Let’s get real: The first room you stumble into in the morning—bleary-eyed, dazed, and yawning—should be a soothing oasis. A bathroom that achieves those lofty heights? That’s a bathroom you can love. That’s why these most special of rooms are second only to kitchens as the areas homeowners eagerly spend time and money renovating—and that catch a buyer’s eye when you’re trying to sell.
But exactly which upgrades are the best, in terms of both usefulness and return on investment? Before you go nuts installing saunas and rain shower heads, check out this second installment in our series Renovations That Really Pay Off, for some smarter tweaks you’ll be very glad you made.
Reglaze, don’t replace, the tub
“No, no, no—do not put in a new tub,” says Rebecca Knaster, associate broker with Manhattan’s William Raveis. “It’ll cost thousands between the tub and the installation.” Instead, have the tub reglazed for “around $1,500,” which will make it look brand new.
Matt Plaskoff, founder of One Week Bath, agrees that if the shower area “is in decent shape,” it’s best to concentrate on the front part of the bathroom, which “sets the tone for the space.”
Invest in a new sink
Face washing, teeth brushing, gerbil bathing—your sink sees a lot of use. It’s also the very first thing a buyer notices in a bathroom, saysKnaster.
“Step 1 for getting the most bang for your buck is a new contemporary sink,” she says. “It will set you back a few hundred dollars and make all the difference.”
Just note whether the sink you already have is an undermount (where the edge is below the countertop to create an uninterrupted surface) or overmount (where the sink lip comes up over the countertop), says interior designer Randal Weeks, founder of Aidan Gray Home.
An undermount can be difficult to remove unless it’s under a formica top. If the sink is adhered to the surface, the top will also have to go, which quickly drives up the cost. One easy and dramatic sink upgrade Weeks recommends is replacing separate hot and cold faucets with a sleek single-handle faucet that starts at $70.
Go for timeless tile
While natural stone is hot, Weeks prefers neutral styles that will appeal to a broader range of people and provide better return on investment. Pricey stones are taste-specific, he notes, and can give a busy look that’s a turnoff regardless of expense.
In fact, Weeks says one of the biggest issues buyers consider when making offers is the cost of redoing other people’s “bad choices.” So go for crowd-pleasing features such as bright white subway tiles, which run a mere 21 cents each. The payoff?
“You can add $10,000 of value to your home by selecting timeless elements that won’t date it.”
Upgrade your lighting
It’s not just Snow White’s evil stepmother and the Kardashians who spend lots of time staring into the mirror on the bathroom wall. For most of us, lighting and lighting fixtures are critical elements.
“Dated light fixtures are a turnoff,” says Knaster. “For no more than $100 you can buy a basic but nice bathroom light fixture.”
Install a double vanity
The last thing you need in the morning is a battle with your partner over who gets the sink. It’s no wonder “I’m looking for a double vanity” is one of the most common things heard by Will Johnson,a Hendersonville, TN, real estate agent and founder of the Sell and Stage Team.
A double vanity typically costs between $200 and $800, with installation falling around $220, Johnson says—and it’s a wise investment. Johnson has clients who “won’t buy a house simply because there’s only one sink in the master bathroom!”
Swap in new fixtures
“Old materials such as bronze can instantly date your bathroom,” says Johnson. To knock out this easy DIY update, simply purchase new door handles, drawer pulls, and towel bars. A nice chrome drawer pull can cost as little as $3, while a towel bar canaverage $30.
Get a water-saving toilet
Old toilets use 6 gallons of water per flush, gobbling up about 30% of all residential water in U.S. homes. Go green when you swap out your throne. New WaterSense models using only 1.28 gallons per flush (e.g., TOTO’s Carlyle II 1G toilet) conserve up to 18,000 gallons of water annually. The initial cost of $974 will shave more than $110 per year off a water bill and add up to almost $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet. Bonus: The latest water-saving thrones actually work.
But skip the bidet
Bidets may be considered the Rolls-Royce of toilet upgrades, but most bathrooms simply don’t have room for them. What’s worse: Most Americans have no idea what on Earth these things are and may even be weirded out by them.
“My personal opinion is that our society is not accustomed to this practice and doesn’t see the extra value in them,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, an expert designer at Express Homebuyers in Springfield, VA. “We haven’t renovated a home yet where we thought it would be a good investment to add a bidet.” Just say nay to the bidet.
In recent years, Denver has made numerous appearances on lists featuring the best, most exciting places to live in the nation. So it’s no surprise that creative, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and professionals choose to call our city home. Meet some of the brains behind local businesses and leaders in various fields.
summitskyranch.com | (970) 286-0202
PO Box 2984, 309-M Rainbow Drive, Silverthorne, CO 80498
Tom Everist, developer of Summit Sky Ranch, has been involved in Summit County through his six-generation family business since 1964. Now, this longtime businessman is developing Summit Sky Ranch on his family’s pristine parcel of Rocky Mountain wilderness in Silverthorne, just five minutes north of I-70.
