What You Need to Know About Vacation Property Investments in Blue Ridge, GA
Have you ever considered purchasing a vacation rental or short-term rental (Airbnb/VRBO) property? You’ve probably heard many others talk about this. If you’re like me, what you’ve heard about these properties sounds too good to be true, but you may have also heard others having terrible experiences with these investments. Short term rental opportunities are starting to diminish, yet if you’re going to enjoy your purchase in addition to renting it, it’s a lifestyle investment. While interest rates have increased and made payments higher, will it be worth more if you intend to hold for 7-10 years?
We have researched many areas and discovered that Blue Ridge, Georgia offers the most benefits for short term rental investment for buyers in the Atlanta area. Here are my top six reasons for why this could be.
1. Blue Ridge has year-round rental appeal. There are activities to enjoy in every season. Summer: Lake Blue Ridge, world-class whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River, or fly fishing on the Toccoa River are popular attractions. Fall: Foliage brings guests to the area and local festivals draw large crowds. Winter: Light Up Blue Ridge festival, Santa Express on the Blue Ridge Railway. Year-round: Trout Fishing – Fannin County is the Trout Capital of Georgia. There’s also mountain biking year-round with an abundance of trails from easy to difficult. Mercier Orchards is the largest orchard in the south. The orchard draws visitors year-round, peaking during apple picking season. Hiking: There are over 300 miles of trails and 16 beautiful waterfalls in the area.
2. Over the holidays, there’s strong demand for cabins where family and friends can come together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays in a group setting. Year-round, there is an abundance of hiking. There are over 300 miles of trails in the area! The panhandle/30A area is popular with Atlanta buyers looking to host; however, it is very seasonal and generally limited to spring break and a few months during the summer. It can be extremely difficult to ever turn a profit.
3. Taxes: Fannin County property taxes are much lower than taxes in other counties and especially less than in the state of Florida.
4. Downtown Blue Ridge: The town is a draw for many reasons. The Historic Blue Ridge Railroad, dining, shopping, and nightlife all draw crowds. There’s an artsy vibe with many galleries. The Blue Ridge Railroad offers seasonal trips as well, such as the Firecracker Special and Santa Express. The appeal of downtown Blue Ridge is broad reaching and not reliant on one attraction. This ensures you have guests interested in visiting at all times.
5. Wineries: There are very nice wineries in the area. There are also winery tours (and craft brew tours, too). From a short-term rental benefit perspective, this brings in groups of friends coming for a fun weekend to tour the wineries, who generally will rent a cabin together.
6. Blue Ridge supports tourism. Some local governments look to control or even eliminate short term rentals by adding restrictions or large fees. The Blue Ridge economy is driven by tourism and the local government supports it. Currently, Blue Ridge requires you to obtain a Short Term Rental Certificate. The cost is minimal at $25 per year.
I have personally invested in both beach and mountain vacation properties, and Blue Ridge has been the best for us. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall — the Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful. We wanted to confidently help our clients invest in Blue Ridge as well. To do so, we have partnered with Tracy Krohn. Tracy has a wealth of local knowledge, having grown up here and worked in the area extensively. Tracy personally owns a vacation rental in Blue Ridge and she can help you understand recent rental income trends and operating expenses so you can make an informed investment decision. If you want to explore the area and learn more, connect with us and we’ll connect you with Tracy to get started!
“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners along the way to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of thoughtful real estate one wonderful home at a time.
“Behind the Curtin” Episode 2 – A Pool and Pool House in Milton, Georgia
Tripp and Grace Melton live in Milton, Georgia. They have been residents since 2003. In 2020, they began the work of creating an outdoor space for relaxation and entertaining, with a pool and pool house.
Joanne: Why did you pick this area?
Tripp: We were working downtown at the time and couldn’t find anything we liked. And then we drove through this area and liked the idea of a newer construction.
Grace: Even though the house wasn’t initially what I had in mind, I fell in love with the hidden pantry in the kitchen and the fireplace in our keeping room looks like the wall in the church where we go married.
Joanne: What have you done specifically to increase the value of your home?
Grace: We made a lot of use of the outside space and tried to do some thoughtful landscaping with trees and buffers because the way the house is situated, you can see the whole backyard from the street. But the biggest thing was adding the pool in 2020 and the pool house.
