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Getting more bang for remodeling buck

February 09, 2003|Robert J. Bruss | Special to The Times

Improve the Value of Your Home Up to $100,000

Robert Irwin

John Wiley and Sons; 230 pp., $14.95


Residential real estate agents, homeowners and especially home sellers should carefully study Robert Irwin's new book, "Improve the Value of Your Home Up to $100,000."

The author, who has written at least 30 real estate books, explains the 50 most profitable home improvements and rates each improvement with dollar signs to indicate how much it will affect market value. He also provides guidance on which improvements are a waste of money.

For example, suppose you're considering a bathroom renovation or addition. Irwin says either is a profitable idea. So is a kitchen makeover. But he says landscaping the backyard, adding a spa or fixing a bad swimming pool will add little or no market value.

In a twist, the author recommends profitable off-site work to improve neighborhood values, such as working with local schools or contacting the public works department about neighborhood repairs.

I was surprised by some of the profitable improvements the author recommends: "remove popcorn ceilings" and "paint lively."

I always thought it was best to leave ceilings alone or paint them, unless they are in bad condition. As for colors, most agents suggest white or off-white walls so the potential home buyer can't raise any objection to the colors.

Irwin is big on improving kitchens and bathrooms. He also suggests improving bonus areas, such as converting an attic or finishing a basement to add market value. But installing double-pane windows, he says, adds minimal value.

Having improved many fixer-upper houses, I generally agree with Irwin's advice, which is based on his many years of real estate investment experience. This should be considered a checklist book for the homeowner and agent.

One improvement that homeowners often forget is to make over the front of the house to improve curb appeal. Irwin suggests taking a critical look at your home as a stranger might see it and making modest changes. Sometimes, all that is needed is a paint job in updated colors, Irwin notes.

Many of the improvements are relatively inexpensive. For example, Irwin recommends hanging an attractive chandelier in the dining room. He says you could spend $50,000 on one with Italian glass designed by Chihuly (I don't think Home Depot where I shop carries them), but a $500 to $1,000 chandelier can do wonders to add visual appeal to a home.

If you're not selling, you might want to make just a few of the improvements to add to your own enjoyment. However, if you plan to sell soon, you'll be highly motivated to make the improvements that add the most value.

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