In many ways the housing market resembles a high-stakes poker game. For the last few years, people across the country have been snapping up big, unaffordable mortgages, putting their financial security on the line. Now more cards have turned over — falling prices, evaporating equity, resetting interest rates — and it’s time to make a final, momentous decision: Call, raise, or fold?
If your heart is thumping over these economic conditions, you’re not alone. For most American families, their home is their single greatest investment. But if things seem dire, you still have an ace in the hole. Smart, targeted renovation projects can help you sell your home quickly and for a higher price.
“Some markets, like Miami, now have several years’ worth of [condo] inventory on the market,” notes Mark Foreman, vice president of the National Association of Realtors and owner of Cornerstone Capital Mortgage and Real Estate in Fairfield, Connecticut. “So when you have more choices as a buyer, you’re obviously going to look for a house that’s in the best condition.”
Before we get to the good news — including four projects that could rev up your home’s value — here’s the bad. In March, national home prices were down 7.7% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. What’s more, existing home sales were down 19.3% over the same time period, and recently the inventory of unsold homes reached 10 months, the largest overhang since October 1981.
In light of these statistics, smart, economical home renovations could be a crucial strategy for home sellers. Spending money on low-return projects or whims that are out of sync with your neighborhood is the same as tossing cash out of a window. On the following pages, we’ll review the most economical ways to allocate your dollars, cover legal bases, and avoid renovation nightmares. And since all real estate is local, we reveal how to tailor home improvement efforts to meet buyer expectations in any market.