You are your best investment vehicle. You are the engine that runs You, Inc. You have a job, you drive yourself to work, you do the job. You, you, you. But most people leave it there. You shouldn't because some of your best investment opportunities happen after work. Like fixing up your house.
Read the article below but we will concentrate on the return on investment.
Summary--the article talks about the things YOU can do to fix up your house to sell it. The reverse works as well--if you are looking for a house to buy look at the one that stinks and figure out how to fix it. And how to fix it yourself because that is where the returns are.
Here is the takeaway from the article on DIY projects.
TILE A FLOOR
Your cost $265
Contractor Cost $1,000
Your cost $135
Contractor Cost $1,200
(I'm not sure about this one and it has the lowest return but...)
Your cost $700
Contractor cost $1,200
DINING ROOM-REPLACE OVERHEAD FIXTURE
(Warning--this one is harder than it looks. Not the electric part, just the working with your hands up in the air part and trying to get bolts and nuts to line up.)
Your cost $150
Contractor cost $700
You might quibble with the ROI calculation--it is early and I don't feel like doing a bunch of math but even if the returns were half, you get the idea. AND DON'T THINK YOU CAN'T DO IT-WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW A RHODES SCHOLAR WALKING AROUND A CONSTRUCTION SITE? LEARN HOW TO DO IT AND REAP THE REWARDS.
My wife asked a few years ago how much we have saved/made by doing projects ourselves. Being a cheap bastard and not afraid to saw off a finger or two, we have done a lot of projects. Off the top of my head I threw out "$300,000." I think I figured low.
Small Projects That Pay Off Big
Make your home more appealing to buyers (and yourself) with these easy indoor upgrades you can do on your own.
THE ENTRYWAY: TILE THE FLOOR
Do-it-yourself: $200 for tiles (four feet by four feet); $65 for tools
What you'd pay a pro: $1,000
Skill level: 2/4
Time: 1 day
"The foyer is the buyer's first impression of your house," says Sid Davis, author of Home Makeovers That Sell. "If people walk in and see a bad floor, they're going to wonder, 'What else is wrong with this dump?'"
Do this if... Your neighbors all have tile entries and you don't. And definitely if you have carpeting or linoleum, says carpenter Rick Crowe of Albany, N.Y. "The cheapest ceramic tile has more curb appeal than the most expensive linoleum."
What sells a house best: Anything that looks like stone, says Berlin. "Natural stone is timeless - everybody wanted it 2,000 years ago in Rome, everybody wants it now."
It's also pricey ($4 and up per square foot); porcelain is a durable, cheaper alternative ($2.50 and up) that can look similar.
You need: Tiles, spacers, adhesive, notched trowel, grout, sealer and plywood
The basic job: You must pull up the old flooring and install a layer of plywood. Then glue, grout and seal. The hardest part is cutting the tile, which you'll likely have to do around borders. Ask the tile store if it provides this service for free.
Where to find directions: Go to doityourself.com/miscellaneousfloor.
Tip: Go for six-inch tiles or bigger. The less grouting there is, the easier cleanup will be.
THE KITCHEN: PAINT THE CABINETS
Do-it-yourself: $135 for tools and paint supplies; $5 and up per knob
What you'd pay a pro: $1,200, refacing; $5,000, replacing
Skill level: 2/4
Time: 2 days
"You'll make or break your sale in the kitchen," says Sid Davis, author of Home Makeovers That Sell. "It's the first room people head to when they look at a home, and if it doesn't meet their expectations, forget it."
Do this if... You're selling soon. You won't recoup the cost of fully replacing shabby cabinets with new ones (that's $5,000 and up). Refacing them is harder and costly too ($1,000-plus). A coat of paint, on the other hand, can cheaply do a lot to spiff up what you have, even if it's a bit of a cosmetic fix. "Over the long run, it'll chip and wear," cautions contractor Berlin. But hey, that's someone else's problem.
Payoff: "If buyers like your kitchen, they will go through the rest of the home," says Davis.
What sells a house best: Neutral colors like white or brown, suggests Berlin
You need: Drill, bits, tarp, sandpaper, primer, oil-based or latex acrylic paint or stain, paintbrushes (avoid rollers because they can add unwanted texture) and knobs
The basic job: On the first day, you'll remove the cabinets, sand them and apply primer. Wake up the next morning and paint or stain. Add fresh hardware to make them look brand new.
