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Decisions on home repair
Old 04-24-2015, 07:09 AM   #1
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Decisions on home repair

Currently trying to make a decision on making some repairs to our home.

First, likely a different situation than being 55 years old, and planning to die in my bed. Our home is part of a CCRC community along with 74 other similar houses. We expect to eventually... 2 to 6 years, to move into apartments, or, if necessary into assisted living or whatever level of care might be necessary.

The details:
Our house is 15 years old.
There are no structural or serious problems, and no exterior "blemishes".
We no longer entertain at home, so preparations for a visit from the queen, are no longer necessary.
By California pricing we live in a tent, but in our area, median pricing of $175K to $225K. Over 55 restrictions.

Here are the "downsides".
Non structural, but visual imperfections, generic to all the homes in our development ... small season cracks throughout the house... walls, ceilings... easily covered up by some minor fill-ins and complete interior painting. All is white, and with 13 ft. vaulted ceilings.
Several broken shingles... high wind breaks. No danger of leaks.
Crawl space, with two minor creaks in floor, away from traffic area.
Kitchen counters, laminate... a few small scratches. Kitchen cabinets, white oak, but with some obvious wear around knobs.
Wall to wall off-white carpeting throughout the home. Best quality, but with natural traffic patterens.

Based on what we've seen in other homes that have changed hands, most older persons who are looking to move in, are not looking for "fixer-uppers", and while none of the houses that are ever "for sale" for more than wa few days or weeks, the price paid varies by condition. Some new residents want to redo... with their choice of color, kitchen, carpeting etc,etc... while others are content to just move in to "comfortable" without dealing with contractors.

One of the things that make me pause in making the minor repairs/fixes... is that because it is a senior community, it's a target for contractors to overcharge. Next door elderly single lady was charged $3500 for four days of minor patch/paint of season cracks.

None of the less than perfect items bother me or DW, so the current plan is to do nothing, and deal with the fixes when it's time to sell, and we don't have to deal with the changes and repairs. I estimate that the total costs including carpeting and kitchen will be about $15 to 18K. Our thinking is to move, hire contractors to do the upgrades and then sell. The other option is to leave as-is, and take a chance with the price, letting new owners decide on upgrades.

Both next door and house across the street sold in 2 weeks over the past year at asking price, but before the sale, houses had complete redo's... carpet, paint etc. About $15,000.

So, yes... this is definitely a personal decision, but I'd guess one that others will eventually be facing. Do you upgrade as you go along? Or base the decision on the return on investment.
.................................................. .......................................
And one more thing, that brought the subject to mind. An close acquaintance, age 57, recently had a $93,000 upgrade to their $450,000 20 year old home. While we're not in that class, it did make us think.

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Old 04-24-2015, 07:26 AM   #2
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Our feeling is to upgrade as we go. I hate to spend money for someone else to enjoy upgrades we've paid for when we should be the ones enjoying the fresh facelift in our home. We don't go overboard with our upgrades, but granite n the kitchen and wood flooring throughout the home, along with fresh paint and a few new light and plumbing fixtures have changed it more to our style. We've recently upgraded our patio and landscaping, which we are looking forward to enjoying this spring and summer. When it is time to sell in 10-15 years, a little sprucing up should be all it needs.

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Old 04-24-2015, 07:27 AM   #3
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The first thing you have to do is ignore HGTV which seems to show that all investments into a house means a higher selling price above what was put into the house...

Almost all studies have shown that an upgrade cost more than what you can recover in higher selling prices.... I will agree that filling in small cracks and painting might be the exception.... but upgrading a kitchen or bathroom..... not worth it.... a roof is even worse...

The other thing you can do is try and sell it at a price you think it good without the repairs.... if there is not interest... then make the repairs and sell it at that much higher price....
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Old 04-24-2015, 07:38 AM   #4
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I historically would have been in the "do nothing" camp, but having gone through a sale of our home and my daughter's condo recently, what I would do is to keep up with things that you feel that you would have to do in order to sell....... since you will ultimately spend the money for those repairs and improvements anyway, why not do them now and as a by-product get to enjoy them for the remainder of your time there?

While you can sell it at a substantial discount if there is significant deferred maintenance, I think it is sub-optimal because any buyer will want to benefit from the effort and aggravation of doing the work and living in a construction zone for a while and also I think the piece of the pie of buyers who want something that is move-in ready is bigger than the piece of pie of buyers who want a fixer upper so a move in ready home is more marketable and will sell easier and quicker.
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Old 04-24-2015, 07:58 AM   #5
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If you add $15K of cosmetic work to a $200K house, it will probably present better, and sell much faster. But that just sounds like a lot to me. You should fix cracks, paint all, and get new carpets. Ask RE agents who they use for painting. Get competitive bids on carpet.
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:01 AM   #6
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My philosophy is to keep up with all the minor repairs and normal upkeep myself. This includes fixing anything that is broken, keeping paint looking fresh in the house, replacing old carpet, etc...). Also I pay to have normal, required maintenance done such as we had to replace a leaking roof recently. But major facelifts like redoing kitchens / bathrooms I don't do unless DW really, really wants them. Those things make her happy so worth doing if we can but I don't think will payout in stronger sale at some point down the road.
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:34 AM   #7
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An interesting topic! I started thinking about this in the last week, as I am just starting to toy with the idea of possibly moving, no sooner than ~6 years from now.

