Top 10 factors that determine the value of your house

Everyone has heard the platitude that what matters in real estate is “location, location, location” but that is NOT very useful when you are thinking of what to change or add to your property.  Every buyer would put these in a different order, but in most cases I think these 10 would surely be at the top of the list in any home buying decision. (And three of them do relate to location)

Gross Location

This is the city and neighborhood where a home is located.  This is the one factor above all others that determines the value of a house.  This is what makes a home in certain neighborhoods in California worth $500,000 while the same house in Utah is worth only $200,000.  You can’t change it so if you already own, don’t stress.  If you are shopping, think it through.

2.  Number of Bedrooms and Baths

The number of bedrooms and bathrooms will determine what the potential audience is for any given house.  A one bedroom home obviously does not serve the person who wants 5.  In general more is better, but the ratio of bedrooms and baths matters.  New homes generally stick to no more than 2 beds per bath(2-1).  If the ratio is more like 3-1 the home may be considered functionally obsolete.  So if you are short on baths, adding one is not a bad idea.

3.  Year built

Buyers make a lot of assumptions about a home based soley on the year the home was built.  You cannot change this number so if your home is updated, and you are ready to sell, good marketing is crucial.

4.  Quality of Design and Construction

These two usually go hand in hand so they are combined.  A well designed home is most often well built because the builder took the time to think the project through from beginning to end.  There are exceptions, such as when a project runs out of money, but once a buyer is enticed to a property this factor is the intangible that causes love or disenchantment.

5.  Garages

You can’t usually go wrong with more garages!  WARNING: Sexist stereotype follows.  As long as a man is part of the buying decision, I have never seen a house with too many garages.

6.  Condition

Has the home been taken care of?  This answer to this question is not usually determined by the age and condition of the property, but instead by how old the fixtures, paint and interior style appears.  You can make up for a lot with paint, but if you do paint invest in a lot of good masking tape and do it well.  A terrible paint job is worse than none at all.  Happily bad paint is easy to fix!

7.  Style

This is in reference to the actual style of home.  Whether a rambler, a split-entry or a tri-level, each style will appeal to a different set of buyers.  Some styles will actually be excluded from consideration.  If your home style is one of those that gets eliminated early in a search and you are considering a serious remodel, think about changing the style of your home if possible.

8.  Lot attributes

Lot size, dimensions, and street type become a big factor once a buyer gets to a home.  This is one more location item.  Remember that lot sizes ore one thing and appearance is another.  The way a lot is landscaped, or the dimensions can affect the perception of size more than the actual measurements of the property.  If you are building, NEVER squeeze a house into a lot.  Make sure that the lot and home harmonize and you will get more out of your investment.

9.  Master Bedroom/Bath

Having a master bedroom is a plus.  Not having a maser bath can decrease the value of a home by up to 10%

10.  Efficiency

By efficiency I mean both energy efficiency as well as quality and condition of mechanical systems, insulation and windows.  Most of the time issues with this come up in an inspection and can be a deal breaker.  If you are going to be in a home for a long time it is a great place to spend money, but if not you may want to sell your home as it is and let the new owner decide what to do with it.

Do you think I missed any important factors?  There may be something else that belongs in the top 10.  If you can think of it, please let me know!

Room Arrangement Tools

One of the best things you can do to make the most of your home is to rearrange rooms to fit their intended purposes.  It is amazing how long I have allowed my first attempt at a layout to become the only furniture arrangement used.  Since I hate to waste energy I decided to figure out the best tools to layout a room in the least amount of time.  So what I ended up with is the old graph paper method vs. Ikea.com vs. BHG.com

Graph Paper

IMG_20130114_144221If you have any lingering issues from your childhood due to overly demanding art teachers this may be the best method.  From a therapeutic standpoint this is a clear winner.  You can invest as much time and energy as you like making each piece just the right shape and color.  Maybe hand building the perfect model room will provide you with the vindication you seek.  As for me, my only interest is being accurate and getting the job done, so I stuck with simple labels and skipped the detail work.  It was fairly quick and gave me some good ideas.  Still probably just a “C” from my art teacher.IMG_20130114_151954 The finished project is clear even though it lacks artistic value.  Special thanks to BJ Plumbing Supply in American Fork for giving me too much graph paper for my last sprinkler project.