Joanne: Did you use a designer to create the outdoor living resort space that you have?
Tripp: No, these are all our ideas, even the landscaping. We worked with our pool builder for the pool house to execute what we wanted.
Joanne: What do love about the outdoor space you’ve created?
Grace: For me, I love being around water. I like seeing it, I like hearing it. I think it’s calming, but it’s also a great entertaining space. And we use it year ‘round, because we’ll have the pool heated. We can go out here for coffee in the morning or have friends over late at night. We use the fireplace and the electric heaters in the middle of winter, and so we spend a lot of time in the pool house. It’s been fun.
Joanne: Where did you find vendors and contractors for such a big job?
Tripp: We went to our original builder. They gave us some ideas and some referrals. We also did a lot of research online about what we wanted.
Joanne: So, what did you splurge on?
Tripp: The sliding doors on three sides of the pool house was almost a third of the cost of the entire pool house. But the space is transformed when they are opened or closed. The pool house stays cool in the summer and comfortable in the winter. Also, our ceiling fan from Big Ass Fans Company, is large enough to create a nice breeze.
Joanne: What else do you really like about the space?
Grace: The vaulted ceiling. It’s not just a flat ceiling, so I think it’s a nice, added dimension.
Joanne: What have you learned from the process?
Tripp: I’ve learned from this process to get everything in writing. In the end, even when you’re dealing with friends or people you like, it’s still a business transaction.
Joanne: Is there anything you would do differently?
Tripp: We weren’t able to put in a bathroom because of the rules regarding septic fields, unless we wanted to install another septic system. However, we finished the basement with an additional bathroom that allows us to have a changing room for the pool.
And some people have asked why didn’t do an outside kitchen. I mean, we just don’t use our inside kitchen that much. So, it wasn’t a big deal for us.
Joanne: What advice would you give someone who wanted to renovate their outdoor space?
Grace: I would say good design that’s really well thought out. And materials, don’t skimp on materials.
Tripp: I would tell someone don’t skimp on the decking. For example, the travertine around the pool is cooler in the summer than pavers or concrete. I would also not skimp on lighting. We changed our ground lighting to soffit lighting and it changes the whole look. We also installed a cool sound system through a Sonos sound system with speakers shaped like rocks around the pool area.
If you’re considering continuing to rent, maybe you think it’s best to wait until prices come down, or maybe you’re waiting for interest rates to come down. Or maybe you just don’t see the value in taking on the responsibility of owning a home. But did you know home ownership is one of the largest factors in building wealth? It is the differentiator between those that bought and those that continue to rent. How big of a difference can it really make, you ask? Let’s look at the tale of two friends, Harry and Randy, and really dive into the numbers to see what a difference buying a home now and continuing to rent will make in a 7-year period.
Harry Homeowner just purchased his new home for $400,000. He used FHA financing and put 3.5% down, or $14,000. His loan would be $392,755 because of the up-front 1.75% mortgage insurance that gets rolled into the loan on FHA loans. His monthly payment would be:
Principal & Interest – $2,613
PMI – $273.42
Estimated Taxes & Insurance – $474
Total payment = $3,360.76
After 7 years, Harry will have paid $181,546.66 in interest and $34,171.22 in principal, leaving a loan balance of $351,829.02. Harry has gained $34,171.22 in principal paydown, which can also be looked at as a forced savings. But wait – it gets better. Harry will also gain equity. The average equity increase annually is 4% (in metro Atlanta, it’s been 5% average.) After 7 years at an average of 4% annual appreciation, Harry’s home is now worth $526,327. That’s a gain of $126,327. Adding in the principal paydown of $34,171, Harry is sitting on a nice $160,498 gain. Harry could access some of this equity through a Home Equity Line of Credit and perhaps purchase an investment property (smart choice Harry!) or decide it’s time to upgrade and roll those gains into a new home and start the process over.
Another scenario that would likely have occurred for Harry is that because of the gain in the property value and equity, the PMI would drop off – most likely Harry would have refinanced his house and the payment would have reduced by $300-$400, so Harry’s payment in year 7 would be estimated to be around $2,900.
