This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.
Q. We just bought our first house and are feeling a little house poor, but we are eager to make some worthwhile improvements. Can you recommend some relatively inexpensive improvements that will provide return on investment at some point?
I love your enthusiasm and foresight. You don’t always have to spend a lot of money to improve the appearance and value of your home. Below are my top five suggestions:
Paint — You just bought the home so I am hoping you plan to live there for many years to come. Updating the interior paint is probably not a strong return on investment project at this point as you are likely to paint again before selling one day. At that time it will be a good idea to speak with your agent about the trending interior colors. This year I am seeing a lot of the light grays.
I suggest concentrating on the exterior. The wood trim and shutters often get neglected. You can give them a fresh look and provide them with much needed protection from sun, rain and snow. I can’t tell you how many home inspections I have been to where we discovered rotting wood trim.
Deck Cleaning and Staining — Similar to the suggestion above, this is a project you can do by yourself to freshen and protect your investment.
Start with a thorough cleaning. I usually rent a power washer from Bill’s True Value Hardware (2213 N. Buchanan Street), but first check around to see if you have a friend that will lend you theirs. It’s a simple process of cleaning, sanding and staining. Compare stains to find one that lasts for a longer period of time.
Landscaping — I just got back from a trip to Cape May, N.J., and was extremely impressed with the beautiful landscaping that is prevalent in that little beach town. It’s amazing how much more inviting the landscaping can make a home feel regardless of the home’s age.
I suggest creating a plan for your landscaping that takes into account the placement of plants, flowers and shrubs in relations to their height and the seasons they are in bloom. You should also consider the amount of water and sun they will require. It’s nice to create a garden you don’t have to water.
Because we are talking about improvements that will add value to your home, I suggest using perennial flowers that will continue to come back season after season.
Arlington County provides free mulch. For a small fee you can even have it delivered. Mulch provides a nice accent to your yard and helps control weeds.
Hardware — No offense to those of you who have gold colored hardware throughout your homes, but it is not really the finish of choice for most home buyers right now. I’m talking about doorknobs, light fixtures, fireplace hardware, cabinet knobs, towel racks… you get the picture. You can really update the feel of your home by replacing these items with a popular finish like brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze.
ReStore — Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public. Because they depend on donations, the inventory is hit or miss, but I have seen some gems in there. Everything from hardwood flooring to stainless steel appliances. There is a ReStore located in Alexandria.
I highly recommend YouTube for any projects you would like a quick education about. In my personal experience, it has been a life saver.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
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