers are willing to pay more for a home with a gorgeous cook-friendly kitchen. If you are looking to do a remodel, mortgage refinancing is a good way to cash out on the equity that you already have and invest in building further equity. (Likely with a tax break on the interest as well.)

4. Master bedroom and bathroom improvements are also a good way to increase equity and can also be paid for through a refinance.

5. Don’t forget small improvements with “sweat equity” either. Just a little bit of capital and a lot of muscle can greatly improve a home through painting, wall papering and other do-it-yourself upgrades.

A little bit thought and effort can go a long way in making your property your best investment!

Finding a Lender for Your Remodeling and Home Improvement Project

Finding a Lender for Your Remodel

If you’ve been dying thinking about how wonderful it would be to have your home remodeled in the image of your dreams, then the next step will be how to get an appropriate lender for your needs. For those new to the lingo, it would be very easy to get lost amidst the sea of terms and concepts related to lending – and we haven’t even gone to which lender would be best for you. So if you are new to the lending biz, here are a few tips to help guide you on your way.

Explore your options, make sure you have a list of credible lending institutions to choose from when refinancing. It would do well if you had a list of institutions followed by the pros and cons plus the terms to each lending institution.

Many financial institutions will offer some sort of credit product especially tailored for home buyers and homeowners who seek to remodel. The best place to start looking is your local bank. Not only are they legal, they are also stable, and will prove to be the standard by which you make your financial decisions.

Your Bank: The First Stop On Your Lending Adventure

Try exploring the loan plans of the bank you deposit with. They will usually give you better interest rates than other banks. When visiting your bank for this purpose, it will do no harm to seek customer service personnel who can explain to you the various loan products and services their bank offers and the ins and outs of managing such agreements. Good banks will also offer advice on what course of action would be best for such situations, having had much experience with such.

If you have applied for other loans before, then this experience will not be any more painful than before. Many of the terms and rules applicable to them are applicable to your refinance loan.

Make sure you understand every detail of the loan. Do not gloss over some parts because you think they are not important, or that they can be omitted or referred to later. Some of the decisions you will have to make regarding your loan must be made with these terms in mind.

Your Mortgage Broker: The Loan Middleman

Mortgage brokers have the advantage of having more loan sources than other people. They will typically be more informed of the ins and outs of the lending business. However, the main issue against them is trust. You will want to associate with mortgage brokers that are trustworthy and honest. Try checking with people you know to get in touch with such brokers. Those of your friends who have had experience with these brokers can give you tips about, feedback on, and references to good mortgage brokers who do their job well.

Finding a mortgage broker is best when you are getting a second mortgage, or refinancing, or a FHA 203(k) mortgage.

Contractors: Last Line of Lending

Some contractors will also offer lending plans. However, finding a good contractor – and one that offers a good loan at that – will be doubly difficult. Their plans may also be a lot trickier to deal with. You will need to approach this option with a lot more caution than with the other options.

When considering their terms, take careful note of the monthly payment they require. If they put too much focus on the monthly payment instead of the total bill, you will have to be very suspicious of their plans.

Your Rights as a Borrower

The federal Truth in Lending Act, Article Z protects you from some of the more ostentatious scams in lending. It states that lenders must disclose their interest rates, costs, plus the total APR along with the terms of the loan for it to be legitimate. If they don’t do so, then you must scoot away from these institutions – but not after refunding your application fee (which is another one of your rights). You can use this information when comparing lenders and choosing from among them.

You should also be aware of the upfront fees which could typically cost anywhere from $50 to $300. Most reputable lenders will keep this fee low, if they charge too much or if they state that these fees are nonrefundable, you would do better with other lending institutions.