Randy Renter is renting a cool two-bedroom apartment in a hip, walkable location for just $2,000/mo. Instead of making a mortgage payment, Randy is a disciplined dude and he is saving the difference in his rent payment and what his friend Harry is making in a mortgage payment. So he’s saving $1,360 per month.
Randy is smart with his money, and he’s invested it in a mutual fund and was able to obtain an average annual return of 12%. Randy would now be sitting on a cool $167,000.
Aha you say: “So buying is not the right move! I’d actually have more money by saving money by renting (assuming you’re as disciplined as Randy) and not buying.”
However, we didn’t factor in that rent continues to increase every year. So in reality, Randy’s fixed cost of living continues to increase, while Harry’s fixed housing cost is locked in (and likely reduced when he refinances). Let’s rerun this scenario factoring the rent increases and consequently the savings decreases for Randy.
Average rents increase by 6% per year in our area. Randy’s two bedroom apartment rent looks like this over 7 years:
Year 1 $2,000
Year 2 $2,120
Year 3 $2,247
Year 4 $2,382
Year 5 $2,525
Year 6 $2,676
Year 7 $2,837
At the end of 7 years, again Randy is super disciplined and did not touch any of his savings, he now has $138,855 saved.
Harry has $160,498 in equity/net worth.
Randy has $138,855 in equity/net worth.
Harry has a fixed monthly housing payment.
Randy also has a monthly payment that will continue to rise and is beyond his control.
Randy can buy too, but the same house Harry bought 7 years ago will cost Randy a lot more.
It has been said “the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second-best time is today.” The same can be said of real estate. Don’t wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait!
“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners along the way to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of luxurious real estate one wonderful home at a time.
“Behind the Curtin” Episode 1 – A Wine Room & Kitchen in Milton, Georgia
Katie and Dave Smith live in Milton, Georgia with their two children. Recently, Katie and Dave sold their house in Milton’s Highland Manor that they called home for 14 years to move into a brand-new build in the Sweet Apple neighborhood that they helped design. Prior to moving to Milton in 2008, they lived in Miami, Florida for two years.
Joanne: Why did you pick this area?
Katie: We’re from up north where the seasons change. We didn’t like living somewhere where it was hot all year. My husband Dave’s job, at the time, was such that he could live in Greater Atlanta or South Florida, and we just felt like greater Atlanta was an area that we felt we could relate to more and would be better to raise a family. We didn’t have any kids yet when we moved here and that’s part of why we did.
Joanne: As far as your house that you’re in now, what made you choose your house?
Katie: We were so excited to build and get to start from scratch. We really liked how it’s quiet here, but it’s still close to everything. We’re closer now than we were in Highland Manor to Downtown Crabapple, Downtown Roswell, and GA-400. But we’re tucked back in this quiet little country road type situation. We felt like it was very unique, and when we signed to build this house, they hadn’t even cleared the street yet. We were able to see the other homes and see the big picture of the community with the walking trails and green space built into the development.
Joanne: What do you feel like you did to really improve the value of the house that you built? What do you feel adds value to your house the most?
Katie: We love having the master on Main and it’s kind of in its own little wing. It’s tucked away. I can sleep through noise, and I was never able to do that in the old house. The lot itself, how we’re on a cul-de-sac and it’s at the end of the street. The layout of the house provides nice privacy for the backyard, helping with what we’re trying to achieve with the pool and creating a great little hangout area. The kids have their own space upstairs. They have a lot of space. At their current ages of 10 and 13, they don’t want to be around us all the time. They have their own space which makes them feel like they have independence.
Joanne: Alright, so in this home you did not have a keeping room and in place of that, because you want to use your house wisely, you did a wine room where normally an office or dining room could be. So did you use a designer for that?
Katie: I would say we kind of used a designer overall, that helped us in designing the layout of our home and picking the finishes. She did help us a little bit with the wine room. Dave would tell you that he’s the designer. She worked with another couple a few years ago who did the wine room at a house over on Sibley lane. We had seen these pictures, and knew she had worked on a project like this before. That got it going in Dave’s mind, and then we knew we wanted to have a sitting room like a keeping room. We were going back and forth on whether or not to do the wine wall because it was of course an added expense. Dave, in his mind with the numbers, was like, “Is this too frivolous? Like, can we really do this?” And then, he finally said that if he didn’t do it, he would be mad at himself in a couple of years. It costs more money to do after the fact versus if you do it while you’re building the house, it’s easier.