IKEA Office Organizer

IKEA.com has some fun online tools if you are looking for a nice 3D version of your room.  You give up a bit of flexibility over the graph paper method because their products are front and center, but you can always add place holders to make it work.  It would be better if ALL of their products were available, but you have to make do.  I only used the office planner, but they have specific planners for all sorts of rooms.  Start Here.  I think the finished product is good looking but it was far too time consuming for the reward.  My best guess would be a B+ from the art teacher, but I wouldn’t have had time to study for the math test!Ikea Office PlannerFun to play with but too time consuming.

Better Homes and Gardens Arrange-a-room

To be completely honest I did not have a lot of faith in this tool.  I had heard about it but could not find it on their website.  After searching for far longer than I should have, it showed up as a google ad in one of my on-site searches.  I am just wondering if BHG had to pay to get me there…from their own site.  To save BHG money you can go directly to the tool here.  The only downside is that you have to register, but the BIG upside is that you could save your entire house floor plan and edit it from any computer in the world.  The only negative comment I have is that there is no simple way to keep your walls square, other than eyeballing and tweaking.BHG1You start by choosing a basic room shape and then adjusting from there.  Next you can add furniture and arrange away. The furniture sizes are adjustable within limits, but the whole thing is very quick and by far the fastest method I have found for trying out furniture arrangements.BHG2 In my opinion the Better Homes and Gardens Arrange-a-room tool is the best option if you are trying to make decisions about where to place your furniture.  My old art teacher would probably only give me a “B”, but I would have time to get “A”s in all my other classes, so I am declaring the BHG tool the valedictorian of this furniture arranging class.

Cheap and easy wall fixes

Just for the record, a coat rack should not be used as a swing but if you have an exuberant household member that thinks that is a good idea, this post is for you!

Step 1:  Evaluate the hole

Holes come in 3 varieties:

  • Nail Hole – Easy to fill, you may not even need to paint over it if your wall is whitish.
  • Medium Hole – Usually the result of something being violently ripped off of a wall after it was “Permanently” installed. (Today’s Topic)
  • Large Hole – This type is typically caused by body parts (heads, fists or shoulders), Sports equipment (Medicine balls, baseballs, golf clubs or dumbbells) or other large and heavy items. (Topic for a future post)

Step 2:  INCREASE the hole size

Though it seems counter-intuitive it is important to make sure the hole is clean and that you are down to straight drywall.  If you do not get it to that point you will never be happy with the repair.  Especially in the case of a big dent.  You cannot fill a large dent well unless you do it in 15 steps and have more tools, and want to waste a lot of time.IMG_20130103_203717At the top and left you can see the additional material that must be removed because it is loose.

Step 3:  Assemble your tools

IMG_20130103_203832You won’t need much,

  • a can of spackle (DO NOT USE “Lightweight Spackle” it does not fill anything other than nail holes well)
  • A spackle knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Optional gloves(for wimps) and paper towels (For cleanup)

Step 4:  Fill the hole

IMG_20130105_135825This step is one that requires patience, but not much time.  Depending on the size of hole you may need to fill it and allow to dry several times before it will be at the right level.  Once you have it level sand it with a sanding block.  If the dusts accumulates in a low spot, wipe away the dust and fill one more time.

Step 5:  Sand and Paint

If your paint is an eggshell or flat you may be able to get away without priming, but I would recommend always priming the repair before painting, or plan paint a few coats.  Even if you have the same can of paint it will vary slightly because paint changes as it ages, in the can and on the wall.  I like to use a brush and paint from the inside of the repair out.  As the bristles run out of paint they naturally blend the patch into the surrounding paint.  It is best to just paint to a break point if you have one, but when you do not want to paint the whole wall, blending works pretty well.

IMG_20130109_153454Once the repair is completed you can stop feeling mad at whoever messed up your beautiful wall and move on with your life!  Nothing better than closure.