How to add value and refinement to any home By Colin Anderson
It’s been a bit of a wild ride in real estate over the past 15 years. It took the market a sizable amount of time to recover from the crash of 2007, and just as prices stabilized and were on an upward trend to see solid annual growth, the pandemic hit. Unlike the great recession, however, home prices have, in fact, not crashed but rather soared—especially in our region. If you weathered the first storm, or even if you’ve purchased in the past three to five years, many homes have doubled in value as an influx of new residents move to our cities and smaller communities alike.
This, in combination with many workers still able to work from home, has fueled a huge increase in demand for housing at all levels in the Northwest. As we’ve learned, real estate can be a bit unpredictable, but recent trends are showing a bit of a return to a more balanced market come 2022. Market analysts at Zillow expect home values to grow 13.6 percent between September 2021 and September 2022. Prices are already up nearly 20 percent from December of 2020 to December of 2021. Home sales in 2021 were also up some 7 percent when compared to 2020.
The sky-high building material prices of this past summer have begun to come down some, however, supply chain issues and labor market challenges continue to put many builders behind. While you might be sitting on a pile of equity and ready to make the move up, potential buyers are continuing to experience long lead times both for new builds and custom home construction. While this can be frustrating to some, it also offers you more lead time in which to get the design of your dream home just right.
The shift to work from home for many has greatly impacted what potential buyers are looking for in both a new build and existing home. In fact, these home upgrades and designs appeared in the most homes for sale in the U.S. in 2021: home office, family room, view, basement and pool rounded out the top five. It’s clear that people are more focused on making their home as comfortable as possible while creating spaces for work environment, family time and entertaining.
Staying up on emerging trends can help elevate your current home’s value, or put you in the right position for both comfort and long-term value when putting together plans for a custom build.
Just like all other aspects in life, you get just one shot to make a first impression. Despite the fact you’ll spend many more hours of your life inside the comforts of your home rather than staring at the exterior, potential buyers might see red flags about your property the moment they pull up. Many new custom homes are designed using elements of craftsman or farmhouse style. Striking white or more muted tans and blues are popular exterior colors for new builds. While you can’t easily change an existing home’s exterior, something as simple as a fresh coat of paint and a few clean accents can make an older home appear much more modern.
Consider hiring professional painters to give your exterior a new shine. Neutral and soothing colors like whites, tans, blues and grays remain popular, with many choosing to add a pop of color around window frames—just be sure not to overdo the contrast too much. You can also extend this to the front door by choosing another color that pops or matching it up with your other exterior accents. Updating your address numbers and garage lights to something more on trend is another very inexpensive way to help your home’s exterior shine.
Simplified landscaping can be another big factor for a couple of different reasons. Unless you are looking to attract serious gardeners to your property, simple beds and edging is seen as a positive for most buyers. For most, yard work equals less time doing more of life’s enjoyable things. Easy-to-maintain tall grasses, and small shrubs and bushes spaced out, bring a clean look to your beds. Be sure to rake leaves, sticks and other debris, and a fresh coat of mulch in beds really makes them pop.
Another emerging trend in home building and buying is water-smart or water-efficient landscape. As summers remain hot and dry all across our region, running sprinklers daily to keep lawns green and flowers blooming puts a great amount of stress on the aquifer. To combat this, the City of Spokane has created a landscape rebate program which entitles existing homeowners to a $500 credit on your utility bill for removing sections of lawn and replacing it with water-smart plants and mulch.
Replacing a vast lawn with larger sections of rock, gravel or mulch will not only save you on the water bill and environmental impact but will also add value to both new and existing homes. The city has several pages on its website under Water Wise Spokane on how to plan this type of project, and, if you are not a resident, there are many other resources available in which to build a drought-resistant landscape. Many grasses and small shrubs need watering just once a week, and there are still plenty of beautiful perennials, and larger shrubs and trees, that need very little water.