Joanne: What does that wine room have that you needed?
Katie: It’s a quiet getaway. A quiet space. The wine wall itself is a piece of art. It’s very cozy. We painted it a different color from the color that most of the main living area is painted. We did the wine room and Dave’s office a dark gray that really separates it from the rest of the home. It’s right off the kitchen, but it feels like you’re tucked away and it has a door that goes onto the front porch from one wall. So, you could be sitting in there enjoying a glass of wine or having your morning coffee and then go right outside to the front porch.
Joanne: What was the splurge in your wine room that you said Dave was like, “I don’t know if I want to spend the money. But if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it?”
Katie: It’s a built-in refrigerated unit. It has its own thermostat, it has its own separate unit down in the basement. That’s like the ultimate splurge. In our old home, we had a freestanding wine fridge that you purchase. If we ever move, it stays. It’s part of the house. That was definitely a splurge. I mean, gosh, it’s all splurge. A new house is a splurge. Those sliders, the sliding doors, instead of just a door they go into the wall. Not accordion style – they slide like pockets doors into the wall.
Joanne: Would you say that the wine room is your favorite room? What’s your favorite room in your new house? Dave’s?
Katie: Dave would say it’s the wine room. I love the kitchen.
Joanne: Why would you say that?
Katie: It has a lot of storage and it’s bright. I’m looking at my kitchen right now, and I think it just flows easily. We designed it to flow easily.
Joanne: Anything that you feel like someone should not skimp on?
Katie: I would not skimp on lighting. At least, in the main areas,
Joanne: Lighting meaning expensive fixtures or just more lights?
Katie: The fixtures themselves. If you put a cheap light over the table in your kitchen or something that you don’t like, it is no good. We got to the point where the lighting budget was getting out of control. We did cans in other areas. We’d rather fix the main fixtures in a year than get something cheap and not like it, you know? What else… Appliances! We didn’t skimp on our fridge. We got the nicer fridge. How many times do you use your fridge a day? A lot, right? So I think that for us, it was like let’s not skimp on things in our main living area. I’m fine skimping on my 10-year-old son’s bathroom tile, or the guest room lighting. Those are rooms that get used a small handful of times a year. But when it came to our main living space, I didn’t want to cheap out and then regret it. We didn’t go crazy, but like we made it nice.
Joanne: So what kind of fridge Do you have?
Katie: Oh, it’s a Thermador fridge. But it’s not so much the brand. It’s just this size. It’s the bigger side by side fridge.
Joanne: Are there any materials that you used that you felt like were not trendy, but just worth it, and were non-negotiables?
Katie: We used quartz for all of our tops, even in the bathrooms, which I’m really happy with. Even in the laundry room – it just makes a difference. One other splurge that I forgot to mention from earlier was in our master bath, we have the doors that come all the way down to the floor without the step with the special drain on the sides. So it’s very clean looking and beautiful. We have the engineered hardwood, the wider planks, which I really love throughout the home. And it’s a lighter-color wood. We had darker wood at the old house, which I thought looked pretty. But on these floors, you can’t see the dirt as much and the paw prints from the dog. So when you have an active family, it’s nice to be able to hide dirt and dog hair better. I’m just keeping it real because I don’t feel like cleaning floors every day!
Katie and Dave’s experience in deciding to move, finding the right location to build, and hand-crafting their forever home is something that countless families do every year. That doesn’t mean it’s not special – building a new home is one of the most special things a family can do together. Their openness and great insight into their thought process during the whole experience helps us learn what to look for and what to avoid when it’s our time to upgrade our own living spaces. These helpful homeowners, along with Joanne, help give you a peek Behind the Curtin into the world of luxury real estate. If this insight interests you, subscribe for more video and interview content at www.youtube.com/@curtinteam.
The Curtin Team’s CEO, Tom Curtin and Director of Sales, Christy Smith explain the benefits for first time home buyers in today’s market. One of the biggest advantages of buying a home today is the stability and equity you get. Waiting a year or two can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in equity loss. And as rental rates continue to rise, a fixed rate mortgage payment stays the same. Also, many sellers and lenders are now offering to pay closing costs and buy downs on rates. Large down payments often scare off first time homebuyers, but some loans require as little as 3.5% down. As an example, the down payment on a $400,000 house can be as low as $14,000. And there are many ways to get that down payment including finding places in your budget to cut back and save, loans from family, or loans against a 401K to cover some or all it. The news of interest rate hikes shouldn’t scare off potential home buyers either. If rates go down, refinancing is available and if rates go up, you’ll be glad you locked in a lower rate.
