Efficiency a Top Priority in 2010

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Better Homes and Gardens recently revealed proprietary research and insights on what consumers are looking for in their next home and overall priorities guiding current and future home improvement projects.

In a speech at the NAHB International Builders Show, Eliot Nusbaum, Better Homes and Gardens Executive Editor Home Design, presented the results of the Next Home Survey along with reported trends from a nationwide network of field editors, the magazine’s Home Improvement Challenge and editorial coverage.

The survey of nationwide potential new home buyers and existing home owners who are planning improvements in the next few months found top priorities to include price, energy-efficiency, organization and comfort.

“Not surprisingly, we continue to see a ‘cents and sensibility’ approach when it comes to buying or improving a home, with practicality and price being top priorities,” said Nusbaum. “Today’s homeowner is also looking for a home that fits the entire family–from a multi-tasking home office, to expanding storage space needs, to a living room that can adapt to advancements in home entertainment and technology.”

Future Home Buyers

A Smaller and More Energy-Efficient Home

Continuing the “downsizing” trend, more consumers (36% in 2009; 32% in 2008) expect their next home to be “somewhat smaller” or “much smaller.”

A greener home will be a priority, with 87% planning to have high-efficiency heating/cooling in their next home and 86% planning to have high-efficiency appliances; 24.9% will have geo-thermal heat.

When asked how today’s housing market and economic turmoil have impacted priorities for their next home, 76% said energy-efficient heating and cooling systems will be “more important” and for 70%, Energy Star appliances will be “more important.”

Almost half (48%) say green building practices/materials will be “more important” when purchasing their next home.

An Organized, Multi-Tasking Home with No Wasted Space

The home office is a priority as 59% of consumers plan to have one in the home. Of those, only 28% want a separate dedicated home office space (compared to 64% in 2008), with one-third (33%) now wanting a more multi-purposed space, such as combined office/computer/hobby/craft/art room.

A well organized home is key, with 66% of respondents listing “no-space-wasted” design and 62% listing ample storage space as attributes that will take on more importance.

Also on the ‘wish list’ for the next home is: a separate laundry room (85%); an outdoor grilling and living area (68%); a kitchen with eating area (67%); and an extra bedroom with bath (65%).

America’s love affair with the large garage continues to flourish with 37% of consumers now wanting a 3-car or larger garage compared to 29% in 2008.

A Family-Friendly Home

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers consider a comfortable family gathering space to be top priority in their next home.

Of lesser interest this year is a kitchen, family and everyday eating area combined in one space (49% vs 56% in 2008) replaced by significantly greater interest in a family room partially separated from the kitchen (42% vs 27% in 2008).

There is also an increased desire (51% vs 44% in 2008) for a wall-mounted flat screen TV in the main family living area and for networked computers/home entertainment center (48% vs 43% in 2008).

Home Improvers

“With the economy still a major concern, right now it’s more about the ‘got to’ improvements than the ‘want to’ improvements,” said Nusbaum. “The focus is now on low-cost improvements that will pack a big punch.”

With only 16% feeling “now is the right time to spend” on home improvements vs 38% saying “now is not the right time to spend,” 52% are focusing their efforts on needed repairs and maintenance.

Three-quarters (76%) say the economy has had an impact on their home improvement plans, with half (50%) having changed their home improvement plans during the last year.

Smaller projects prove to be the most popular, such as painting a room (54%), replacing/adding flooring or carpeting (38%), decorating/redecorating a room (35%) and landscaping the yard (30%).

Energy-efficiency is also a focus of future home projects, with respondents placing importance on installation of Energy Star windows/doors (34%), high-efficiency heating/cooling (31%) and Energy Star appliances (31%).

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10 Big Impact Low Cost “Renovations”

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Do you have some—but not unlimited—cash for upgrades? Here are budget-minded enhancements to make your home stand out from the competition.

 

1. Tidy up kitchen cabinets.

“Potential buyers do open kitchen cabinets and look inside,” says Morrissey. “Home owners can add rollout organizing trays so when buyers peek in, they feel like there’s lots of room for their stuff.”

