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Renovation, improvements to add value
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The summer is a great time to do renovations on your house, and according to the latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity released in April, it is projecting homeowner improvement spending will be up 19.8 percent in 2013. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that owners spent $124.9 billion on improvements in 2012, so based on that benchmark, the LIRA suggests spending levels will rise to $149.6 billion in 2013.

So if you are one of the many who will be doing renovations this year, how can you do it on a budget? According to Palm Harbor licensed general contractor and owner of Heavenly Foundations, Justin Jones, the best way to save money is by doing the work yourself. An example Jones gives is painting your house.

“If you paint your house, you can save on between $1,500 to $2,000 for an average size house in Pinellas County,” Jones said. “If you haven’t painted before, you can find instructional videos on YouTube from pressure washing the house to painting it.”

If you are remodeling your kitchen with new cabinets and a new sink and want to do the work yourself but aren’t good with designing it, Jones says you could hire a designer to help you write up a plan. According to Jones, most designers cost between $100 to $125 and will help lay out your entire kitchen.

“That way, when you go shopping for supplies and cabinets, you just give the information from designer to the store associate, and you will get exactly what you need,” Jones said.

If you don’t want to spend the money on putting in all new cabinets, you can paint the cabinets and get new doors. This is something my husband is doing in our kitchen. We have the original kitchen cabinets from the 1970s in the house and they are a dark wood color. We want to lighten the color of the cabinets and freshen up the kitchen. Since we don’t want to spend a lot of money on new cabinets and our cabinets are in good shape, we are going to refinish them.

My husband will do almost all of the work himself. He loves doing it and is really good at it, but he isn’t able to do everything. By doing the work and not putting in all new cabinets, we will save about half the price of new cabinets. To get a better deal on the price, my husband will take off all the old cabinet doors and do any demolition. Demolition is pretty easy and is a cost saver on any kind of renovations.

“As house prices continue to rise and sales continue to pick up in many markets, more and more homeowners will have the confidence and improved home equity levels to invest in their homes in bigger ways than in recent years,” said research analyst for Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, Abbe H. Will. “While homeowners continued to make improvements to their homes’ exterior and systems and equipment during the housing and economic downturn, the uptick in spending that our LIRA is projecting this year indicates that homeowners are finally moving back to more discretionary project spending that they put off during the downturn, such as kitchen and bath remodeling,”

Jones says new kitchens and bathrooms will give the most bang for your buck as far upgrading your home, but don’t forget about the outside of your house, too.

“Personally for curb appeal, a nice lawn and green grass, a new front door and garage door and fresh paint are improvements that will add value,” Jones said.

The average return on home improvements, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, is 60.6 percent, slightly up from last year where the average was 57.7 percent.

The top return on a remodel for the Tampa Bay, according to Remodeling Magazine and their study for 2013 in the Remodel Cost vs. Value Report, is a new steel entry door replacement. You will get over 93 percent of your cost recouped. A new garage door (78.8 percent) and wooden deck (83.4 percent) are also high on the list. See this year’s list for some of the other projects that are good investments in your home.

When purchasing your materials, look for discounts at stores. Contractors get good prices, but you can too. Did you know that Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers? They sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price.

We have several in the bay area. A lot of stores will match prices and take competitors coupons. Lowes and Home Depot both offer military discounts. If you are moving, you can find discounts at the post office when you get a change of address card.

When you do decide to do renovations, it is always good to get several bids. Jones recommends at least two bids if it is something substantial and to make sure you do your research when you are looking for contractors.

There are some things you need to leave to the experts. You need to know your limitations, especially when it comes to electrical and plumbing work.

Renovations and home improvements don’t have to cost you a fortune. By planning out what you want to do and shopping around for the best prices and doing some of the work yourself, you can save yourself a lot of money.

You can find out more about the improvements that add the most value to your home at; or

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