The Curtin Team’s CEO, Tom Curtin and Director of Sales, Christy Smith explain the benefits of mortgage rate buy downs for buyers and sellers. Like many practices in the world of Real Estate, mortgage hacks depend on Buyer/Seller goals, timelines, and preferences. Buy-downs are unique, though, because they offer direct benefits to both Buyers and Sellers in the short term and long term. They allow houses to be sold more efficiently, less stress with high monthly payments for Buyers, and less interest payment over time. If you are in the market to either buy or sell a home, don’t forget that there are ways for you to save money during the process.
What was the last book you read? More importantly – what was the last book you read that helped you and your team succeed at work? Being well read doesn’t just help you in your day-to-day activities. Choosing to learn from established experts and authors helps shorten your learning curve so you can bring practical information and methods to your co-workers, colleagues, and clients. While there’s no substitute for learning by doing, there’s a wide gap in knowledge that favors those who take time to read effective business books over those who don’t. Over the years, I’ve read more than a fair share of business books, and some have stood out more than others. That’s why today I am sharing my top five favorite business books that you will wish you had read sooner.
1. “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki
Written as a narrative story, this is an easy read. I find this book foundational for any new or recently-started investor to understand what it means to have an investor mindset. It helps distinguish what is truly an asset and liability and how to use money as a tool to create wealth. You don’t have to be born rich to become rich. Instead, there’s a path that just about anyone who is willing to take can follow. In 1999, my wife Joanne read this book and I read it shortly after her. It was one of the reasons Joanne decided to leave her teaching career to become a real estate professional just a year later. It’s the reason we bought our first investment property and created goals around real estate investing. I have a lot of gratitude for this book.
2. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
This book is about breaking bad behaviors and adopting good ones in four steps with small, incremental, everyday routines that compound into massive, positive changes over time. You can truly change your behavior by following these steps. There are some great hacks here on breaking cravings and creating new habits. These include steps about making new routines easy to start, making them obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. 1. Make it obvious – Don’t hide your fruits in the fridge, but instead put them on display front and center. 2. Make it attractive – start with the fruit you like the most so you’ll actually want to eat one when you see it. 3. Make it easy – don’t create needless friction by focusing on fruits that are hard to peel. Bananas and apples are super easy to eat, for example. 4. Make it satisfying – if you like the fruit you picked, you’ll love eating it and feel healthier as a result! The book goes into a lot more detail. I highly recommend it as you can apply these little hacks to make your life better and more efficient.
3. “Unlimited Power” by Tony Robbins
This book is a self-help classic that breaks down how Tony Robbins has helped top performers perform at their highest level and how you can use the same mental and physical tactics to accomplish your biggest life goals. “Unlimited Power” connotes your ability to revamp your life and produce every outcome you’ve ever wanted while generating value for the people around you. There is so much packed into this book that I can’t get into everything. It’s a long read, but it’s worth every page. One key idea is to use modeling – how you can model yourself after others who are more successful to get what they have. We’ve used this tactic in our real estate business as well as real estate investing. The difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people see “failure” as an opportunity to grow and learn. We model, try new things, fail and learn. Also simple hacks to change your mood with body posture and breathing techniques, it works! And lastly emotional intelligence, how you respond to situations and your emotions, your attitude determines a lot of what you can accomplish.
4. “First Break All The Rules” by Don Clifton
This book walks you through how to be a better manager and debunks a lot of traditional management methods. I enjoy this book because it resonates with my management style, especially being a part of a small team. We are truly a family. Happy and satisfied employees make the company better and treat clients better. Managers can help employees be happier and more satisfied, it starts with caring about how happy and satisfied they are at work and personally. Intentionally design the atmosphere to encourage self-expression, trust, enjoyment, and productivity. A leader sets the goals, and helps guide but ultimately employees will be happier when they can control and have input in how they reach those goals. If you want to help your team grow, you’ve got to get to know them on a personal level. And if you want to know what standard you should hold everybody to, you need to look at your top performers and spend a lot of time with them. I’d recommend this book to someone who just became a manager and feels overwhelmed, or a seasoned executive that wants to learn and play to their employee’s strengths, or anyone that would like to become a great leader at work.
