Monthly Archives: April 2018

Making Home Improvements

You watch that TV channel. The one with all the stories about real estate and what improvements you can make to your home to increase its value. It all sounds great — simple even. Add a room, get better counters, slap down some hardwood, command top dollar at closing. Sorry to have to say this, but slow down. It’s not that simple.

Do Home Improvements Really Increase the Sale Value

The average return on home improvements will, of course, follow the ups and downs of the real estate market itself. In 2006, for instance, every dollar spent on improvements raised the value of the home by 76.1 cents. In 2007, the figure was 70 cents, and by 2008 it fell to just 67.3 cents.

Looked at in terms of recouping the expense of the improvement itself, the ratio is rarely 1 to 1. You’re not going to get $20,000 more for a home you’ve put $20,000 into. There are, however, regional exceptions to that rule. In San Francisco, the addition of a deck, the number-one-rated improvement for that city, often returns more than 100 percent the cost of the work. This raises an extremely salient point.

If you are making improvements specifically to increase the value of your home before selling it, talk to a real estate professional first and find out what upgrades the local market values. Even if you’re thinking of selling within five years, take the time to visit with a real estate agent. Some improvements are widely accepted as being of higher value than others, but each market may put a different emphasis on what constitutes “value” and what does not.

Kitchen Renovations Are Always a Winner

It’s difficult to go wrong with kitchen improvements since, for most people, especially families, that’s the room that is the heart of the house. At minimum, fresh paint, new or refreshed cabinets, and new flooring will go a long way. Higher end improvements might include granite counters or stainless steel appliances. On average, kitchen remodels return 75 percent of the amount invested.

Bathroom Makeovers Are a Close Second

Let’s face it. No room in a house has the potential for a bigger “ick” factor than the bathroom. No one wants to buy someone else’s dirt. Even the cleanest tub in the world is going to look dirty with peeling, moldy grout or rust stains around the drain. Most of us never look twice at our own bathrooms, but will recoil in horror at one in a listing we’re viewing.

At the very least, a bathroom in a home for sale should be so clean it sparkles. If there’s no way to get sparkle, then get new tile, a molded sink, marble vanity, and nice fixtures. So whatever you have to do to make the bathroom look pristine. You’ll easily see 75 to 80 percent of the cost coming back to you at the time of sale.

New Emphasis on Green, Energy Efficient Improvements

Especially in Texas and the Southwest where brutal summer heat saddles residential customers with astronomical electric bills, green improvements to a home can significantly add value to a property. This could be anything from insulating doors and windows to a roof with a radiant barrier, high-performance insulation, and potentially alternative energy systems. The latter are most likely to be solar panels or small, residential wind turbines. At present, these sorts of modifications appeal to a highly select clientele, but such additions are likely to grow in acceptance and value rapidly over the next decade.

Upgrades that Generally Don’t Add Value

Not all home upgrades are created equal. In picking things like counter tops, cabinets, and fixtures, try to match the overall “quality” or “range” of the home. Ultra high-quality upgrades in a fairly “normal” or “modest” home stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Avoid adding rooms that make no sense in terms of the basic floor plan. Always preserve the flow from one room to the next, and don’t do things like adding on a family room only to cut off any view from the dining room. Worse yet, don’t add on a room that can only be accessed by going through the master bathroom! You get the idea. If it feels “tacked on” to you, the potential buyer will experience that same feeling to the tenth power.

Finally, it’s best to avoid pools. Once seen as a premium enhancement to value, most buyers now perceive a pool as a home maintenance albatross. This is especially true in climates where the pool is only usable a few months out of the year. You might be able to make a case for a pool being a selling point in Florida. That likely won’t fly in South Dakota.

Always Understand the Local Market for Upgrades

These are the kinds of factors that make a consultation with a real estate professional essential before you start knocking out walls. Find out which upgrades sell in your area and try to match a dollar figure to what “sell” means. Only undertake the improvements that make the most sense for your property and the ones that will largely pay for themselves when you sell the home.

Home Improvement Loan

If you have lived in your home for several years, now this is probably the right time for you to make some improvements. Minor or major improvement is usually needed to make your time at home more enjoyable. Besides, improvement will also add the value of your beloved home.

