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Remodeling: What pays, what doesn't

Remodeling: What pays, what doesn't

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Kitchens and baths top homeowners’ remodeling lists and add value to a home if done right — and if the house is in the right location.

Even with remodels, real estate is still about location, real estate professionals say.

What most people want in a home is location, said Bill Ferguson, a real estate agent with Joyner Fine Properties.

Anyone considering a remodel should spend their money on the main living area: the kitchen and adjoining room, he said. Next would be the master bedroom and bath.

Quartz and marble counters are showing up in designer homes, Ferguson said. “It’s expensive, but white Carrara marble is dynamic.”

Still, “you get the most bang for your buck out of granite,” he said.

A house needs continuity. “If the kitchen looks good, but the rest of the house is dingy, that’s not going to work,” Ferguson said, adding that paint is an inexpensive way to make a house show and look good.

Ferguson and his wife, Pat, have been refurbishing their home in Richmond’s West End since they moved there in 1975. “We knocked out a wall between the kitchen and family room and gutted the kitchen — and it’s made all the difference.”

They painted dark paneling and wood molding white. Their next project is a bathroom.

“We do it because we enjoy it and over time we will get our money back,” Ferguson said. “I wouldn’t spend $50,000 to $60,000 on a kitchen remodel with plans to move in two years.”

Gene and Pat Anderson spent more than $100,000 updating their home near Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Henrico County in the 25 years they lived there.

Bathrooms were remodeled. The kitchen was renovated with granite counter tops and custom cabinets. Windows were replaced and a new furnace was installed along with a new sidewalk and landscaping.

When they sold their house a week ago, the couple could get only $40,000 more than what they paid for it, said Gene Anderson, a music professor at University of Richmond. “What sells a house is location,” he said.

The Andersons made the improvements for their own enjoyment but did the most recent renovations with an eye toward selling it, he said. They reared their children there and were ready to downsize to a low maintenance condo in Bon Air.

“Without the upgrades, I don’t think we would have sold it,” Anderson said. Their buyer wanted a house with upgrades. “No, you don’t get back what you spend.”

Leo Lantz, owner of Leo Lantz Construction in Henrico and president of the Home Building Association of Richmond, said bathroom remodels are his top jobs.

“Bathroom requests are through the roof,” said Lantz, who specializes in bath and kitchen renovations. “People focus on bathrooms because they are less expensive than a whole kitchen renovation.”

A kitchen renovation in Richmond’s West End — typically a mid-range remodel — with new appliances is about $50,000, while starting points for a master bath remodel is in the mid $20,000s to low $30,000s, he said.

Lantz and his team regularly take out soakers and whirlpool tubs and put in custom showers with bench seats, reconfiguring baths to meet changing lifestyles, he said.

People want taller vanities — the same height as kitchen counter tops — because they are more ergonomic, and taller toilets.

Homeowners in the Richmond area can recoup 68 percent of costs for a $56,770 kitchen remodel, according to the Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) by Hanley Wood LLC, an information and marketing company. Or they can recoup 80 percent for a minor kitchen remodel costing $19,300.

For a $16,700 bathroom remodel, they can recoup 70 percent of expenses. And for an upscale bath renovation of $54,115, they can get 60 percent of their money back, the report states.

They can recoup the most for their money — 97 percent of an estimated $12,500 — for replacing siding with a fiber cement product, according to the report.

Business conditions point to a slow, steady recovery, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a trade group. Nationwide, 67 percent of remodelers said the market improved in the fourth quarter.

Edward Lane III, chairman of Lane Homes & Remodeling in Goochland County, said 2014 was the best year for his company since 2009. He said he expected continued improvement this year, barring any unforeseen global event that could derail the economy.

Kitchen and bath remodels have been popular for a long time, he said, adding that he is seeing demand as well for outdoor living spaces.

“All three of these projects will help a sell a house a lot quicker,” Lane said, adding that homeowners will have a better chance of getting a return on their money if they plan to stay in the house for at least five years.

“In the meantime, they can do projects for their own enjoyment, functionality and quality of life,” he said.

Lantz said the hardest part about a remodel is “dealing with whatever anyone else has done before to the house. We fix what they tried to fix.” That pertains especially to historic houses.

Houses in Richmond’s Fan District, for example, may have old cast iron drain pipes that have cracked and need to be replaced or knob and tube wiring — an early standardized method of electrical wiring used from 1880 to the 1930s.

The wiring might be need to be fixed. “Pulling it all out is not always practical,” he said.

Lantz said he has seen botched jobs from cutting too much into floor joists or putting all kinds of bandage fixes on electrical, plumbing or framing problems.

“I grew up in the Fan, so I have worked on houses from the 1780s and seen all the different periods of construction.”

Historic houses require specialized knowledge of old building techniques to blend in the new, he said.

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