Finally, take into account fencing. Worn or sagging fencing is an immediate red flag for buyers, and many are well aware of the cost associated with building a new one. If your fence is in good shape, consider a coat of stain or fresh paint to cover any potential blemishes or age. Fencing has come a long way from simple chain links and slim wood planks. There are all kinds of trendy looks out there from aluminum, composite and wrought iron. Each has a varying cost but, typically, the stronger the material you choose the longer your fencing will stay upright and keep its curb appeal. It never hurts to approach your neighbors about divvying up the cost of the project, as they will also benefit from it.
By all accounts, the “open concept” and “place for entertaining guests” HGTV checklist marks are not going away anytime soon. New home builds continue to feature high vaulted ceilings and a main kitchen, dining and living area all sharing one great room. This being said, home-based workers are also prioritizing comfortable office spaces and finished basements in order to have a space in which to do their job and a separate place for kids to be themselves.
“Home office” was one of the biggest searches on all the major real estate platforms in both 2020 and 2021. While some workers have returned to the office full time, a large percentage remains either entirely at home or on a hybrid model, going into the office just a couple of days a week. As most saw initially, it’s rather difficult to have a serious Zoom call from your kitchen table, or guest bedroom, hence the demand for a professional office space (or two) at home. If you plan to sell your home but don’t currently have a home office setup, consider staging a smaller bedroom to look like a home office. An office has become a must for some and a top priority for many others.
Wood or laminate continue to be the preferred flooring in place of carpet. Bamboo and cork floors can give your home a truly unique look, and there are some cost-efficient laminates for more budget-conscious remodelers. If you do go with carpet, make sure it is high quality, and neutral colors are again recommended.
In the kitchen, granite countertops are beginning to lose ground to trendy materials such as concrete or butcher block. Those heavy-duty oak cabinets you’ll find in just about any ‘80s home is also something fewer new home builders are selecting. White cabinets, farmhouse-style sinks and kitchen islands are all a part of current kitchen trends. Buyers also prefer stainless-steel appliances.
When people began spending more time at home, they found that a lot of that time was spent in the backyard, and for good reason. A relaxing backyard is a great place for a meal or drink, place for kids to run around, and a calming area after a long day.
Landscape architects can help you achieve the look you want with whatever priorities you have. Drought-resistant landscaping can continue to the backyard, saving you time with the lawn mower. Hot tubs today are much easier to maintain and are an added bonus. Fire pits are another great way to enjoy cool evenings throughout the year. You might not be able to burn depending on where you live or the time of year, but natural gas or propane-fueled fire pits are readily available and easy to operate.
A deck or patio is another great selling point and relaxation space for your home. While some still prefer solid wood, materials like Trex or Timbertech give the same appearance but with none of the splinters or the annual weekend of staining. There are all kinds of patterns in these materials, and they are scratch and heat resistant. Add a pergola overhead, string some trendy rope lights across the structure, and you are in business!
Whether you are putting your home equity to work on some remodeling or ready to design your forever home, it’s important to seek out the advice of a professional architect or interior designer. They are in-the-know on what’s trending in the building industry and can match what’s trending to your particular style and preferences. They are also continually monitoring supply shipments and can give you an accurate picture on what’s available, when your build or remodel will be complete, and where costs are currently at and projected to go.
If you have the time and patience for a custom build, now might be just the right time. Many regional builders are just now getting back in the flow of things, and a lot are focused on neighborhood construction. There are many out there willing to take on a single-home custom project—but just know you might be waiting longer for your build to come to fruition.
The speedy migration to Eastern Washington and North Idaho isn’t slowing anytime soon, and builders are beginning to catch up, somewhat, with the demand. If you plan on making a move or realizing the custom build you’ve been dreaming of, do your research and hire reputable architects, designers and builders. First and foremost, make sure what you are incorporating into your home provides you the most comfort while providing lasting value in what will likely be the biggest investment in your lifetime.