When improving some parts of your home, the budget that you own plays an important role. The amount of your money determines the coverage of your home improvement and surely the building quality. Commonly, people need much money when it comes to home improvement and it triggers them to obtain loan. If you plan to conduct the improvement but you don’t have a special budget to fund it, it is a good idea to consider obtaining home improvement loan. This type of loan makes your home improvement financing gets easier and gives you the peace of mind.

To help you obtain the loan in an easier way, here are some steps that you can do:

1. Determine the amount of money that you need for the project. The way you determine the budget that you might need is very easy, all you need to do is just checking the parts that you need to improve. After that, you can get help from a contractor to estimate the budget. Seeking help from professional helps you know the needed fund without wasting the time.

2. Once you have determined the amount of money that you want to borrow; now this is the time to find the right lender. Nowadays, there are many lenders offer home improvement loan as more people need a simpler financing option. When searching for a lender, make sure that you check the most reputable ones. Loan types, interest rates, and closing costs are some things that you should also check when searching for a lender. You can make use of the internet to view lenders’ profile and the service that they offer. This may take some times but the information that you get will make you decide easier.

3. Finally, you come to the last step of obtaining the loan. After choosing a lender who fits your need, now this is the time for you to apply for the loan. Mostly, lenders will require you to deal with the paperwork and then submit it to them. Applying for home improvement loan can also be done online today to save your time.

It is easy, isn’t it? Obtaining home improvement loan can be much easier today as lenders are trying to improve their service to the prospective borrowers. If you don’t have any experience in obtaining the loan, it is a good idea to seek assistance from the professional.

Home Improvement Marketing

Home improvement companies large and small know that getting their message heard by homeowners in need isn’t easy. Home improvement contractors are everywhere, and each is vying for attention. Open any given value pack mailer or local coupon publication and you will see page after page of home improvement ads. From lawn services, landscapers, deck, pool & patio contractors to roofing, siding and windows, carpet, bathroom, sun room and basement remodelers, the list goes on and on.

So as a contractor, how do you get your message heard? What marketing works, what doesn’t, and what aren’t we sure about? The answers depend somewhat on your local market and your budget, but here I provide some sure things that can be done no matter what your market or budget, and some tips on making the most of all of your efforts.

What Works

When I say ‘What Works’, I am talking about items that I have personally used to market my clients that I wouldn’t hesitate to employ for any home improvement company. These are methods that have proven time and time again to be worth the investment. There are very few ‘sure things’ in home improvement marketing, but I’ll bet on these methods every time.

Website – Now more than ever, the standout method of marketing that continues to show solid return on investment (ROI) is your website. Day after day, night after night, your website – if done right – can generate lead after lead. I’ve seen home improvement companies that do ZERO cold-calling and canvassing, and still generate millions of dollars in revenue due in part to their investment in a well-done, highly-optimized website. The key, however, is the ‘well-done’ part. Frankly, any jackleg contractor can get a website – maybe even an attractive one. But without the proper construction and search engine optimization techniques, it will serve as little more than an online brochure. Do yourself a favor and find a search engine pro that can analyze your site and help make changes that will get it working to generate quality leads.

Pay-per-click (Google) Advertising – Your website, as well-optimized as it may be – can’t possibly achieve top ranking for all of the key words and phrases that you need to reach your audience. Today’s searchers in many cases are using broad terms like ‘lawn service’ to find what they need. And at last check, on Google the term ‘lawn service’ yielded 9,400,000 results. If you’re part of one of the large franchises, you have a chance of being found. But if you’re Joe’s local lawn service, fagettaboutit. Your only hope in that broad search is to have your site pop up in the Sponsored Listings, or pay-per-clicks. Setting up Google pay-per-click advertising takes a little know-how, but is certainly available to anyone.