“I envision a vibrant and inclusive community that brings families and their love for the outdoors together to enjoy quintessential Colorado living, and at the same time preserves the natural beauty of the spectacular Blue River Valley that my family has cherished for more than half a century,” said Everist.
Tom’s passion for developing Summit Sky Ranch comes from his belief that personal relationships are at the core of our lives, and the community is being thoughtfully designed to encourage social connectivity among families and neighbors. The Aspen House serves as the community’s social and recreation centerpiece offering everything from coffee to star gazing, yoga to outdoor swimming and more. In warmer weather, residents can kayak and paddleboard on the community’s private lake, and come snowfall they’ll enjoy Nordic trails, ice skating and sledding. Plus, miles of community trails connect to the White River National Forest for year-round enjoyment.
In addition to the thoughtfully designed amenities, the community’s mountain modern design stands apart from more traditional log cabin architecture in the area. With a variety of sizes and floor plans, all of the homes are contextually designed to complement the raw natural beauty of the land, featuring a natural palette and native materials such as wood, stone, granite and quartz. Built with extraordinary architectural design, this community centered development will bring families together to enjoy Colorado living at its finest.
It’s hard to find a more sympathetic foreclosure story than Kathleen Conrad’s.
The disabled widow of a Marine who served in Vietnam, Conrad, 66, lives in a rundown Westchester house the couple bought in 1999, realizing their modest version of the America dream.
But after her husband died in 2004, Conrad faced larger-than-expected cuts to her widow’s benefits. During the 2007 housing market boom, she took out a second mortgage from GMAC. In 2013, Conrad fell behind on payments and was contacted by her loan’s new owner, Infinite Customer Systems and the strong-arm tactics began to get Conrad out of the home.
Unlike big banks, non-bank servicers like Infinite are not bound by even the modest consumer protections built into the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) of 2012.
Non-bank servicers are taking a page from their predecessors’ playbooks. Sources say that many of the same old problems the NMS partially sought to address are back with the nonbank servicers, including long delays in reviewing loan modifications and wrongful denials of loan modification requests.
While Federal Housing Finance Agency director Mel Watt is still dithering about whether to finally allow principal write downs to help troubled borrowers keep their homes, private investors who’ve already gotten a steep discount on distressed debt sold by government-sponsored entities are using hard-knuckle tactics with homeowners.
“The investors buying these loans are not interested in offering home-saving solutions to struggling homeowners,” said Jacob Inwald, director of foreclosure prevention at Legal Services NYC.
As government-sponsored enterprises including Fannie Mae sell delinquent mortgage loans to shore up their balance sheets and banks pull back on this market, private investors are muscling in. They range from small fry like Virginia-based Infinite Customer Systems to $60 billion Texas-based private equity titan Loan Star Funds. Loan Star is the backer of mortgage servicer and originator Caliber Home Loans, a major new player in New York.
After a flood of complaints about Caliber’s practices, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation last year. Loan Star declined to comment. A spokesman for the AG said the investigation is ongoing.
ICS’ Patrick Desjardins said he tried to reach a deal with Conrad before filing foreclosure. She halted the case by filing for bankruptcy protection, aided by foreclosure defense attorney Linda Tirelli. Earlier this month, a judge voided ICS’ lien, leaving the investor with worthless paper, and Conrad in her home.
“I don’t know where I would have [gone]” Conrad said. “That’s why I was fighting so hard to keep the house.”
Experts fear the new wave of investors will steamroll other vulnerable New Yorkers.
“We’re really concerned about the outlook,” said a spokesman for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “This is an unprecedented transfer of property ownership, accelerated by the distressed sales to non-bank servicers.”
Non-banks serviced 25 percent of the $9.9 trillion in outstanding US residential mortgages last year, against just 7 percent in 2012.
That’s according to a new Government Accountability Office report released last week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who called for more oversight. This shift could lead to “harm to consumers, such as problems or errors with account transfers, payment processing, and loss mitigation processing,” the report said.
These new risks come as thousands of New Yorkers are mired in foreclosure. A new report from New Yorkers for Responsible Lending notes that as of last October, the state had nearly 90,000 pending foreclosure cases, half of which were filed in the previous 12 months. The crisis has bypassed wealthy enclaves of the city while ravaging low-income minority neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.
With lengthening days and milder temperatures in many parts of the country, April is a wonderful time to freshen up the home inside and out. From windows that sparkle to a clutter-free garage, here are 13 tasks to make the most of the first full month of spring.
