Recession Proof Your Home

With home prices falling and recession worries on the rise, many homeowners are putting off home improvement projects. And for good reason; investing in upgrades doesn’t seem like a good idea if you don’t expect it to increase the value of your home.

But you might want to reconsider that notion. Even in this tight credit market, a home in a good neighborhood with curb appeal and that feels warm and comfortable inside will sell long before the one next door that looks warn down and neglected!

Also, it’s important to remember that real estate is a cyclical market and prices will come back, so by doing a few inexpensive improvements you’ll be able to enjoy living in your house now while you wait for the market to rebound. And if you decide to sell when things improve you’ll be a step ahead of the game by recession proofing your home. Here are a few tips to help you “recession-proof” your home:

Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Ask any Realtor and they will tell you that potential buyers pass judgment within the first minute of seeing a house. Since the first thing they will see is the exterior, it makes sense to start with your home’s curb appeal; landscaping, siding and exterior paint can make all the difference in terms of first impressions.

Landscaping is something most people can do themselves. Look on Angie’s List or Craig’s List and you can find a landscape designer to help you draw up plans that you can follow yourself.

And with so many contractors looking for work, you can negotiate much better prices than you could have 2 years ago, making this a great time to upgrade your landscaping, whether you don’t have the time and interest to do the work yourself or you just need a competent professional to put in some new hardscaping, irrigation and sprinkler system or other tasks you don’t have the skills and experience to so yourself.

Update Your Home’s Interior

Once a potential buyer has judged your home from the curb, the next thing of course is what they’ll think when they step inside. If your home feels cluttered and out-of-date or they just don’t agree with your decorating tastes, they probably won’t spend more than a few minutes looking around before moving on to the next house on their Realtor’s list.

So, once again first impressions really matter. The first things a potential buyer sees when entering your home will be the flooring, wall paint and trim work, so these are generally the best place to start. These are also great projects to do on a budget compared to making major home improvements.

Consider using neutral colors when painting walls; while you may love bright primary colors, remember that everyone’s tastes are different and it is proven that homes with neutral wall colors tend to sell better. The same goes for flooring; while you may love bright colored tile flooring or carpeting a more neutral color will appeal to a broader group of potential buyers.

If your home has standard track home baseboards and window casings you might want to consider hiring a contractor to update your trim work; crown molding, custom baseboards and window casings will give your home’s interior a much more appealing look that you’ll enjoy while you live in it and can really increase salability.

You’ll find a lot more inexpensive decorating ideas in our Budget Home Decorating Guide.

Preventive Maintenance

In hard economic times people tend to put off general repairs and maintenance. This is absolutely the worst path to take. If you can’t afford any of the other projects detailed in this article, at least be sure you take care of preventative maintenance.

Letting your leaky roof go will cost you a LOT more in the long run than having it repaired now! Cleaning roof gutters, annual inspection of the heating and air conditioning system and other normal maintenance tasks simply should not be ignored.

If you can’t do the work yourself and budget is tight you’ll just have to get creative and somehow find the funds to keep up with general maintenance on your home. Find other areas in the family budget to cut back in order to make basic home maintenance a priority.

Do One or Two Major Upgrades

Now, if you are fortunate to be well-employed and have enough “cushion” in your savings account to feel relatively comfortable your finances are sufficient to see you through the current economic slump, you might want to consider going ahead with the renovations you had planned when you originally bought your home.

Given that you may be able to negotiate a lower price with contractors right now, investing in modernizing your home is still a good long term investment and could pay a higher return than some other investments you could make.

For ideas on what projects to consider, read our complete story Top Ten Improvements to Increase Home Value. To learn more about how to save money on home improvements you might also want to read How to Save Money on Home Improvement Costs.

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