The greatest rise in home prices occurs when the economy is strong and the number of home sales is increasing. Though markets vary, that has occurred twice in recent history — in the early 1970s and the late 1980s.
Specific home improvements can increase the value above the cost of the improvements. According to Remodeling magazine, which publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value” remodeling report, a remodeled bathroom returns 81percent to the owner, a bathroom addition, 89 percent and a master bedroom suite, 82 percent. Remember, quality pays. Well-planned and well-executed remodeling jobs are a good investment while bad work seldom enhances value or livability.
The safety and security of a neighborhood can affect property values, too. If you live in a high-crime area, an organized community watch program not only will lower the crime rate but give home values a boost, too.
Most recently, the highest remodeling paybacks have come from updating kitchens and baths, home-office additions and extra amenities in older homes. While home offices are a relatively new remodeling trend, for example, you could expect to recoup 58 percent of the cost of adding a home office, according to the survey.
The 203(K) loan is usually done as a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper property “as is” and rehabilitate it, or to refinance a temporary loan to buy the property and do the rehabilitation. It can also be done as a rehabilitation-only loan.
Plans and specifications for the proposed work must be submitted for architectural review and cost estimation. Mortgage proceeds are advanced periodically during the rehabilitation period to finance the construction costs.
For a list of participating lenders, call HUD at (202) 708-2720.
If you are a veteran, loans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also can be used to buy a home, build a home, improve a home or to refinance an existing loan. VA loans frequently offer lower interest rates than ordinarily available with other kinds of loans. To qualify for a loan, the first step is to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility.
Another program is the Fedeal Housing Administration’s Title 1 FHA loan program.
* “Rehab a Home With HUD’s 203(K)” brochure, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 7th and D streets S.W., Washington, DC 20410.
However, the 1997 tax changes virtually eliminates the capital gains tax for most homeowners. The exemption is $250,000 for single homeowners and $500,000 for married homeowners. Make certain you check with your tax professional.
Still, it is worthwhile to save all receipts for permanent home improvements just in case. They also can be useful documentation when it comes to marketing your home when you sell. Please check with your tax professional to make certain.
All buildings must be issued a building permit and a certificate of occupancy before it can be used. During construction, housing inspectors must make checks at key points. Codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates and by imposing fines.
Building codes also cover most remodeling projects. If you are buying a house that has been significantly remodeled, ask for proof of the permits involved before you purchase to avoid future liability for fines.
* “The Ultimate Language of Real Estate,” John Reilly, Dearborn Financial Publishing, Chicago; 1993.
The book is available for $9.95 through Consumer Press and Women’s Publications, Inc., Dept. SR01, 13326 Southwest 28th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33330-1102; (954) 370-9153.
* Profiting From Real Estate Rehab, Sandra M. Brassfield, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York; 1992.
* Remodeling magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report”, available for a nominal fee from the magazine; call (202) 736-3447 to order a copy.
A typical “junk vehicle” ordinance, for example, requires any disabled car to either be enclosed or placed behind a fence. And most cities prohibit parking any vehicle on a city street too long.
It also may be worthwhile to check into local zoning ordinances. An operator of a home-based business usually is required to obtain a variance or permanent zoning change in residential areas.
In addition, if a neighbor’s repair work produces loud noises, he may be breaking local noise-control ordinances, which are enforced by the police department.
Before bringing in the authorities, you may want to make a copy of the pertinent ordinance and give it to your neighbor to give them a chance to correct the problem.
* “Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries and Noise,” Cora Jordan, Nolo Press, Berkeley, Calif.; 1991.
* How much money is available, either from cash reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel the current house?
* How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
* What do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
* How much equity already exists in the property?
* Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy housing needs?
Ultimately, the decision should be based on individual needs, the extent of work involved and what will add the most value. According to Remodeling magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report,” remodeling a home not only improves its livability but its curb appeal with potential buyers. The highest paybacks come from updating kitchens and baths and, most recently, adding on a home office, according to the survey.
For more information, check out “The Do-able Renewable Home,” a free booklet available from the American Association of Retired Persons, Fulfillment Department, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049; (202) 434-2277.
If you are satisfied with the answers you find there, interview the contractor candidates. Ask what kind of worker’s compensation insurance they carry and get policy and insurance company phone numbers so you can verify the information. If they are not covered, you could be liable for any work-related injury incurred during the project. Also be sure that the contractor has an umbrella general liability policy.
If they pass the insurance hurdle, next check some of their references. A good contractor will be happy to provide as many as you want.
Finally, don’t let yourself be rushed into making a decision no matter how competitive the market may seem. Also, never pay a deposit to a contractor at the first meeting. You may end up losing your money.
* National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 310,Arlington, VA 22203; (703) 575-1100.
* “Rehab a Home With HUD?s 203(K),” published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 7th and D St., S.W., Washington, DC 20410.
* “Cost vs. Value Report,” by Remodeling magazine, 1 Thomas Circle, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. $8.95 per copy; call (202) 736-3447 for credit card orders.
* “The Do-able Renewable Home,” by the Coordination and Development Department, American Association of Retired Persons, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049.