At times it's necessary to walk a fine line when remodeling. On the one hand, you want to give your house distinct appeal, but on the other hand, you should avoid making your residence so idiosyncratic (or so plain-vanilla) that it won't appeal to potential buyers. Here are three strategies to help you stay ahead of the market:
1. Don't trail the trends. If you strive to make your home reflect yesterday's fashions-in other words, if you now install what your neighbors did a few years ago-you will be spending today's dollars for an already outdated look. Instead, take your cues from cutting-edge styles. Updating your kitchen? Scour trendy expos like The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show to find what the next crop of home buyers expects to see, not what they are already tired of seeing.
Corian's "Rosemary" Solid Surface Countertop
2. Ditch tired granite. When every first-time homeowner demands granite countertops, it's a sure sign this once-prized amenity is no longer a can't-miss draw. Stone countertops with strong colors or a conspicuous pattern are a love-it-or-leave-it proposition for potential buyers. If a buyer doesn't like the stone, he'll want to replace it-and he'll factor the anticipated expense into his purchase decision.
For widest appeal, go with a countertop material that is low-maintenance and in a neutral tone. Some new variations of marble are finished to be less porous, and marble's delicate gray veins are a timeless classic. Also, take a good look at solid-surface materials, which come in a spectrum of colors that add a splash of style without locking future owners into a certain look.
3. Have realistic expectations on return. The value of some home improvements diminishes with time: paint jobs chip, appliances break, floors wear out. In planning renovations, distinguish the permanent upgrades-structural changes, additions, and major overhauls of heating and cooling systems-from superficial improvements that swiftly lose their luster. If you won't be putting your house on the market for at least another five years, expect to refresh the hardest-worn surfaces.
For more on ROI, consider:
5 Smart Home Improvements? Think Again!
7 Renovation Tips to Boost Resale
Radio: Return on Investment