How To Maintain Your Property's Value in Trying Times
It’s a new year, and if you are a homeowner, you may be wondering what the depressed market has done to your property values. Your equity may have shrunk over the past couple of years. That's the part of your home's value that you would have left after you pay off the bank. Lots of people have no equity - they suffer from a condition known as “upside-down”, otherwise known as “under water” and other unprintables.
Market trends are out of our hands, so can you do anything to maintain and increase your equity? My advice is don’t hold your breath for a personal bailout. Take matters into your own hands.
There are many proactive things that homeowners can do to improve their home’s value. Keeping up with ongoing maintenance is the first and foremost since failure to preserve what you have is a sure way to lose money. Improvements come next and may be easier and cheaper than you think. These are busy times for do-it-yourselfers, and you can save a bundle by tackling the easier jobs yourself. Get a grip and you will enjoy your home, as well as your home equity. Start by creating a system to make the job of being a responsible homeowner more manageable. 1. Make that “Honey-Do” list. You probably know of a few items around your home or condo need to be fixed up or spiffed up. Unless you make a list of them, you are not likely to remember what to pick up the next time you are at the hardware store. Remember that a good contractor, electrician, etc, definitely qualifies as a honey! Give each item a priority 1-10. The #1s are crucial repairs for health and safety, like a loose railing, open electrical wires, or toilet that won’t flush! If you are like most people, the 9s and 10s may stay on the list until all the potholes on Kalanianaole Highway are finally repaired!
It took me years of marriage to realize that there is nothing in the Y chromosome that makes a man willing and able to install a light fixture. Likewise, the absence of the Y chromosome does not prevent a woman from using power tools or a paint brush. And most home repairs have got to be easier than putting on eyeliner - plus they lasts longer.
2. Keep Track of Home Improvements Do it now! Create a simple system to make it easy to log what was done, by whom, and when? One easy way is to buy file folders in two colors, one color for Improvements and another for Maintenance. Use one folder of each color per year, and staple a piece of lined paper in the front of each, to serve as a log. Each time you spend money on the house enter it into the log with the date, what was done, and the amount. File the receipt in the appropriate folder. Voila!
Remember that you will need to know the value of the improvements over your entire term of ownership when the time comes to sell, whether it is in a month, a year, or 20 years.
Repairs fall into a different category than improvements and might not count, so always check with your tax advisor to get the best advice on what is pertinent to your situation. Investment property expenses follow separate rules, and repairs and maintenance may be deductible along with improvements.
Don’t get hung up with details or stress out on a past backlog. Begin in 2010 with a simple system, even if you don’t have the time and energy to organize past years. Did I already say DO IT NOW?! 3. Strap on the Toolbelt Or call the handyman. Do the Priority 1 and 2 items first - the ones that are absolutely necessary for normal living. Roof repairs, functioning doors and windows, safe plumbing and electrical fixtures are non-negotiable. Find a way to afford them ASAP. You wouldn’t run your car without oil, so don’t let minor repairs become big expensive issues later. It’s always best to use licensed professionals, particularly for plumbing and electrical issues which are beyond the scope of most handymen.
4. Make Simple Improvements. It breaks my heart. When you buy a home, you plan the things that need to be done right away. You want to change the bathroom vanities, ugly light fixtures, gummy doorknobs, and stained carpeting etc. Then one thing leads to another and the Must Dos fall by the wayside and you learn to live with them.
Then an opportunity comes along and you want to sell. A smart Realtor then tells you that if you sell “as-is” you will have to sacrifice the price. So you do it. “Why did I wait?” That’s what homeowners say after they have prepared their home for sale. Now someone else will be enjoying the spiffy new look you could have had. 5. Clean Out the Closets. Even if you have generous closet space, they are probably stuffed full. Do a sweep through them every year. Donate what you no longer need, and organize the rest to that you can easily find the things you use frequently. Chances are you will also find some hidden treasures that worked their way to the back of the closet!
When you purchase something new, remember that it needs to be kept somewhere, so try to toss out an item to make room for each new purchase. Otherwise, every year things will get more densely-packed and it will become harder to locate what you really need to use. Accept that perhaps the problem is not just that you have small closets, it's that you have too much stuff.
6. Organize Cabinets. Drawers, cupboards, and shelves need to occasionally be purged and rearranged. No need to make a big chore out of it – tackle just one or two a week if that works better for you. Always keep a trash can and donation bag handy. You are sure to gain usable space in the process. If you are organizationally challenged (you know who you are), try to get help from an O.C.D friend or family member.
Try to store items near the point of use. For example, dishes should be as close to the dishwasher as possible for easy unloading. Keep the most frequently-used items handy, and don’t hesitate to donate unused vases, serving plates, candle holders, and anything that you have not used for the past several years.
7. Liberate the Countertops. Now that your cupboards are organized, try to accommodate all your dishes, food, health and beauty aids) within the drawers and cabinets. In an ideal world, counter tops are kept open as an available work space in the kitchen (cooking, clean up, unloading the groceries) and bathroom (bathing, grooming). It’s so much easier to keep your home clean when you can actually see the counters!
8. Wash The Windows. No one likes to wash windows, but it is amazing what clean ones can do for your home’s appearance. Have you ever seen a 30 year old whose windows have never been cleaned? It makes the whole house look filthy. Consider hiring a professional from time to time to really brighten up your view of the world. If you have more energy than money you can do most of them yourself. Work on one room at a time until you are done. Don’t forget the screens! Remove and hose then down if at all possible. 9. Live Green. Create some simple natural beauty with plants, while keeping your home cooler. Decide on what activities you want to do in your yard first, and plan accordingly: play space for kids and pets, BBQ area, patio for entertaining, vegetable and herb garden – or just something lovely to look at.
If you have trees, cherish them, but keep them trimmed and away from your windows and off the roof. If they are sick or poorly-located, remove them. If your yard does not include trees, consider planting a few. Select the varieties carefully and locate them to provide shade where needed. Choose small slow-growing ones that don’t have invasive roots or create a mess with berries and leaves.
10. Throw a Party! Enjoy your home, even if it is not perfect. Plan a simple get together with family or friends. There is nothing so welcoming as inviting loved ones into your home. Make it a stress-free potluck or barbecue, and keep it simple. It is the most comfortable and gracious way to tell people that you care about them.
Home ownership does have its responsibilities. If you really don’t want to spend any time on home chores, consider a condominium. There is much less to maintain, and you will have more freedom.
Copyright 2009 Stephanie Gieseler, Honolulu, Hawaii. All rights reserved.
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Thanks for the motivation to get some things done around the house that have needed attention for far too long.
If your looking for bathroom vanities I recommend using http://www.discountbathroomvanities.com
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