Signage – Contractors are on the road and in neighborhoods far more than they are in any office. They are out and about, all over their covered area day after day. Outfit those trucks – whether they are pick-up trucks, step vans or large vehicles – with nicely done signs, and you have yourself a rolling billboard. Forget the subtle vinyl lettering or magnetic sign – spend a little more on a colorful wrap (no need to wrap the whole thing – doors, the back window, and/or tailgate will do) and you will surely get noticed. In addition to vehicle signs, be sure to put a yard sign at every single installment. A yard sign is as good as a personal referral. And in today’s busy society when time spent talking to your neighbors can be few a far between, it allows the opportunity to broadcast to an entire neighborhood that one of their own has put their trust in you for their latest project. I’ve even seen home improvement companies provide incentives to homeowners for keeping the signs in their yard for extended periods of time. Well worth it.

Ratings-based Organizations – Organizations like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List allow their members and/or the general public to rate their experiences with contractors. And while many contractors shy away from these organizations for fear of bad ratings, my experience has been positive with these services. That is, of course, if you are reputable contractor. If you’re a successful contractor who has built a business based on referrals and quality workmanship, these services will speak for themselves. And when you do get you’re A+ rating, use it. Post it on your website and in ads, and it too can serve as a virtual referral.

Social Media Marketing – While the jury is still out on exactly how to track the direct return on your social media marketing investment, I wouldn’t hesitate to set aside a small amount of time and marketing budget for social media marketing. Why? Well for one, it’s about as low-cost as you can get. It has the potential to be viral, and strong testimonial/referral benefits are there as well. It also tells the world that you are on top of things – you’re progressive and stand out as a leader in your field. I don’t recommend spending 2 hours a day tweeting, but spending 10 minutes a day to post an item or two to your Facebook business page and Twitter account can have great benefits.

PR – Getting into a regular routine of doing press releases about anything you can think of that might catch the attention of the local press is worthwhile. After a while, regular releases containing good information will catch the attention of the local media. You may even become their go-to people for home improvement information. Invest a little time in putting together a press-kit with your leaders’ biographies, a one-sheet about your company, and any articles, guides, or content you have is worth doing once a year. Then, be on the lookout for news worthy things to write about – significant new hires, a government regulation that affects your industry or homeowners, new products and services can all be spun into information that reporters will look out for.

Sales Support – One often overlooked area of home improvement marketing is sales support, however when done right, it can have an amazing return. Companies hire a guy, hand him some business card, send him on his way and expect great returns. Your sales team is the face of your business to customers, and you no doubt spend time agonizing over who to hire. So when you have a good team in place, do the right thing and arm them with the proper tools to make the sale quicker. Online presentations, e-mailable resource links, business cards, and leave-behinds should all be high on the list of items that your team has in their sales toolbox.

What Doesn’t Work

‘What Doesn’t Work’ is based on experience, and consists of items that you’d have to hold me down and force me to spend money on. That’s not to say that in some cases, some markets they don’t work, but at best, I consider these items to be hit or miss.

Large Phone Book Advertising – When I say ‘large phone book’ I am talking about the big yellow pages books. It’s no secret that these directories – in print – are dying. With internet availability everywhere and a strong push toward environmental responsibility, directory companies are scrambling to stay alive by offering online options. Unless you’re tracking your phone book response diligently and seeing a return, my advice would be to get out. Or at least reduce to in-column listings.

Pay-per-lead Services – For the contractor who has no other method of getting leads, this might be a source to get started, but in my experience, pay-per-lead services don’t work. Typically they are pricey, and they sell the leads they get to multiple contractors. Even the ones that promise exclusivity have turned out to be duds. Whether they are the major players or the smaller ones, all have had the same results. Very low quality leads and at a cost far too high.

Value Pack Mailers – Coupon-based value pack mailers are the definition of hit or miss. If you catch a home who opens the pack, and if he or she has an immediate need for what you’re selling and if he or she is attracted by the ad or offer, you might get some action. That’s a lot of if’s. In my experience, these packs are not cheap, and they are loaded with home improvement companies. In fact, during the writing of this article I received one in the mail. Out of the 45 ads in the pack, 22 of them – nearly 50% – were from home improvement companies. Can I possibly stand out in a crowd like this, and hit the homeowner at the exact right moment? Hmmmm…not really liking those odds.