Doing all the really important maintenance things - check.

But "style" updates? As an example, an existing large master bath with popcorn ceiling, wallpaper, and carpeted (except for toilet area), straight out of the 1980s, but have kept up on maintenance.

If I did it, I would tear it out to the studs/joists, totally new tiled shower stall (replacing the existing tiled stall), maybe a whirlpool tub instead of existing step-up tub (which would require a difficult electrical run to it), tile the whole floor, new two-sink vanity, new big wall mirror, fixtures, on and on.
Let's say I spend $$$$ to do a total update in the next year or two. So if we DO sell in ~6 years, it's not a "brand-new Master Bath update".

Is it REALLY going to add to the house's value, or make it so easy to sell, etc.? I am just using the MB as an example.

Is there something to be said for just keeping a house serviceable, and maybe taking your selling price hit at sale time, and not messing with all sorts of upgrades, re-do's, etc. Texas Proud points out the HGTV effect, which seems to be a mantra that many repeat. But after all the hassles and dollars of more major work, is it a workable idea to just say "screw it", I'll take some lumps on the sale price and not bother with it.

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Old 04-24-2015, 08:55 AM   #8
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I guess the way that I look at it is if I was buy a fixer upper that needed major updating then I would start with the value that it would be when the updating is finished then subtract the cost of the updates then also subtract an allowance for my time and effort in contracting for the updates and living in a construction zone and a contingency allowance for the risk that I might run onto some unforeseen problems that need to be addressed and that would be the maximum that I would be willing to pay.

So at a minimum a seller is giving up that last two elements. Also, if a move-in ready home sells quicker then that means a lower number of months that I am paying for the house (but the impact is less if you are still living there versus if the home is empty).

Plus, if you are still living there you get to enjoy the improvements in the meantime though there is a bit of decay in their value.

No right answer and the best answer is very situational.
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:57 AM   #9
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I'm also in the camp of fix-as-you-go. First, I live here. Second, it's just easier to take on these projects than wait and have a seemingly massive repair to-do list.
For me, this approach works well. Minor repairs are done quickly by me, or hiring a pro (e.g., I recently gave a plumber $400 to re-do some basement
pipes). 2 years ago I sucked it up and paid a small fortune to re-side the house. Last year we re-did the driveway; this wasn't an option as it was in need of repair. We are now almost done with renovation of one of our bathrooms.
Spreading out these projects makes it easier. OP's list seem to be fairly minor for the most part. I see no reason not to do the same slow but steady approach and take care of these items over time.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:02 AM   #10
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Other than the roof shingle, what you describe are cosmetic blemishes. My philosophy would be to do all maintenance necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the home (e.g. fix the roof) and to make cosmetic improvements that will increase your enjoyment while not breaking the budget. So if the plaster cracks are bothering you, I would have them repaired. That means repainting, which gives you an opportunity to experiment with new colors.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:04 AM   #11
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Serious maintenance updates, I would say definitely a yes. Upgrading kitchen and baths not necessary if they are functional.
A fresh coat of paint and new carpet or flooring can update a home without too much expense.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:06 AM   #12
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Another thing to consider is the houses that you will be competing with when you sell and how updated (or not) that they are. If you live in an area where people tend to routinely update then it is more important than if you live in an area where people don't.
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Old 04-24-2015, 03:17 PM   #13
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Thank you all for the input...
It's pretty much a mirror of my thoughts at one time or another.

Right now, we see our time in this home as being limited. while we're healthy today, we're close enough to see hundreds of people our age and older, who are still living in the "villas" our individual homes or in the apartments... where life is easier and in essence, "free". One payment and no cares about bills, meals, travel or those "surprises" that come with home owning. Dull and boring for those who have no driving interests or hobbies, but that's not us.

In the interim, we'll probably leave the cosmetics alone. Carpets are clean and fresh, season cracks close up in summer, and the few shingles, on the garage, will be glued back by sons... supposed to be a 30 year roof.

The basics are fine, and the small problems really don't bother us. Aftr all, the home is just 15 years old.

There's some more thinking behind this... As with all of our assets, we keep a realistic dollar value of everthing we own, which we use to calculate our net worth. The key is "realistic". In the case of our home, for instance, we calculate its' value at our purchase price... some $50K under the market price both for same house selling price and number on Zillow, which mostly tracks very well to our town and neighborhood. the same with our lakefront park model and our Florida mfg. home park.

Sooo. except for structural problems, of which none are serious., we'll likely leave things be... no remodeliing, no repainting, no new carpeting and nothing to keep up with the Jones's ( as they don't give a damn either).

If and when we decide to sell, if the market is the way it is today, (nothing for sale in our complex) we'll just wait for the right person, and take a $15 to $20K beating if necessary. On the other hand, if the market is down, after we move, we'll do a complete remake... probably 15 to 20K, to retirn it to showcase condition..

