Home improvement is the repair, maintenance or renovation of residential real property. It can include such activities as repairing or replacing fixtures, painting walls, installing carpeting and landscaping. Some home improvement projects are done as a do-it-yourself project, while others require professional help. Home improvement stores offer a wide variety of tools and materials to do the job. Many websites also provide “how-to” information and videos to assist homeowners in doing home repairs and improvement projects.
The value of a home improvement project is usually tied to its impact on the resale value of a house. This means that a costly upgrade will only pay off if it is something that most potential buyers would be interested in and can afford. For example, adding a swimming pool may be a big improvement, but only if the neighborhood has pools and if it adds to the overall look of the homes in the area.
A home equity loan, or second mortgage, is an option for homeowners who want to make expensive improvements but don’t have the cash on hand. These loans are typically repaid over 5-30 years with fixed monthly payments and can be used for expenses like home improvements, college tuition, debt consolidation or long-term medical care. However, it is important to keep in mind that a home equity loan increases the amount of money owed on a property and could be an obstacle for those trying to sell.
If you’re thinking of making a major home improvement, talk to a real estate agent first. They can give you advice about what upgrades are most likely to boost resale values and what might be a waste of money. For example, while an in-house movie theater is a fun improvement, it’s not something that will appeal to most potential buyers. Similarly, built-in electronics can be a turnoff for some people, such as smart appliances and thermostats.
Even small updates can improve a home’s curb appeal. A new front door, for instance, is one of the highest-return projects on the Cost vs. Value Report, as it can increase a home’s perceived value by up to 10%. Likewise, landscaping is a low-cost way to make a big impact. A well-kept yard with shrubs, trees and flower beds can instantly make a house more appealing to prospective buyers.
When hiring a contractor for a home improvement project, always get a written contract. This should state the scope of the work, the cost and a payment schedule. The contract should also include an arbitration clause and the name and MHIC number of the contractor. In Maryland, you should avoid contractors who do not have a current MHIC license. For more information about home improvement laws, visit the Maryland Home Improvement Commission’s website.