5. “Five Dysfunctions Of A Team” by Patrick Lencioni
This book will teach you how to have a functional team to be more productive and how to avoid back-channel politics. It’s written in an easy-to-read fable and then breaks it down into practical guidelines on how to overcome each of the five dysfunctions. In hindsight, if I had read this book at the start of my team building career, I could have avoided some drama and probably gotten out of business faster with some people we ultimately ended up parting ways with, but not before they caused damage to the team. it could have possibly helped to fix some bad behavior, but I suspect it would have just highlighted it and caused them to opt out sooner, and maybe I’d have a few less gray hairs.
The next time you are asked what the last book you read was, I hope you think back to one of my five suggestions and are able to apply what you’ve learned in the workplace. True leaders and intelligent thinkers know that they don’t know everything, and they know when to look for outside wisdom and advice to pass along to those who rely on them in the business world. These five reads cover everything from financial responsibility and habit building to team chemistry and unlocking your true potential, and I highly suggest that you check them out.
On a successful real estate team, everyone has a specialized role that aligns with their skills. Agents are talented at contract negotiations and pricing. Administrative teams are talented at paperwork, details, and organization. Marketing specialists are talented at getting houses as much organic exposure as possible. Essentially, every team member provides value to the business by serving clients and always looking to help their teammates when possible. Over the years, many of the Curtin Team’s clients have expressed that they enjoy having a contact available to answer their questions, which is exactly what our team is available to do. Unlike solo agents who might be constantly busy and out in the field showing homes, our staff is in the office and able to help our clients with anything they need throughout the buying or selling process.
Working with a team means you get combined experience, which leads to smoother deals and less headaches. As a team, we invest in the best systems, tools, technology, knowledge, and talent available. We feel the scope of today’s real estate transaction goes beyond one person and that an agent acting on their own can’t possibly provide the level of service needed to get the job done well. This is why clients prefer team interactions, and previously solo agents are so glad they’ve found the right group once they’ve made the switch. An individual real estate agent won’t have the time, cumulative knowledge, or assets required to invest in the best tools and execute the marketing strategies required to give homes maximum exposure and quick selling times, but well-established groups can provide all of these and more.
As an agent working on a team, there’s greater fulfillment developing your inherent skills and being able to trust teammates to work behind the scenes for your clients. Many studies have linked employee happiness with customer satisfaction. A company’s ability to deliver a greater customer experience relies on hardworking team members who always look out for each other. When an agent works on a team, they enjoy a more balanced life. The work is divided and the responsibilities are shared. They can lean into their team for help when things don’t go their way, and they have a support system that brings the peace of mind that is so difficult to find when working alone. And most especially, their clients are happier. The stability, camaraderie, and effectiveness of real estate teams like the Curtin Team make everyone’s lives easier – both our clients and our agents included.
The real estate market is constantly shifting. Do you know how to position yourself for success as a buyer or a seller? Our team of real estate experts will be available to answer your questions on August 10 at 10am (Eastern Time). Dial into our Zoom call and join us for an informative Q and A.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
There are endless possibilities of what you can spend money on to improve your home. From simple upgrades to massive renovations, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. To help, we’ve put together a list of priorities as we see it from a Realtor’s perspective. It’s important to start with what you love and enjoy (especially if you plan to be in your home for at least 4 more years) and prioritize the area of your home that you know you’ll get the most enjoyment out of first. On the other end, if there’s something in your home that causes you stress every time you see it, change it. Renovating can be a challenge, but assessing your wants, needs, and budget is a great first step.
Up To $5,000 Budget
1. Interior Paint – Fresh paint gives you the best bang for your buck. Depending on the size of your home, you may be able to get most of your main living area painted for under $5,000.
2. New Kitchen Backsplash / Updated Light Fixtures – An eat-in kitchen, dining room, or foyer chandelier provide a fresh, updated look without breaking the bank. If you have the builder-standard fluorescent rectangle in your kitchen: get rid of it! Replace with a new modern handing light or recessed lights.