Not doing this now... avoids upset, and making color choices that everyone may not like, and the cost of new carpeting (about $5 to 6K) that will be "used" in a few years.
.................................................. .........................................

An aside for some observations: Having bought and sold some 12 homes, we found that presenting a home as perfect... leaves the buyer with some unpleasant bargaining points. "We don't like the colors", the third bedroom is too small, the kitchen is ..." whatever...
On the other hand.. "We realizr there are some negatives, but with $15,000 as an upgrade allowance, you can do it your way, and still come out ahead.."

That's pretty much what we've done in the past.

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Old 04-24-2015, 03:29 PM   #14
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Since RE is so local, when we get close to moving we'll just ask the RE agent what is the best option for this area. Patch any wall cracks and touch up on those, likely new carpeting but that should be about it I think.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 04-24-2015, 03:40 PM   #15
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Great timing. DH and I are just about done with improvements before putting our house on the market- the professional cleaners come in tomorrow and the photographer on Monday.

We've been in the house nearly 12 years and have replaced the windows, added a sunroom, improved the attic insulation, added granite countertops and some bamboo flooring, etc. We've enjoyed all of it. Our realtor walked through the place and recommended more changes and we've forked over about $15K in the last 3 months.

I got rid of the popcorn ceilings on the 2 remaining rooms and painted the walls white in a couple of others that were more intense colors. Cost was mostly for paint.

I tiled 2 bathroom floors- one had cheap plastic tile, one had nasty beige carpeting. Did the tiling myself but paid someone to move the toilets.

We had large cracks in the cement around the pool repaired. That's been the one regret. It cost $5,000 (they filled, covered, ground it smooth, troweled something over it all, then painted with a sealant) and they kept delaying and delaying. I was really afraid we'd have large, spidery filled cracks visible when we listed the house. It looks great but not sure it was worth it.

I spackled and painted a hairline crack in one wall but of course I couldn't match the paint so ended up painting the whole wall; also painted a few more walls that had stains and scuffs that wouldn't clean off.

The carpeting in the entrance area and the MBR was the original nasty beige and was beyond help; unfortunately the entrance area is really the beginning of the family room sooo.. the FR got new carpeting, too.

Deck repainted. It took a lot of prep work because the last time we had it done by someone else they did a crappy job and it was flaking in many places.

Edging installed around flower beds and they were filled with mulch.

We might have had some of this done eventually but it's been a real pain to do it all in a short period of time. My hope is that it will produce a quicker sale even though I doubt we've added $15K to the market value, and we can get into a smaller place that will be easier to maintain.
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Old 04-24-2015, 03:50 PM   #16
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Being nearing your age and just moving into a 55 and over community last year, we bought a home that was not upgraded (original carpet, cabinets, counter tops, etc), but in nice clean and freshly painted condition. The people who were in it since new had moved on to assisted living and passed and the home was in a trust.

We bought the home out of the trust for a 10% discount from recent area sales. It needed some minor landscaping revived and that was it. DW and I upgraded the kitchen counter tops to granite from Formica (she was picky on the color/style choice) and put in a new sink, faucet, hood fan and back splash. We have not replaced the carpet and don't intend to as it is in good condition and we can't agree on a replacement (I like carpet, she like fake wood flooring). We ended up putting in about $6K into the kitchen and a few lighting upgrades.

Maintenance wise, the house is 15 years old with the original roof (good shape), appliances, hot water heater, A/C and furnace. Everything works and I see no big problems in the future, except a possible new hot water heater.

These communities typically have 2 persons per household and the homes don't see a lot of wear and tear so even original condition like ours was, is generally acceptable for the next buyer. In our neighborhood, about 1/3 the homes are occupied by widows and those homes see even less use.

If I were you and the house is in salable condition, I would sell it as is with maybe some minor paint work when the time comes.
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:14 PM   #17
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Wait and see, a RE agent will make suggestions for getting the price you want.

I thought I did a bad thing redoing a 400 ft asphalt drive and painting a home just 1 month before a unknown company relocation. I thought about putting the repairs on relocation cost, as I have had to do this before (7 company moves in 11years). But it had curb appeal and sold the first day on the market at full price.
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:49 PM   #18
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I watch HGTV once in awhile when it's on in the gym and I've started to refer to the typical house-hunters as Josh and Brittany, and they want EVERYTHING. If Brittany doesn't like the wall color in the MBR or the basement rec room doesn't have a built-in beer fridge- well, on to the next house. If the house is at the top of their range and doesn't have granite countertops- well, who would THINK of living with Formica for a couple of years till you can afford granite?

We chose our realtor because we were impressed with her when we were referred to her by my employer when I relocated in 2003. She's in it for the long haul- she went through most of her retirement funds for living expenses in the down market. She says she tells Josh and Brittany, "Look for the qualities you can't change- a house with good bones, good location, etc." I remember her using the "good bones" phrase with us in 2003 and it's still good advice.

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