With ski season winding down in Colorado’s high country and the Denver-Boulder housing market so strong, real estate experts say Front Range buyers appear to be turning their attention to second-home and investment opportunities in the state’s major ski-town markets.
“We’re definitely seeing a spike among the Front Range residents and their desire to buy a second home, and in many areas there’s no shortage of inventory, so they have their choice,” said Bank of America Regional Sales Director Ann Thompson, who added that soaring Denver home prices may be driving some of that trend.
“Denver metro has seen about 16 percent gains in home prices, and now that they’ve got that equity going, they look at that and say, ‘I can improve my home, or I can also use that equity to make a down-payment on a second home,” Thompson said.
The different mountain-town markets vary in terms of Front Range second-home ownership. In Eagle County (Vail and Beaver Creek), for instance, an analysis by Land Title Guarantee Company found that 17 percent of the 2015 fourth-quarter homebuyers were from the Front Range. That compares to 57 percent in Grand County (Winter Park), 38 percent in Summit County (Breck, Copper, Keystone and A-Basin) and just 2 percent in Pitkin County (Aspen).
“There are no opportunities for them to invest down on the Front Range, so they’re coming up here and looking,” said Andrew Forstl of The Davos Group real estate and property management company in Vail. “There are no deals down there. Denver is unattainable for investments, so people are looking up here, and it’s just kind of started. Our market isn’t nearly as booming as the Front Range — things are not flying off the shelf — but it’s healthy.”
Forstl says one of his clients, a Front Range family that had been skiing and looking at properties all winter in the Vail Valley, was finally ready to pull the trigger in the closing weeks of ski season and just went under contract.
“They were waiting for the end of the season for deals to come out – places that have been on the market all season and they’re looking to get a deal on one of them,” Forstl said, adding that in general, sales to Front Range second-home buyers will drop off some after the lifts stop running and then pick up again in June.
“Things that haven’t sold over the winter are going to go down in price, so people are looking at that, but it’s hard getting them up here to look at stuff the next couple of months,” Forstl said. “What’s changed is a lot of people are coming up here for the summer. Ten years ago summer was nothing up here, but a lot of people are liking the summer as much as the winter.”
Bank of America’s Thompson agrees with that trend, urging prospective Front Range homebuyers to do their homework and consult various experts, including an experienced mortgage loan officer, a realtor and even a CPA on whether to buy as a second home or an investment rental property to be listed on VRBO or other services.
“A realtor can help with projecting realistic rents not only in the winter, but also in the summer,” Thompson said. “That’s very, very popular for Front Range people – the music festivals, the mountain biking, hiking. That’s really important when you’re looking at year-round potential for rental and also to be attractive for Front Range resale.”
Thompson also added that it’s key to look at amenities such as conference space, either in a dedicated facility such as Keystone or in the hotels in Vail, with a good mix of retail, entertainment and other options that will attract renters. Plus, access is always a concern, she says, and a good regional airport that avoids potential Interstate 70 gridlock can be a plus.
The Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum, 40 miles west of Vail, welcomed its 8 millionth commercial passenger on March 29 after first launching commercial air service in 1989. Still, drive-to markets will be always continue to be the most popular for Front Range buyers, especially when they’re home values have increased so much and they’re feeling priced out in their own primary metro-area market.
“Equity in your home builds a lot of confidence about financial comfort,” Thompson said. “When you have equity in your home, there is that ability to borrow on that equity, but even if you’re using stock options or a bonus or what have you, it’s just all about that confidence to make that investment [in a mountain second home or rental property].”
According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the metro Denver area led the nation for the highest rate of home price appreciation for half of 2015. Denver was second in the nation among major cities four months out of the year, and wound up third in December, behind only Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco. Overall, home prices in Denver rose 10.2 percent in 2015, compared to 5.4 percent nationally. But that kind of increase has some investors there wary.
A recent Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll of more than 1,000 high net-worth investors revealed they feel the Denver housing market is overpriced and unaffordable for first-time homebuyers. The poll of Denver-area investors between the ages of 25 and 75 with $100,000 or more in household liquid investable assets found that 89 percent feel the metro-area market is overpriced. Nearly as many (86 percent) said the market is pricing out first-time homebuyers, and there is concern a bubble is forming.
“I think the financial crisis of 2008 is still very fresh in a lot of people’s minds, particularly high net-worth investors, so they’re looking at what happened to real estate prices here,” Denver-based Morgan Stanley financial advisor Todd Hauer said. “We were down probably 30 to 40 percent from the 2007 highs to the 2009 lows.”
