Almost everyone I know has seen their home values fall in the last two years, many in the double digit range. However, there is a silver lining to this economic downturn for some lucky homeowners. This is an ideal time to remodel your house. (If you’re at grave risk of losing immediate household income or if you have no equity whatsoever in your home, please read no further.)
If, however, you have been wanting to remodel for a while, plan on remaining in your home for the next 10 years or longer, or want to be a more competitive seller in this buyer’s market, now can be an excellent time to begin a remodeling project.
1. The best builders, contractors and trades have much greater scheduling availability right now, which gives you access to professionals you might not otherwise be able to get. As the New York Times put it, during the boom years, “Good contractors were as hard to get as celebrated doctors.” Their knowledge and skill are unchanged. It’s just that many have more down time at the moment.
2. Given the laws of supply and demand, the drop-off in work has driven down prices on some goods and services. This gives you the upper hand in negotiation. Consider, though, that the best folks are still going to cost more in labor than the less skilled ones. However, they very well may save you money — and aggravation — in the long run, as you won’t have to hire someone else to fix amateur mistakes or a lawyer to bring them to heal.
3. Many of the weaker players are being weeded out by the economy before you ever meet them. The remaining pros are better project managers with stronger referrals. This will reduce your chances of running into the kind of con artist that’s drawn to a boom and moves on during a bust.
4. New rules make it easier for senior homeowners to finance their projects through reverse mortgages. Contact one in your area to see how this can bring you a new kitchen, bath, addition, etc.
5. There are excellent, new products on the market that will help you save money on water and energy. By building them into your remodeling project, they could help pay for themselves, and make your home more appealing to future buyers. According to a recent study by McGraw Hill quoted by the Wall Street Journal, “One-third of home buyers say they are willing to pay a premium of $20,000 or more for a green home.” (Helping the environment is a plus, too.)
6. On a related note, local laws in some areas and new federal incentives may offset costs for water- and energy-saving products you can incorporate into your remodel.
7. If someone in your home has respiratory issues like asthma, changing to more indoor-air-quality-oriented products can improve their comfort and well-being. There are terrific products on the market now to assist you – and them – in that regard.
8. If an aging relative moves in with you, or you’re looking at staying in your home into your senior years, upgrading your home with aging-in-place features can improve your safety and enhance both your home’s livability and resale value. (Less than 10 percent of American homes are built with aging in place features, while millions of Americans are getting ready to retire — you do the math!)
9. Unlike the house flippers we saw remodeling in recent years to keep up with the Joneses, those of you who have been in your home for a while really know its strengths and weaknesses. You also know what truly makes sense for your lifestyle. This will yield a more successful outcome on your project, more suited to how the home can best be improved for its residents and guests.
10. If you’re spending more time in the house these days, as many folks are, improving your home will provide some anti-recessionary joy. And who couldn’t use that taste of sunshine these days?