A way to stay in your house or boost its value

Remodeling in Midwest outpacing other areas

A construction worker works Oct. 5 on a house that is having its siding remodeled in Crystal Lake.
A construction worker works Oct. 5 on a house that is having its siding remodeled in Crystal Lake.

To Helen Cyrwus, it seems that more fellow homeowners are undertaking renovation projects for their properties given today’s housing market conditions.

“More people are fixing up their homes to make it more into what they want instead of selling it and buying something new,” said Cyrwus, an Algonquin homeowner who also rents out residential properties in Algonquin and West Dundee.

As both homeowner and landlord, renovation projects come easily for her household. She and her husband consider the costly upgrades as an investment for the family’s future.

Even in the current lackluster housing market, it’s wise to muster the energy to renovate, local and national observers say.

It’s common for homeowners to begin refurbishing and remodeling projects before putting their homes on the market. The improvements add value to the property, increasing the selling price.

But those who aren’t thinking about relocating can reap major benefits from successful remodeling and renovation projects. Smart home improvements can become a significant long-term investment and help homeowners weather future economic crises.

Then there are others who simply want aesthetic changes and seek to modernize cabinets, fixtures and appliances. Budget-conscious homeowners may choose to “green” up the home’s lighting and air ventilation system to save on future energy costs.

In light of the market’s slow-moving pace, some homeowners realize “it could take several more years before [the house] sells, so you might as well invest your money into upgrade work,” Cyrwus said.

For older homeowners and residents, certain renovations are necessary. As people age, some need more reinforcements to continue to live in their homes independently. Examples of “age in place” modifications include placing the master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor and installing levered door handles, slip-resistance surfaces and handrails.

Professionals who provide these particular renovation services often are certified as aging-in-place specialists.

According to the latest findings by the National Association of Home Builders in January, the remodeling market index (RMI) shows that those in the remodeling and renovating business are seeing steady demand.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the RMI score reached 41.5, an increase from 40.8 in the previous quarter.

An RMI score less than 50 would indicate that more remodelers are reporting lower market activity compared with the previous quarter.

And according to the national association, the market index has been flat. In fact, the RMI has not gone over 50 since the final quarter of 2005.

Cyrwus and her family moved into their current home just five years ago. The single-family residence has in-floor heating and a heated garage. And sometime when the family finds time, they may add another walkout entrance downstairs for their two-tiered patio deck.

Until then, refurbishing their rental properties is a high priority. Earlier this month, Cyrwus was fielding responses from people interested in renting out an apartment unit that offers a wide view of the lakefront. The West Dundee one-bedroom residence recently received a face-lift with new carpeting, a new door and concrete floor for the garage, some new drywall and windows, a refurbished countertop and interior painting.

Rather than out of necessity, the upgrades were put in “because it would be so much nicer,” Cyrwus said. “For us, it’s something that we do. It’s a reflection of me.”

The tweaks don’t hurt in attracting prospective renters. Less than a week after posting the ad on Craigslist, Cyrwus received inquiries from at least seven apartment hunters.

“Remodelers are starting to see an uptick in interest from consumers who are considering future remodeling projects,” NAHB Chairman Bob Peterson said. “Homeowners are also showing more willingness to undertake larger remodeling projects.”

According to the report the latest conditions indices for remodeling improved in the Midwest and the South. In the Midwest, the indices went up to 54.3, from 44.9 in the third quarter, while the South reached 45.8, from 42.3. What’s more, future market indicators jumped in nearly all regions.

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