Where to find directions: doityourself.com/stry/paintcabinets
THE FAMILY ROOM: BUILD BOOKSHELVES
Do-it-yourself: $500 for two six-foot-by-eight-foot oak shelves; $200 for tools
What you'd pay a pro: $1,200
Skill level: 1/4 (fixed shelves); 3/4 (adjustable)
Time: 1.5 days
"Since about 20 years ago, when builders started putting in family rooms off kitchens, these spaces have really come up in importance," says Sid Davis, author of Home Makeovers That Sell.
Do this if... You have an odd nook that otherwise would seem like wasted space - say, under the stairwell or alongside the fireplace - or You need: to add dimension and character to a room that lacks any architectural detailing.
Payoff: "You'll give the buyer an idea of how the space can be used," says realtor Camp.
What sells a house best: Hardwoods like oak ($10 a linear foot) and mahogany ($12) are sturdier and more appealing to buyers than cheaper fiberboard and particleboard (both $15 per eight-foot piece).Fixed shelves are beloved by realtors and designers for their clean look. Read: no unsightly brackets.
But there's also a case for adjustable. "Some people will have vases, others books," says New York City interior designer Chris Coleman. "This gives the buyer some flexibility." As for color, aim for innocuous - natural woods or woods painted off-white or beige are best.
You need: Precut wood, drill, bit, brackets and rails or shelf clips and a handsaw
The basic job: You'll spend the most time screwing brackets and uprights into the wall.
Where to find directions: Go to acehardware.com /infohome and select Project How-To's; then scroll down and click on Building Shelves.
Tip: Avoid installing shelves if your family room is small. They can make tiny rooms too cozy.
THE DINING ROOM: REPLACE THE OVERHEAD FIXTURE
Do-it-yourself: $39 to $300 for the lamp; $40 for tools
What you'd pay a pro: $700
Skill level: 2/4
Time: 4 hours
"People who do a lot of entertaining will pay attention to this room," says Jay Fellhauer, a ReMax agent in Grand Junction, Colo.
Do this if... You haven't replaced the lighting in years, and it's not meant to look antique. Brass should definitely go, says Berlin, since "that springs cheap."
Payoff: "Good lighting is critical, especially in the dining area," says realtor Camp. "The right chandelier sets the tone and makes a dramatic impact on the buyer."
What sells a house best: Think universal appeal. In other words, don't go all Liberace if your house is country-style. Also, beware of an oversize or undersize fixture, which can make the room seem out of proportion. Use your dining table as a judge: The chandelier's diameter should be 12 inches less than the table's width.
You need: Chandelier (stick to models that are less than 30 pounds - heavier ones require a fan brace to support, "and you're better off hiring a pro to install that," says carpenter Crowe), metal outlet box, wire nuts, electrical tester, electrical tape, safety goggles, bulbs and wire cutter
The basic job: First you must shut off the circuit breaker. In most homes you'll be able to hang a lightweight chandelier from an existing electrical box (more likely if it's metal). Expose the wires and unscrew the wire nuts to remove the previous fixture; then match up the wires from the lamp with the wires in the box.
Where to find directions: Go to lowes.com and select How-To Projects from the Project Center pulldown menu, then Lighting and Electric from the menu at left.
THE MASTER BATH: ADD GLASS SHOWER DOORS
Do-it-yourself: $300 to $800 for the glass-door kit; $70 for tools
What you'd pay a pro: $1,150
Skill level: 3/4
Time: 4 hours
"If you're going to put money into a home, you should start in the rooms with running water," advises Adam Berlin, a contractor in Littleton, Colo. and host of DIY network's Sweat Equity.
Do this if... The room isn't particularly spacious. "A curtain divides it and makes it seem smaller," says Camp.
Payoff: Because the eye doesn't stop at the curtain, "glass doors give the appearance of more open space," Camp adds.
What sells a house best: Frameless doors, which have a clean, spa-like look. Thing is, these are hell to install on bathroom walls that aren't quite flush. Framed doors, while less ideal, are still an improvement on a curtain. If you plan to live in the house while you're trying to sell, you might consider frosted glass, "especially if your neighborhood has hard water," says Crowe. "Clear glass will show the soap scum."
You need: Caulk gun, silicone adhesive (waterproof caulk), file, hacksaw, drill, bit, punch, miter box and anchors
The basic job: You'll attach the bottom track with adhesive, then drill in the bottom and side tracks. After you install the door and panels, you'll put in the top tracks; finish by sealing the tracks with waterproof caulk.
Where to find directions: Read the paperwork that comes with the door kit - every model is different.
Tip: Pick out doors in person, visiting the showroom with dimensions in hand. Do you really want to mail back a glass door ordered online?