Pricey Print Advertising – While some may argue that a flashy ad in a magazine has branding appeal, I have seen very little direct return on this type of investment. To get into the magazines, your money would be better spent doing PR that will get you a text mention or even an article.

What Might Work

The items that fall under the category of ‘What Might Work’ are items that are hit or miss, but have the added intangible value of branding. So while we can’t necessarily measure all of the effectiveness of these efforts, we have a sense that they do have some value. The recommendation on these would be to keep the dollars spent in check, but give the activities that fit your budget a shot.

Broadcast Advertising – Broadcast advertising is great for getting your name out there, but can be really expensive. A savvy marketer can find some diamonds in the rough – broadcast efforts that have a decent reach and a decent price tag – but they are hard to find. If broadcast is a part of your mix, try your best to track your efforts. Put landing page URL’s on your ads, whether they are radio or television ads, and a tracking phone number. Create an offer that is unique to the spot for additional tracking. And by all means, with this and every other marketing effort, talk to your customers about how they heard about you initially. If you hear ‘I heard/saw your commercial’ over and over, you will have a sense that it is working.

Event Marketing – Events range in size and price from affordable local events like street festivals and school-sponsored events to large home and garden shows, wine festivals, etc. The large shows can be tough to see a big return on – they are expensive to secure space, and expensive to haul your stuff and staff – and you can get lost in the noise of dozens of other companies just like yours. Smaller, more localized events, though, can have a nice return. While you won’t be getting a huge quantity of leads, you will likely have more time to spend with the people you do meet, and you won’t be competing with too many other companies like yours.

Direct Mail – The options for direct mail vary from mass mailers that can cost a fortune for printing and postage, to smaller, more cost-effective efforts. In my experience, stay away from mass mailings. The return is very low. However, neighborhood mailers from companies like Quantum Digital can have a decent return. When you are able to choose a select set of streets to mail to, you can keep your cost down by doing small runs, and you can piggyback on other efforts. For example, if Joe’s Roofing is doing a nice roof on Maple Street, Joe’s team knows when the install is happening. If they have their marketing efforts in sync, they can log into the mailer system, and choose Maple Street and its surrounding streets to mail to. Then, while his crew is there with their trucks (that have great signage) and there’s a nice job sign in the yard, the neighbors will receive a “We’re working in your neighborhood!” mailer. Bam! You have 3 solid hits to an entire neighborhood with very little cost.

Low-cost Print Advertising – It is tough to cut through the clutter with print advertising, but I have seen some success in choosing specialized, low-cost publications. School papers, and local papers with classified ads or event listings, can provide the benefit of showing community support, can showcase your branding, and may even get you a few leads.

OK, so now that you have an idea of what home improvement marketing can work for you, let me give you the single best piece of advice that I can give for making it all work. It’s the same advice I give to young parents who want their kids to stay in line. One little word with big consequences when not followed…consistency.

Effective Home Improvement Ideas

Why the need for tricks? Well, some jobs are known to be intimidating, and downright scary. One perfect example is redoing or improving the home. The costs alone are enough to turn over to the other side of the bed, cover our heads with our pillows, and go to sleep. Then we may also have to contemplate a “not-so-great” job with it, the neighbors starting to sense something awkward, and we will be left alone to live with it. The good news is we can always do something about it. All we need are simple tricks and home improvement ideas so we can get around these concerns.

Remodeling can become an inexpensive activity that is capable of changing or improving the living conditions inside your home. Aside from that, it can also increase the livable spaces within, thereby giving you more options on what you may want to add in it. All these are possible with simple home improvement ideas. Focusing your attention on your house’s exterior is a good start. The exterior can give neighbors that impression that things are much better inside. Simple activities like putting fresh paint can do just that.

Modern times call for so many home improvement ideas. But it would be much better if you can introduce the element of affordability in it. Low-cost improvements will not only improve our homes, but it also saves you money in the long run. And this is what really matters these days, given the hardships we are in. Here are some of these great ideas.

