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Home Improvement Project Planning

May 12th, 2017

Home ownership is often a family’s largest investment, and according to the National Association of Realtors, this also brings substantial benefits for families and communities through the impact of stable housing for a number of positive social, family, civic and economic outcomes. While working with communities, families often identify the need to further maintain and improve the existing housing stock. In response, UW-Extension brought together the following research and resources for home improvement project value and planning for neighbors to make informed decisions with local solutions to support their home improvement needs and aspirations.

Home Improvement Project Value

Home value depends on who is making the decision. This is usually done by the homeowner when they prepare to sell, obtain a Home Equity Line of Credit, or refinance and need a home appraisal for their home’s Fair Market Value. Other times, a home’s value is appraised for property assessments and insurance purposes (replacement costs and cash value).

When considering how your home improvement project might affect your home’s value, consider multiple perspectives of what your project goal may accomplish:

  • Restoring Value: fixing a major issue
  • Adding Value: adding a new half bath, landscaping/outdoor living space, insulation, or strategically increased living space; painting or a minor kitchen remodel
  • Raising Personal Value: if you plan to stay at your home for a while and would really enjoy having a certain upgrade

Also, consider the concept of curb appeal. What is the first impression visitors get when seeing your home and yard from the road? Consumer Reports recently identified ways to upgrade your home’s curb appeal with a moderate budget. These exterior strategies include a new roof, painting, water smart yard, and trimming overgrown shrubs. Additional exterior strategies to increase curb appeal include driveway repair or replacement and garage door replacement.

Home Improvement Project Planning Tips

When planning for your home improvement projects, consider your budget, incentives, permits needed and if you will work with a contractor.

To protect your investment in your house, the University of Illinois Extension suggests budgeting 1-2% of your home’s value for seasonal home maintenance needs. If your home or appliances are older, you may need to save a little more. This annual amount divided up into a monthly amount, can then be saved in a special account for maintenance, repairs and improvements.

To reduce your energy costs and increase comfort, look for energy tax credits to make energy efficiency improvements. A lot of money is wasted in summer and winter with heating, conditioning due to leaks from unsealed holes, cracks, and lack of insulation. For an accurate measure of air leakage, consider having an energy audit conducted. Programs like Focus on Energy work with Trade Allies to contract this service with cost incentives.

For when the time comes closer to sell your home, check with your municipality to determine what permits are needed before starting your project.

If you decide to hire a contractor to work on the project, know your rights, do your research and evaluate your options before the time comes to sign a contract. Consumer Reports’ article Home Renovation without Aggravation provides a good overview. Consider the following tips as you being to plan for your project:

  • Clarify project objectives and plan ahead to find a quality contractor for your needs.
  • Start your research well in advance, seek referrals from friends/family/neighbors and conduct online research about the business you are considering through sources such as National Association of Remodeling Industry (nari.org), and Angie’s List (angieslist.com)
  • Get three competitive bids. Always seek multiple bids with trusted contractors and ask them for references form recent jobs. Be leary of a low estimate; ask about project timeline and number of workers that will be assigned to the job.
  • Ask for a lien waiver. This protects the homeowner from having a lien put on the property if contractor does not pay material suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Have a written contract that includes: a full description of the job, a detailed list of materials to be used, a total price, a starting and a completion date and statement explaining any warranties.

To avoid scams, also beware of transient or temporary home improvement workers visiting your neighborhood. See Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Home Improvement Consumer Tips for more information on this and other consumer rights and recommendations.

Planning ahead and researching your home improvement options will help you to strategically reinvest in your home, family and community. Recently, UW-Extension Waukesha County facilitated a Home Improvement Workshop with the City of Waukesha to build on community efforts to maintain and improve existing housing stock. The following agencies were in participation of the workshop and provided outreach on the available resources to assist with home improvement projects. Contact them directly to find out more about their outreach services.


8 Ways to Boost Your Home Value. Consumer Reports, February 9, 2016 http://www.consumerreports.org/home-improvement/8-ways-to-boost-your-home-value/

Cost Vs Value. Compare remodeling project cost recouped in US markets from a real estate professional’s perception: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2016/

Home Improvement Consumer Tips, State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Publications/HI-ConsumerTips136.aspx

Home Renovation Without Aggravation. Consumer Reports, March 28, 2017 http://www.consumerreports.org/home-improvement/home-renovation-without-aggravation/

Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features. National Association of Realtors. https://www.nar.realtor/reports/remodeling-impact-report-outdoor-features

Civil Rights Statement: University of Wisconsin, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin counties cooperating. An EEO/AA employer, University of Wisconsin provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title VI, Title IX and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.