House & Home, Selling a Home

10 Keys to Protecting Your Greatest Investment

For most people, their homes are their greatest investment yet few people really realize the incredible value they walk in and out of EVERY DAY. Could you imagine if you were actually holding the keys to your prosperity in your very hand?

Many people are and have no idea.

The sad thing for us as realtors is seeing that lack of knowledge translate into a lack of care that diminishes the potential return the homeowner COULD HAVE gotten had they only known these keys to protecting (and even increasing) that investment.

1. Maintenance is Everything

Here’s the thing with maintenance – while doing the maintenance may not necessarily increase the home’s value, not doing it can bring that value down SUBSTANTIALLY.

crop handyman fastening metal hinge on white window

Many homeowners are shocked to find out that we can’t bump the price up on the house just because the roof was replaced last year. This maintenance is work that is expected to be done as part of homeownership. Roofs have to be maintained to protect the rest of the house. Heating and cooling units are expected to be kept in working order. These costs are not directly recoverable in the sale of the home.

Again, deferring them because of this can be a HUGE mistake that results in major losses on sale. Never underestimate the value of solid home maintenance in protecting your investment.

2. DIY’ing It Could Cost You

We’ve seen it all.

You might just be amazed (or humored, or horrified) at what some will do in the name of DIY.

While a solid DIY can be a great equity builder for truly handy homeowners, DIY-done-wrong can create a lot of red flags and turn offs for prospective buyers. No realtor likes touring a home, discussing estimates on what it would cost the client to undo what was done to make it right again (and trust me when I say, buyers will absolutely take this into account when deciding what they’ll offer, if they opt to make any offer at all).

Understand what you are truly skilled at and what you’re not. Be honest with yourself and understand when its best to just leave it be for now until the work can be done properly.

3. Know When to Hire the Pros

Yes, I know this piggy-backs off my last point but it should, because it’s REALLY important.

Many try to shy away from bringing in the experts because of the great increase in cost involved but remember – this is not just an expense, its an investment! Having the job done right the first time can save you A LOT of money in the long run. What’s more, in some cases, hiring the expert could save you money on the job as they have the knowledge and experience to help you weigh your options, understanding costs and quality, and how those and other factors will impact your bottom line as well as the end product.

Understand too that there are some jobs and property types for which local ordinances may REQUIRE that the work be done by a licensed professional meeting very specific criteria. Ignoring these laws of the land can come back to bite you BIG TIME!

Equally important to consider when deciding whether it’s time to call in the experts is the value of your time. I used to DIY everything. What I couldn’t do, I expected my husband to (and yes, he is VERY handy). However, I’ve come to realize that it’s not always the best or most profitable use of my time. If I can bless another person’s business while allocating my own time and energy into better serving my clients, that’s a total win.

engineer working with laptop at table

If spending the extra to hire a pro will result in you being able to make more money elsewhere or will free you up to enjoy the blessings of life, you might want to start asking for some great referrals to meet your needs and count it a blessing to be able to support that local business as you entrust that work to someone really gifted in their craft.

4. Just Pay for the Darn Permit

So, if you’re leaving the project in the hands of a trusted professional, this is something they should take care of for you but it never hurts to ask just to confirm this is squared away.

Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring it out, know that skipping out on getting the permit(s) (no matter how dumb or unnecessary you may believe it to be) can result in penalties you really don’t want. Local laws often permit these agencies to not only fine the parties involved but could even result in a forced reversal of the work. As I’m sure you DO NOT want to rip out that beautiful new bathroom (or pay to replace it with permits), I’ll say it again: just pay for the darn permit before you get the work done.

5. Plan at Least 1 Big Project Each Year

Serious home projects can be incredibly costly, others just a real pain in the butt. It’s easy to put them off until, next thing you know, you’re 10 years in and talking about a move, absolutely overwhelmed at all the work you now feel needs to be done just to get the home ready.

The home-size and how hard you live in it can be factors in how many big projects you tackle each year. I like the strategy of picking a cycle of 5-7 years, making sure that within that time frame, you’ve hit every room in the house to bring it up-to-date and reinvigorate the space. That’s not to say you need to gut your kitchen every 7 years but that it would do well to patch up any dings, hit it with a clean coat of paint, and maybe add some new lighting or fresh accents.

