Home Improvement 101

Home improvement is the act of repairing, renovating or making additions to one’s living space. It is often done to add value to a property for sale, or to make the house more functional or comfortable for residents. A wide range of projects fall under the heading of home improvement, from painting and re-grouting tile to installing a new kitchen or extending a deck. In general, any project that enhances the appearance or functionality of a home or garden is considered to be a form of home improvement.

The most common reason homeowners undertake a home renovation is to increase the property’s value, though this may not always be the case. Other reasons include comfort and convenience, such as updating an old kitchen or installing a new bath suite. Adding rooms, such as an extra bedroom or bathroom, is another popular way to boost the value of a home, as well as creating outdoor spaces that serve multiple purposes.

Regardless of motivation, homeowners often overlook the importance of careful planning before embarking on a home improvement project. The best way to ensure that a remodeling job will result in the desired outcome is to consult with a professional contractor before beginning work. A contractor will be able to help you develop a plan that fits your needs and budget, and can advise on what projects are likely to add the most value to your home.

While major home improvement projects like replacing a kitchen, bathroom or bedroom will add to a property’s value, there are also many small upgrades that can be made with little to no money at all. Simple tasks such as repainting and re-grouting tiles can have just as big an impact on a home’s appearance as more costly renovations. Likewise, updating fixtures and lighting in bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms can add a fresh, modern look at a fraction of the cost of an entire remodel.

In times of economic uncertainty, many people have turned to home improvements as a safe and rewarding alternative to investing in stocks and mutual funds. According to the American Association of Realtors, spending on home improvements has increased over 50 percent since hitting a low in 2010. This spike has been largely fueled by homeowners who are 55 and older, who have been especially active in updating their homes.

Other factors that have boosted the popularity of home improvements are rock-bottom interest rates and a need to make repairs. In addition, consumers have shifted their shopping from contractors to home-center chains. This has blurred the distinction between what was once a traditionally male domain of carpentry and construction work, and the more feminine sphere of interior design and decorating. In fact, some home-improvement ads even portrayed fathers and sons working together on a project. For example, an ad for Stanley tools stated, “Make your father and son partners!” (Better Homes and Gardens, September 1926, p. 3). The Bergen County Home Improvement Program (HIP) is an excellent resource for eligible residents to obtain a low-interest loan for qualifying home improvement projects.