3. New Bathroom Vanities – If you have any bathrooms that have laminate counters, this signals that the vanity is dated, too. You can purchase a new vanity that also has a built-in stone counter and new sink all together. You’ll just need to purchase a matching upgraded fixture to go with it.
4. New Front Door/ Refinishing Wood Doors – A new front door adds great curb appeal. Front doors make such an important first impression! When you’re selling your home, you always want the entrance way to be in top shape. Picture this: the buyers and their realtor approach your home, the buyers are eagerly looking around to assess the entrance, and the Realtor is trying to open the lockbox. Entry is not immediate — it can take a minute or two to get the lockbox open and enter the home. If you have rotten wood or an old pealing door, this will set the stage for a buyer’s negative impression of your home.
5. Exterior Cleaning – Power washing can be a surprisingly affordable way to make your exterior look new again. Your house, driveway, walkways, and roof can all be power washed for a fresh look. Add professional window cleaning and you’ll be looking great!
Up To $25,000 Budget
1. Flooring – Wood floors in main living areas and new carpet in bedrooms make a big difference. Real hardwood flooring is a timeless style and will never be an outdated choice. Color choices can vary and add personality but try to avoid extremes. And, you can refinish hardwood and change the look if needed.
2. Kitchen Appliance Upgrades / New Kitchen Counters – If your home is in a luxury price point, buyers will expect high-end appliances. The stove or cook top is the center piece, so consider this first.
3. Bathroom Vanities – We covered this in the $5,000 budget section, but if you have multiple bathrooms to upgrade, you’ll easily spend more than that. If your primary bathroom doesn’t have a dual vanity and you can find a way to add one, that will be a great investment. Pro-tip: This may also save you from arguments with your significant other if you’ve been sharing a sink.
4. Retiling – Primary shower and floors can often use new tiling, along with adding a standalone tub. Avoid trendy or colorful tile. Remember, light and bright is timeless.
5. Cabinet Makeover – Painting or refacing cabinets and changing out hardware is a simple but effective project.
Budget up to $100,000
1. Full Kitchen Update – New appliances, quartz or quartzite counters, backsplash, fresh paint; depending on size of kitchen, you may or may not be able to fully replace cabinets with this budget. Style and trends in kitchens change frequently. If you’re worried about making the right design choices, it’s always best to go light and bright, aiming for a timeless look that will last. The average cost of a full kitchen renovation in our area now averages over $150,000, so to stay on budget, consider hiring a professional designer who can help you find cost savings and make the right design choices.
2. Finished Basement – Adding additional finished space is a big bang for your buck. Adding a media room, an exercise room, office space, an additional bathroom, or an additional entertainment area will add huge value to a home.
3. Outdoor Living Space – An exterior gathering area like an outdoor fireplace, a new porch, or an upgraded deck are great additions. Consider high performance composite decking, a common brand is Trex, for great quality and value.
4. Exterior Upgrade – Fresh paint, a new roof, and new landscaping can transform the look of your home completely and even make your neighbors jealous with this project. Maybe they will follow your lead and paint their houses, too!
5. New Cement Siding / Windows – Many homes in our area built between the 1980s-90s were built using a siding referred to as OSB, or Orient Strand Board. One of the common brands that was used is called “LP” siding. This siding is a wood fiber glued together that deteriorates over time and is susceptible to moisture and other weather damage. New cement board siding, one of the popular brands is “Hardie Plank,” is made from a cement fiber that can withstand moisture and weather damage. If your home was built using OSB siding, it is also likely to have wooden single-pane windows. A major upgrade that will pay off when selling your home is replacing all of the siding and windows. Upgrading your windows to new dual-pane windows will enhance the curb appeal of your home and you’ll realize energy savings + noise reduction.
Renovating in today’s market requires patience and flexibility. The pandemic has caused price increases due to supply shortages and rising labor costs. Labor is hard to find, and you’ll need to plan ahead carefully with materials. We suggest that you make a plan and order supplies before you begin. Some appliances and fixtures can take weeks or months to come in, certain paints are hard to find, and the list goes on. In the end, it will be worth it! We hear it all the time: “I should have done this years ago!” Don’t delay and wait until you’re about to sell your home. Do it now and enjoy it without breaking the bank!