In my many years as both a homeowner and homestyles journalist, I have observed that home repair and improvement projects tend to fall into three categories: the ones you need to do, the ones you want to do, and the ones you do solely to increase the value of your home.
The urgent projects you find in the first category, such as leaky pipes, cold furnaces or an invasion of termites, are the ones most likely to grab the dollars in the average home owner’s repairs budget. Postponing these repairs can not only make a home uncomfortable, but can also lead to a small problem getting worse and costing even more to repair.
Projects meant to boost a home’s value take on their own urgency when we first begin to anticipate moving. The scruffy front door that we learned to ignore or the outdated bathroom vanity suddenly stands out as a liability that could make our home harder to sell. We consult lists of which projects will give us the most bang for our buck, spruce up what we can, and when it’s all done we may sit back and think, “Gee, it wouldn’t be so bad to stay here now.”
The home improvements that are left “for later” are the ones that have no particular urgency or potential return on investment, but would please us personally. Now that I am finally ensconced in my new residence I can enjoy a few projects for pleasure, with the first major one being the installation of custom shelving. The past few years have certainly been a whirlwind of projects, repairs and contractors for me and Mrs. Home Guru, and it got me wondering what other homeowners were working on, and how much of it was a result of urgent need and how much was for personal expression.
To satisfy my curiosity, I first turned to Angie’s List, the well-known website where paid subscribers rate local businesses. On their home page (once you have subscribed) they list the top twenty most popular services under “Home, Yard, Auto, Pets & More,” and as might be expected, urgent situations made up nearly half of the list, with plumbing, heating & A/C and roofing making up the top three. Other practical and sensible services that were most needed included carpet cleaning, pest control, large appliance repair, housecleaning and general handyman services. The services on the list I could imagine being either for fun or for increasing value included interior and exterior painting, landscaping, and general and kitchen remodeling. I was amused to see “moving” at the bottom of the list, as though the beleaguered homeowner has finally said, “Enough!”
HomeAdvisor.com offers a similar service as Angie’s List, and their site gave me a little more data to explore. Their top projects are listed in order of popularity within each category (letting me know, for example, that people are more interested in home solar energy than geothermal energy), but I was most interested in their extensive list of most popular projects by city. At the risk of reading too much into things, but also acknowledging that The Home Guru can be allowed a few flights of fancy, I decided to compare New York with Tampa and Minneapolis.
Judging by the list, New York comes across as a city of serious builders. Two of the three top projects as of this writing involved architects/engineers and concrete, reminding me of the city’s well-known canyons of skyscrapers. The third project in the top three was heating and furnace systems, reflecting the brutal winters that often hit New York. Finally, although home security services made the list of top fifty projects in each of the three cities I viewed, nowhere did it rank as high as it did in New York, coming in at #6. Even with crime in New York at relatively low levels, the residents there still need to play it safe.
The next city I looked at was Tampa, Florida. The two top projects there were designers and decorators, and garages and garage doors, reflecting a population who can devote a little more time to the upkeep of their homes, as opposed to tending to urgent repairs. As befitting a location in a warm climate, swimming pools were in the top ten, as well as pest control. The cold weather here in New York may drive some pests indoors to live with us, but at least it also culls some of the population each year, so we have that working in our favor.
Finally, I perused the top projects in chilly Minneapolis, MN, and found that the top ten included insulation, windows and snow removal service. But it’s not always winter in Minnesota, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised to see decks made the top ten as well. I imagine that when the summers are short, you would want to be outside enjoying them as much as you can.
It seems that nationwide we are a diligent bunch, prioritizing our home projects by urgency first before turning to those that give us pleasure.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.