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Dangers and Myths of DIY Projects

So you’ve watched enough HGTV shows, talked to enough neighbors, and had enough discussions with sales personnel in your big box home improvement store to know that you might be able to do a ton of improvements to your home without having to pay a pro,
and in the process, save yourself a lot of money.

Renovation stories abound, and many homeowners would be hard-pressed to think about how some of the things they tackle on their own have the potential to become a nightmare, leaving them in the drywall dust. In a recent article, Margaret Heidery tries to discern fact from fiction, separating home improvement myths from realities.

Why not recoup the money spent on home improvements by simply adding it to the sales price? Heidery says this is a common misconception among homeowners — that they can add the full cost of any improvement to the price tag of their home when it’s time to sell. Just because you spent $20K remodeling your master bath doesn’t mean it is worth that much to a homebuyer. There is always an ROI (return on investment) involved in any upgrade or improvement you add. Thinking you’ll simply get the money you spent on it returned to your pocket will no doubt cause you to overprice your home when it’s time to sell. For example, adding a deck usually gets you a 75% ROI and finishing the basement sees a 72.8% ROI. Figures like these can vary from area to area, but it’s easy to look up what each investment is reaping by doing an online search for your area or consulting with a Realtor.

Who cares about permits? Apparently everyone else but you. While they seem like a massive pain, it’s best to think of them as protection as well as insurance for the future. What has not been permitted in your house cannot even be mentioned in the listing when you go to sell, even if you added an extra bedroom or expanded the ceiling in your family room to expose the rafters. If you skip the permitting process and get ratted out by a neighbor, you may also face fines and perhaps even be told to tear out the work altogether. Your best bet? Reach out to your local building department to find out if the work needs permits. You may even find that you are required to use a licensed contractor to perform the work. Any homebuyer’s agent can also use the non-permitted areas of the house as a point for heavy negotiation, since they may someday have to deal with the step you never took to begin with, especially if it was not done to code. Non-permitted work can often be a deal breaker.

Isn’t it a cinch to save money if you do it yourself? No one is saying you can’t tackle some small jobs around the house. But leave the major stuff to a licensed professional who knows to use protective equipment, double-check code requirements, and prevent contaminants or circulating dust from settling in other parts of your home. Thing is, just by the very act of trying to do it yourself, it may end up costing you MORE just to correct your faux pas. It’s better to leave it to a home service expert who guarantees his or her work.

Why replace it when it can be repaired? According to Heidery, temporary fixes can cost you more in the long run — especially true when doing a repair that won’t always fix the whole problem and can lead to further damage and needless costs. Replacing some loose tiles or shingles on a 50-year-old roof is only delaying the inevitable, and potential homebuyers will be told upon inspection that the house needs an entirely new roof anyway — another big point of negotiation you may not want to entertain.

Doesn’t a pool add value? While this can be true, it’s not always a sure bet. The value of a pool in the backyard either represents entertainment value to a homebuyer or a giant maintenance and liability headache. In areas with yearlong warm temperatures, you are more apt to get a better ROI than in parts of the country where it remains a rather ugly, covered, unusable accessory in your backyard much of the year. According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, you will recoup only 39 cents for every dollar you spend on a pool.


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