Home improvement projects to avoid for now

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 25, 2011

Should you consider making home improvements now? "No" is not the right answer. "None that cost more than they're worth" is closer to the truth. Making wise choices, seeking competitive bids from hard-hit contractors and tackling projects that make sense in light of the economy may be a solid decision in light of today's circumstances.

Recently I wrote about diminished returns in terms of remodeling ROI, noting that several home improvement projects are setting today's remodeling trends. These include entry door replacements and small bath remodeling efforts. Just this week Yahoo reported on the projects that make the least sense right now--a kind of doomsday list for homeowners.

Just say "no" to pool contractors

According to Yahoo, avoid putting in a swim pool at all costs right now. In today's market, few prospective buyers are going to be impressed by a new pool. High-end home improvements like fancy tubs and a Jacuzzi, extravagant fixtures, over-the-top landscaping and wall-to-wall carpeting might have led the list of home improvement trends before last year. But, today, you run the chance of "over-renovating," Yahoo says, making your high-priced home stick out like an economic red flag compared to other homes in your neighborhood.

You might also avoid tackling patio frills, adding or expanding a garage or carport or adding so-called "invisible improvements" that may spiff up your HVAC or plumbing system but aren't apparent to would-be buyers who can pick and choose all they like in today's market.

Now what?

First, check out Remodeling Magazine's Cash vs Value Report. It cites the home improvements that you or a contractor can make right now that won't leech value and create more unreasonable indebtedness. These include window replacements for West Coast homeowners, garage door replacements in New England, replacement vinyl siding in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and a minor kitchen home improvement project in the Midwest.

When it comes to adding a wood deck, the West Coast fared best on the ROI scale. In general, Yahoo recommends avoiding that project for now, claiming that would-be buyers have fickle taste and the deck you had designed and installed may not fit their notions. Subjective upgrades, if they don't match the style of the home, are always risky because, in a buyer's market, there are plenty of homes to choose from.

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