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Two contractors working on white kitchen remodel.

Home remodeling is big business.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard tells us that U.S. spending on home improvements reached a record of $425 billion in 2017, according to the most recent data.

On top of that, the typical renovating homeowner shelled out $15,000 on home improvements in 2018. Motivations for renovating include a desire to boost home value, aging in place or accommodating the needs of a growing family.

But not all projects are created equal. While many home improvements do increase home value, many have no impact at all and some even backfire.

It’s essential that contractors take the time to educate clients on the best improvements to meet their needs, achieve the best return on investment and stay within budget.

Here are 7 common myths that lead many consumers astray when it comes to remodeling. 

Myth #1: “Any Remodel Will Add Value!”

Just because you love it doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Clients must consider what homebuyers are actually looking for when planning home improvements. 

Another common mistake is thinking that the cost of a project can simply be tacked onto the asking price. While some projects add a significant percentage of their cost to the value of the home, none will return 100%. 

Remodeling Magazine’s Annual Cost vs. Value Report shows that project ROI also varies in different regions.

  • According to the 2019 report, the most valuable home improvement nationwide was an upscale garage door replacement, which recouped 97.5% of its cost.
  • For the West North Central Region, which includes Missouri, the highest ROI went to midrange manufactured stone veneer, at 93.5%. 

Myth #2: “I Have to Follow the Latest Design Trend!”

There’s a fine line between staying up-to-date and chasing every fad that comes along. 

On the one hand, if a home hasn’t been touched since the ‘80s or ‘90s, it’s safe to say it’s overdue for a remodel. On the other, simply copying the latest magazine cover may not make sense either. 

  • Clients should consult experienced designers and contractors to discern which trends are likely to last. 
  • Encourage homeowners to research a range of styles before settling on one based on a combination of projected value, personal preference, goals and budget. 
  • When it comes to boosting home value, neutral colors and standardized designs are usually best. Prospective buyers are unlikely to be impressed with hyper-personalized projects, such as painting an entire room in one’s favorite team colors. 

Myth #3: “It’s Cheaper to DIY!”

While home improvement shows can be a great source of inspiration, they often make projects look much quicker and easier than they are in real life. 

Most home renovations require a licensed contractor. Here are just a few reasons for this: 

  • Money: Getting a project wrong ends up being much more expensive to fix than hiring a qualified builder who knows how to get it right the first time. 
  • Time: A professional contractor will usually complete the project faster than an untrained individual trying to do the work with no help. 
  • Safety: Attempting to do a major renovation can pose a serious risk of injury for someone with no experience. 

Myth #4: “The Most Expensive Is Always Best!”

Clients may think they need the most lavish home on the block in order to attract buyers in a competitive market. It’s important to keep expectations a little more down-to-earth. 

  • Most homebuyers aren’t looking for the Taj Mahal. They just want something attractive, practical and affordable that’s not too far away from work. 
  • Consider comparable homes in the neighborhood. Some upscale improvements will actually make a property less desirable when all the nearby homes are doing just fine with more modest amenities. 
  • As noted earlier, advise clients on the likely ROI of different projects in order to select the best ones for boosting home value in their particular market.

Myth #5: “Everybody Wants a Pool!”

Believe it or not, many people would rather visit a local community pool than have one in their own backyard. 

  • Swimming pools typically only add value in markets with year-round warm weather.
  • In more seasonal climates, they are a big liability and often make the property less desirable, not more.
  • Pools have a high cost of ownership and significant maintenance requirements, even in the dead of winter when taking a swim is the last thing anyone wants to do. 

Myth #6: “I Can’t Afford to Go Green!”

Although some energy-saving improvements may require a significant investment upfront, they also have many cost benefits over the long term. 

  • Solar panels, programmable thermostats and geothermal heating often save money on energy costs. 
  • Some energy-saving improvements may qualify for tax credits.
  • Going green also involves many simple habits that don’t cost anything — like unplugging unused appliances, turning out the light when leaving a room and turning off the faucet while brushing one’s teeth. 

Myth #7: “I Don’t Need a Permit!” (And Ignoring Other Legal Matters)

Nobody likes dealing with red-tape, and it’s understandable why some people think it’s “no big deal” to skip this step. This is a huge mistake.

  • Clients must always check with local building authorities to make sure the project complies with all regulations. 
  • Many projects legally require the work of a properly licensed and insured contractor. Clients must steer clear of unlicensed individuals promising the cheapest rates in town.
  • Failure to get a permit and hire a licensed contractor often leads to many expensive and inconvenient consequences, including fines and having to undo an entire project.
  • Future buyers will be checking to make sure all home improvements were properly permitted and completed to code.

Clients should also be warned against trying to hide structural defects by painting over them. Homeowners open themselves up to liability if a future buyer discovers undisclosed problems after the home sells. In the long run, it’s always smarter to make the necessary repairs. 

As a contractor, you are an important resource for homeowners who are contemplating a renovation. By helping them make the right decisions from the beginning, you are actually saving them significant time and money. 

If you’re looking for a resource for choosing the best materials for a successful remodel, contact Mid-City Lumber and speak with our friendly experts.