• Introducing “Green” technology – Because everyone is now realizing the importance of taking care of our environment and this great big home that we are living in, having green technology inside your home is a trick that sets the tone for your home improvement ideas. You can put together solar panels, environment-friendly cleaners, efficient cooling and heating systems, and of course, the very dependable energy-saving light bulbs. Some of these may seem too heavy for your budget right now, but it sure will carry you in the long run. Generating your own electricity is very efficient and cost-effective; however you may want to look at it.

• Redecorating and painting your home’s living spaces – These are very simple tricks that can do so much to beautify your home. And it really works! Introducing fresh new paints to the rooms using cool and soothing colors plus the accents helps in creating a more relaxed atmosphere, making you and the rest of your family want to stay home more often.

• All effective ideas to improve your home must come in complete packages. And your home improvement activities will never be successful if you are unable to address more serious concerns, like maintenance issues, or re-insulating all corners of your home. A well-insulated home will help you save money on electric bills. You won’t need to worry about cool air leaking out during summers, or warm air during winters.

Why Home Improvement Loans

Imagine the scenario: you’re ready to buy your first house. But you don’t have the cash lying around to buy your dream house, so you decide to settle on a fixer-upper that you’ll spend your free time turning into the perfect home. If you’ve been through the home buying process this already, then you probably remember this quite well. In fact, buying a fixer upper in need of major TLC is a rite of passage for many homeowners. Tons of first homes need work done like re-painting, deck repair, all new floors and wallpaper or an extra bathroom.

Of course the problem is that most first time home buyers simply don’t have the funds to pay for these home improvements after closing on their mortgage. So they go into a do-it-yourself mode. Sometimes they use home improvement loans to help pay for the work. Other times they do all the work on nights and weekends. Maybe the financing comes from credit cards. Sometimes, it’s all one terrible experience. This begs the question: Why do home improvement loans suck?

    1. They take too much time. From the bidding process for the work, to the actual upgrades and construction to moving day, it can be very time-consuming. Many borrowers say closing a home improvement loan takes more than 3 months, and might never even close. An efficient lender who understands the home improvement loan process should be able to get your loan closed in a little more than a month. Sometimes even less time than that.

    1. Renovation mortgages are too much work. Yes this option will take more paperwork. After all, the bid process alone can add a lot of extra work to the process. However, working with an experienced mortgage consultant will help you avoid the extra work, requiring mostly just extra signatures.

    1. No one understands programs like FHA 203k or HomePath Renovation. It’s true that many real estate agents haven’t heard about some of the options for financing upgrades. Many deals die because the buyer sees a house they like but there may be a few things they’d like to change. The challenge to home improvement loans lies with the effort to help educate real estate professionals and buyers alike.

    1. Do it yourself work is a real pain. Putting in a new kitchen takes time and skill, and doing all on your own isn’t likely something you want to do. Same with a bathroom, wider hallways for wheelchair access or painting the entire house. Again, it’s not something you may want to do, and that’s okay. Home improvement loans are generally for paying a professional to do the work. They’re not really for the DIY crowd.

    1. Buying a new home is easier than buying a fixer-upper. This is certainly true in many cases, but it’s not always feasible. And with so many homes on the market today under the foreclosure cloud, you can actually find a great deal on a fixer-upper and roll the cost of the repairs right into the monthly payment! Plus, older houses have more character than subdivision cookie-cutters.

    1. They are expensive. Home improvement loans generally come with a little higher interest rate, it’s true. Interest rates are based in part on risk. Paying for home improvements can be risky, as the after-improved value is used to predict the future worth of the house. But the difference between a home improvement loan and a regular mortgage is pretty low. It’s definitely lower than the cost of financing the work and materials on a credit card!

  1. Store credit is so much easier to get. Again, this may be true, but you’ll pay a much higher rate than a home improvement loan and you’ll have to do the work yourself. If that’s your goal, then a home improvement loan isn’t for you.

Home improvement loans are definitely not for everyone. There’s no doubt that they take a little extra time and work. Sometimes you can find a newer home that needs less work for a good price. And that’s okay. Go for it. But if you find a home that’s average and needs your personal touch with a few upgrades and renovations, then a home improvement loan just may be your next step. Good luck in the house hunting, and let us know if there’s some way we can help!