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Your Real Estate Questions Answered

For most people, their homes are their biggest investment. Yet the majority of us have questions that remain unanswered. Now, a state-certified residential real estate appraiser and Realtor® helps to solve your property mysteries.

QUESTION: I have $50,000 to spend on my house. What type of renovation/improvement will give me the most “bang for the buck”?

ANSWER: That’s a great question, and it’s probably the most popular question I’m asked. For the vast majority of single-family homes and condominiums, the best place to put your money is in either the kitchen or in the bathrooms. Sure, it’s great to have a man cave that boasts a built-in soda fountain or a fur-lined she shed; however, the market is unlikely to react to such a…um…feature. This is because most people place a premium on having another bathroom to accommodate guests, or they realize that the kitchen is the main place of congregation in the home, and it’s better to spend money where the people are. Just remember to obtain any and all permits as required by the local taxing authorities—if an extra bathroom is installed, it may not count toward your home’s value if it doesn’t have a permit. That’s right: The improvement may be clearly visible to your eyes, but in the eyes of the law, it can be an entirely different matter.

QUESTION: My husband and I have a disagreement: I say that it is smarter to invest money inside our house and my better half insists that splurging on a pool is a better idea. What do you think?

ANSWER: I think you both may have a point. If your house is not “obsolete” with regard to too few bathrooms (think a four-bedroom dwelling with a single bathroom) and the condition is at least comparable to the houses around you, it may behoove you to add an in-ground swimming pool. However, if your house requires extensive remodeling to bring it into the current century or if there are buckets strategically placed around inside to catch the roof leaks, then, by all means, put those funds into repairs. The most effective investment requires that you look at the market around you and then make an intelligent decision about where to dedicate those funds. Think of it this way: If a house or condominium is your largest investment, then treat it as you would your 401K or financial nest egg—research, strategize, and then make the best choice you can at the time. Although the joys of splashing around on a summer’s day might be irresistible, it may be wiser to address the problems of an ancient plumbing system first.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s wiser to buy a  brand-new house or to dedicate oneself to a charming fixer-upper that’s almost 60 years old?

ANSWER: This question is another very popular query that I receive. I liken this to a lifestyle decision. A new house built by a reputable builder to your specifications will deliver exactly what you desire along with modern features, such as tankless water heaters and solar electrical assistance from the get-go. Moreover, the structural components of the dwelling will have zero wear and tear, and they’ll serve you for at least a decade (we hope) before any major servicing is warranted. A “vintage” house is another story. If the 60-plus-year-old dwelling is original, then a full renovation is likely required, and this can easily cost more than some brand-new houses. Factor in surprises, such as mold or undiscovered structural issues, and the expenditures can be nearly limitless in scope. A benefit of older dwellings is that they’re usually in neighborhoods with majestic trees and landscaping that has blossomed to full-grown beauty over the decades. A typical developer-built house is in an area that looks man-made and “young.” Sometimes, in newer neighborhoods, there are other amenities, such as play areas or even a community pool. Like I said, it’s a lifestyle decision over a real estate decision, and many who own a vintage house liken themselves to caretakers as opposed to owners, meaning they are taking care of a historic property that they wish to preserve for future generations.

QUESTION: As empty nesters, my wife and I have decided to downsize our five-bedroom, single-family house. Yet we don’t know if we should buy a condominium apartment or a townhouse. Can you help?

ANSWER: Most single-family, detached houses are in areas that don’t have restrictive homeowner’s associations and their pesky covenants (such as no commercial vehicle parking in the driveways or a total ban on motorcycle ownership/riding). Conversely, all condominiums anywhere in the country have seemingly strict bylaws. A condominium board can limit the number of pets one has and can even ban certain animal breeds. A condominium complex even has the authority to set rules about visitors and their ages (think grandchildren and toddlers running around). Depending on one’s outlook, these rules can be a good thing or a bad thing. The decision to go condo is also a lifestyle choice, and I suggest talking to other owners about their experiences. With regard to townhouses, they lay in the middle: Some owner’s associations are relatively relaxed, and some aren’t. Again, it’s best to interact with the current residents as opposed to trusting your Realtor and then waiting to experience the sobering reality.