Trust me when I say, this can be a HUGE help in protecting your investment and your sanity when the time comes to move into a new home.

6. Don’t Neglect the Outside

Depending on how much we enjoy the outdoors, or what time we actually have at home, the outside of the home can be easy to overlook or outright neglect. However, letting this go can result in bigger costs of repairs on the outside (and sometimes also on the inside) of the home.

I can hardly underscore the value of curb appeal in bringing in more buyers to get you more offers with the best possible purchase price and terms. If you just don’t have the time, you might call around to find local companies that will do the work for you on annual or a la carte terms, based on your needs. Scheduling an annual pressure-washing, seasonal clean-ups and other outdoor tasks can be a great way to stay on top of it without having to worry or fuss over it yourself.

7. Do the Deep Cleans

photo of person disinfecting the kitchen

I get it – it’s time consuming and often flat sucks BUT, deep cleaning the home is still an important aspect of protecting your investment.

Deep cleaning not only helps to keep things looking good and smelling good but can also help you stay on top of many other aspects of homeownership. It can help keep things in their best working order, extending the life and use of appliances. It can give you a chance to actually SEE bigger things needing your attention. It can also help deter pests or environmental hazards that could do damage to the home or your health.

If you loathe it or just don’t have time for it, check with a trusted cleaning service on their rates to tackle this for you. Bonus: you get to enjoy the blessing of living in such a nice clean home.

8. Don’t Do the Smelly Stuff

Smoking in the home would clearly be the obvious one here but then there are a number of things that can produce odd or off-putting odors in the home (and yes, WE DO SMELL THEM!). These odors could come from pets but also things like cooking, especially frying foods in the home.

These smells get trapped in the walls, creating a lot of work to get them out. No, Febreeze will not cut it. Masking them only makes it worse.

If you have been doing the stinky stuff or find that your home has any lingering, strange smells (from age, water/smoke damage or otherwise), now would be a good time to put a plan in place to cease activities that would make the problem worse and to start doing the little things to get rid of those smells.

Plan a scrub-down day or consider hiring a cleaning service to come in and do this for you. Assess whether a new coat of primer and paint could be helpful in giving you a fresh start (especially if there are stains).

9. Do the FULL Repair

Leaky toilets, mini-fires, a good ole trip-and-fall through the plaster… You’ve just got to love the many things that come up to be addressed in a home.

When things go sideways and you find yourself remedying a flooded basement or otherwise, you need to do the whole repair. That means not stopping at plugging the leak but also making it a point to address any damage that resulted from it. Don’t just kill the mold – remove any evidence of it. Don’t just remove the pet – fix/replace the doorframes and carpeting they gnawed at when you weren’t looking.

It may seem small or unnecessary but a buyer touring your home will likely be making mental lists (if not freaking out) as they see what, to them, looks like a bunch of problems with the home.

When you fix it, fix it right and fix it to the full – good as new, if not better.

10. Talk to Your Agent!

Many people are quick to assume that the big projects are going to pay back in big ways. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are some improvements we agents WOULD NOT recommend doing if you’re soon preparing to list your home just because you’re very unlikely see a full return on that investment.

The BIG projects, where you deck it to the nines, are beautiful and wonderful – so, do them while you know you still have time yet to enjoy them as you continue to live and build equity in the home.

Know too that there are other expenses and added costs that you may never recover. A good agent can help you discern where your money and efforts are best spent to ensure you the greatest return on investment when the time comes to sell your home.

Just CALL ME! I’m happy to help you determine what sort of equity you currently have in your home and what strategies could help you to realize a solid increase in your personal wealth through the investment you have in your home.

Published by LaTricia Morris

Hi. I'm LaTricia Morris, licensed PA Realtor, wife and mother of two amazing children, one cat and a 3-legged pit-baby. I also work in health and wellness through my business Defiance Fitness + Nutrition where I offer solutions that help people overcome obstacles to their health and wellness goals. What can I say? I couldn't be more committed to the call to helping people like you maximize your life potential and fall in love with the life you get to live. It's my joy to help you improve your quality of life, from helping you look and feel your best to helping you find the home that will serve as the setting for some of your life's most precious memories. I LOVE seeing you accomplish your lifestyle goals and count it a blessing to be part of that.

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