2. Add or replace tile.

“By retiling very inexpensively, you make a room look way cleaner that it was,” says Javier Zuluaga, owner of Home Repairs and Remodeling LLC in Tempe, Ariz. “Every city has stores that offer $1 to $2 tile, so home owners have to pay only for the low-cost tile and labor to replace a dated backsplash or add a new one. We also use inexpensive tile to upgrade bathrooms.”

3. Add a breakfast bar.

When a wall separates a kitchen from a family room, suggest cutting out an opening to create a breakfast bar. “In one home, there was a cutout in the wall between the kitchen and living room,” explains Matthew Quinn, a sales associate at Quinn’s Realty & Estate Services in Falls Church, Va., who handles estate and real estate sales for family members whose loved ones have passed away. “We left the structure of the cutout, added an oversized granite breakfast bar, and put chairs in front of it. That cost about $600.”

4. Install granite tile instead of a slab.

“Everybody is hot for granite kitchen countertops, but that can be a $5,000 upgrade,” says John Wilder, a general contractor and owner of Fence and Deck Doctor in New Castle, Ind. “Instead, home owners can put in 12-inch granite tiles for about $300 in materials and get very high impact for little money.”

5. Freshen up a bathroom without retiling.

“With a dated bathroom, I recommend putting in a new medicine cabinet for $100 to $150, light fixtures for about $100, a faucet for $50 to $75, and a vanity for $200 to $300,” says Wilder. “And instead of replacing the tile, the existing grout can be lightly scraped and regrouted, which leaves a haze that can be buffed out and will make the tile look brand new. Also install glass shower doors. A French door adds a lot of panache and elegance for $250, and people will notice the door, not the tile. With all that, you’ve done a bathroom remodel for $1,000 to $2,000.”

6. Freshen up the basement.

“If home owners have cement block or poured concrete walls in the basement, suggest they have a contractor fill in cracks with hydraulic cement and then paint with waterproofing paint,” recommends Wilder. “They can then add a top coat to add color. They can also paint the basement floor with a good floor paint, which spiffs it up. The basement may not be finished, but it’s no longer a damp dungeon.”

7. Add a room.

Look for large spaces that can be enclosed to create a new bedroom for just the price of creating a wall. “One time, we closed off a half-wall to an office and added a door to the other side of the room, thus creating another bedroom,” says Quinn. “That $400 procedure, which took a contractor one day, netted about $40,000 in the sales price.” Zuluaga has also added bedrooms inexpensively. “In a two-bedroom house, there was an archway that led to a third room that was used as a den,” he explains. “It had a dry bar where there would have been a closet, so we took out the dry bar and created a closet so the owners had a third bedroom.”

8. Spruce up cabinet fronts.

Suggest home owners update tired-looking kitchen cabinets. Reconditioning is the least expensive move for under $1,000. “If the wood is starting to look shabby from use or contaminants in the air, we take out the nicks and scratches, recondition it with oil, and put new hardware on,” explains Heidi Morrissey, vice president of marketing and sales at Kitchen Tune-Up in Aberdeen, S.D. For $1,500 to $4,000, owners can replace the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, and for $4,000 to $12,000, they can have all the cabinets refaced. “With refacing, owners can change the color of the cabinets by replacing the door and having a new skin put on the boxes,” says Morrissey. “If they have oak cabinets today, they can have cherry the next day.”

9. Replace light fixtures.

“In a foyer and in bathrooms and kitchens,” says Wilder, “replacing overhead light fixtures provides a lot of pop for a little money.” If the kitchen has track lighting, Zuluaga suggests the home owner spend $450 to $600 to have an electrician replace it with recessed canned lights on a dimmer switch to add ambience. For about $700, Zuluaga also suggests installing pendant lights over a kitchen island or peninsula.

10. Tech-up the garage.

“Sometimes we replace the garage door opener with a remote touchpad entry system,” says Zuluaga. “That costs about $425 and makes it look like a high-end system.”

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