Tuesday, July 6, 2010

10 Ways to Modernize Your Home

Why is it such a big deal to be “modern”? What value do modern kitchen cabinets or other contemporary updates add to your home, especially when you’ve always enjoyed traditional d├ęcor? Two words: resale value!

You may like a traditional look, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as “traditional” doesn’t translate to your potential buyers as “outdated”. Here are 10 ways to ensure it doesn’t, by modernizing your home for a better resale value:

1. Improve Exteriors – Curb appeal is important. Keep it clutter-free and avoid overgrown shrubbery or plain rows of evergreen bushes. Mix it up with rich foliage in attractive groups of threes and fives, rather than the more traditional pairings. Add perennial flowers for color and mulch to give everything a finished look. (Black mulch is a more modern touch than traditional brown shades.)

2. Paint – The traditional pre-sale procedure is to blast everything in neutrals so a buyer will not be turned off by your personal taste and will feel the freedom to put his or her own personality into the home. Neutral paints are still popular, but there’s something to be said for showing potential buyers the home’s potential with a little pop – try an accent wall in high traffic areas like the living room, dining room or kitchen in a bold, eye-catching color. With improvements in today’s paints, covering a dark red or blue wall is much easier to do than it used to be if they want to change it!

3. Update the kitchen – It’s one of the first rooms potential buyers look at. Concentrate on the flooring, countertops, sink, lighting and cabinetry. Kitchens should have a clean feel, so replace any flooring that is buckling or cracking. Granite and marble countertops are a modern touch and will make any cook feel like a professional. Replace the sink if it’s a shallow, single basin. Two basin, stainless steel sinks will immediately improve kitchen value. Remember to enhance the lighting scheme with contemporary fixtures and high wattage bulbs – even at night, the kitchen should have a light, airy feel.

Finally, the number one way to improve the look of your kitchen is with modern kitchen cabinets. Potential buyers can go any way they want with styling and accessories, but the cabinets themselves are the framework for the space and should look contemporary, timeless and durable.

Keep in mind, kitchens are gathering places. Custom cabinets, fresh paint and new, energy-efficient appliances are obvious places to start and the first thing potential buyers will notice, but they will find your kitchen more inviting if there is an island, breakfast bar and cozy stools for the busy modern family to enjoy a quick meal together. If you have a small, uninviting kitchen, consider opening or enlarging this space before making expansive additions to the house elsewhere.

4. Frame it - Put up wood trim and cornicing for an upgraded, contemporary look. Accentuate newly painted walls with ceiling trim and armchair railing. Replace old light switches and outlets, as updating to more modern switches, plates and fixtures implies that the home has newer electrical wiring.

5. Dress up the floors - Hardwood flooring is always fashionable and can be updated to a contemporary look with throw rugs. Woods floors are more versatile than carpet. If you have covered hardwood floors, check their condition by pulling up a small piece of your existing carpet in a discrete location, like the corner of a closet. Refinishing floors is an inexpensive update, especially if you do it yourself. If you don’t have hardwoods under your carpet, at a minimum have them cleaned, and ideally look into inexpensive laminate wood floors. (Laminate floors also give kitchens a more modern look than vinyl tile or ceramic squares.)

6. Update the bathroom – Next to the kitchen, it’s the most common place potential buyers look for improvements. You can still keep a traditional look (read claw tubs and pedestal sinks) with modern convenience. Consider timer fans, heated floors and updated lighting. Like new light switches and outlets will give the impression of updated wiring, so too will updated bathroom fixtures give the impression of newer plumbing. Replace or paint outdated cabinets for a clean, fresh feel and don’t forget to update their hardware. Sometimes it’s the little things that impact buyers the most.

7. Make room for media – A den used to be an optional room, but today’s families desire space for computers and game consoles. Even if you do your computer work from a laptop in your bedroom and don’t own an X-box, create a space where a potential buyer can picture an office or media room. Make sure the space isn’t in a secluded area of the home. Modern parents want to keep the family computer in a visible place.

8. Improve storage – Modern home owners have more need for storage than ever. Counter space and table tops are needed for TV remotes, cell phones and charging stations for the many electronic gadgets. This means the traditional items you’d expect to keep out in the open need to be tucked away. Look at ways to improve closets and cabinets with organizers or permanent shelving to maximize empty space.

9. Improve energy efficiency - If your home is in a hot, humid climate, install ceiling fans, especially in second floor bedrooms. This is an inexpensive investment that will increase the home's energy efficiency and improve its perceived value. In addition, add insulation, make sure you have fresh caulk to seal leaks, and upgrade to energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights. If you invest in these changes, make sure to highlight them to buyers. Efforts to improve energy efficiency are not easily perceived during a walk-through.

10. Stage It – Lastly, when you’ve made all your updates, throw on the finishing touches with modern accessories that will brighten up your home. Candles (unscented for the kitchen), mirrors, rugs, and throw pillows are easy ways to renew the energy of a room. Highlight your beautiful custom cabinets in the kitchen with bowls of fresh fruit and shiny appliances, even if you don’t use them on a daily basis (like a new blender or bread maker). Finally, don’t forget to show off all your changes with bright light bulbs.