Here’s why home maintenance and home improvement aren’t the same.

Let’s start with what home maintenance and home improvement have in common: It’s all money a homeowner is spending on their home. The question, of course, is how does each translate into the increased value of your home? 

Maintenance should be understood (quite intuitively) as everything that’s required to simply maintain the value of your home, like repairing a roof that sustained damage in a hail storm or replacing an old A/C system that petered out. While spending money on a brand-new roof or HVAC is certainly an investment, it may or not bring added value relative to another home that has fully-functioning systems that aren’t brand-new. The reality is, if something major within the home goes kaput, you don’t really have a choice; it has to be fixed. 

What about items that still work fine but are nearing the end of their lifespan or showing signs of trouble? Those are commonly categorized as deferred maintenance, and if you don’t get ahead of them as a homeowner, buyers will most likely seek concessions in the sale as a consequence—someone will have to fix them sooner or later, and buyers don’t want that “someone” to be them. Chipping paint, wood rot, and drafty windows or doors are all classic examples of deferred maintenance items. Spending money on maintenance is always advised. 

“The last thing you want to do is risk over-improving your home for the area in which you live.”

An improvement, on the other hand, is money spent with the intention to add value to the home. Whether that value will be best measured by your family’s continued enjoyment of the home or the sale price you fetch for it on the market is for you to decide. An obvious improvement would be the addition of an in-ground swimming pool or an outdoor living space. Bathroom or kitchen remodels are also another great example. Depending on how long you live in the home after making these improvements, you may very well see a 100% return on your investment and then some. 

If ROI is the main objective of your improvement plans, then you’ll want to consult your trusted real estate agent before spending any money to be sure you won’t risk over-improving your home for the area in which you live. Having an over-improved home—especially one with features that make it stand out clearly in the neighborhood—could come back to bite you on the market when it’s time to sell.

Here’s a pro tip regarding decor, one of the few aspects that sort of blur the lines between maintenance and improvement: Every seven to 10 years, you should update the decor of your home to fit the latest trends. That way, should you suddenly need to sell on a dime, you could absolutely do so while maximizing every ounce of equity. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy an updated home! It breaks my heart when some of my clients wait to update their decor until it’s time to sell and find themselves saying, “Why didn’t I do this sooner? Now it’s even harder to say goodbye to this place!” 

If you have any questions about deferred maintenance or ROI-savvy improvements, I’d love to be your real estate resource. Just give me a call or send an email; I’d love to hear from you and learn more about how I can best serve your particular needs. Also, if you have a topic you’d like to see me do a video on, don’t be shy! You know how to reach me.