Bank of America’s Thompson says it’s tougher to flip properties in the mountain markets the way some Front Range buyers have been able to do the last few years. That’s why she says mountain-town investments may make more sense as a longer-term play that’s based on a lifestyle choice.
“With VRBO, there’s just so much more exposure to the lifestyle, and then they want to turn it into a permanent lifestyle,” Thompson said, adding a season full of powder days can certainly influence a second-home decision. “This is the time of year where they’ve had that wonderful experience, and they’re like, huh, I want my own place.”
It’s always a Sisyphean task to set a budget for a renovation—or at the very least an ever-moving target—but if you’re planning to put your home on the market, you’ll have a way different set of calculations than a starry-eyed new homeowner.
Before you embark on a gut of your circa-1990 kitchen, consult with a Realtor® and a general contractor about which renovations will yield the biggest return on investment. How much work you’ll need depends on your home’s value, your market, and the comps in your neighborhood.
“In competitive markets where prices are through the roof, like San Francisco or New York City, you don’t really need to do renovations before selling,” says Mike Aubrey, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Gaithersburg, MD. “But in other places where inventory is going up, your house needs to measure up to the other listings on the market.”
Committed to doing some work? Start by thinking small. Minor cosmetic upgrades go a long way in getting more buyers through the door for a quicker sale—and time on market is key to determining what you’ll net at closing.
Where to start? Here are some suggested upgrades (and some to avoid):
Walls and floors
Replacing or refinishing your flooring and painting the walls are the quickest and least expensive ways to give a house new life, Aubrey says. With these enhancements, you can expect roughly a 15% uptick in asking price.
Paint color matters. Shades of gray are in with buyers right now; stay away from tan and beige hues—they scream the era of Bill Clinton and Seattle grunge, Aubrey says. While you can certainly go the DIY route with paint, hiring a pro will get the best results. Expect to spend $2,000 to $3,000 for whole-house interior painting, Aubrey says.
The same goes for new carpet. A sturdy, builder-grade fiber in a neutral color that doesn’t compete with your wall color is the way to go. While most buyers prefer hardwood floors, they’re pricey to install. If you have existing hardwood floors, refinishing them will bring back the luster.
If you live in an area where ceramic tile is the standard (hey, we’re looking at you, Florida), a less expensive and durable option is DuraCeramic, an engineered tile that mimics the look of ceramic without the high cost, Aubrey says. You can find it for less than $3 per square foot.
According to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, replacing your existing front door with a new steel door will net you a 101.8% return on resale for a minimal replacement cost of about $1,230. Who knew? But think about it: It’s the first and last thing you’ll touch on your home visit. It makes an impression.
Installing a new garage door has an impact on buyers, too. Even better: It offers an 88% return at resale and costs an average of about $1,600 to replace, according to the Remodeling report.
Roof and siding
Adding a new roof and replacing your home’s unsightly vinyl siding will also yield a high ROI, Aubrey says. His assertion is backed by the Cost vs. Value Report, which found that homeowners recouped 72% and 80% of the cost, respectively, for those upgrades. Another benefit: When it comes time for inspection and appraisal, having those repairs done will not only increase the value of your home but also reduce the likelihood of being forced to make fixes or adjust pricing later in the process.
A modern kitchen is a top draw for buyers—but don’t try to overhaul a dated one, which could cost mucho dinero. Buying new cabinet drawer pulls, painting or refacing old cabinets (white is in right now), and installing sleek light fixtures are all low-cost upgrades that will make your kitchen sparkle.
New appliances, which can run about $10,000 for a whole-kitchen replacement, are an easy way to add value. While the upfront cost might be hard to swallow, new stainless appliances make your kitchen more attractive to a wider range of buyers, says Ashley Oakes-Lazosky, a Realtor with Vegas Homes and Fine Estates in Las Vegas.
Granite or quartz countertops are also hot, but they can be pricey, depending on your kitchen layout.
“You need bids from professional remodelers to figure out how much new countertops will cost—and if it fits your budget and timetable for selling,” says Robert Criner, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers and owner of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, VA.
A less pricey alternative is simply adding a clean, white ceramic tile backsplash to create visual appeal, Criner adds.
Upgrades to skip
Thinking about finishing an attic or basement? Adding a deck? Well, don’t. Those upgrades tend to be pricey, and buyers will likely prefer to remodel those areas to their own tastes.
Other areas to avoid doing a major renovation: bathrooms, bedrooms, and home offices, according the Remodeling report.
In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t renovate it!
April 10th – Keystone
April 10th – Beaver Creek
April 10th – Frisco Adventure Park & Nordic Center
April 17th – Vail
April 24th – Breckenridge
April 17th (closed 18th-21st) 22, 23, 24th – Copper Mountain
May 3rd (rough) – Loveland
Arapahoe Basin – undecided