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Right upgrades boost value

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This is a true story. My garage door was the shame of the neighborhood. Termite-riddled, sagging and apparently installed upside down and backward, it presented a shantytown face to the ‘hood. So we saved our pennies and bought a new one a couple of years ago, made of aluminum and steel, and today the garage door is the best-looking part of the house. Which is good, because it faces the street. The rest of the house might catch up someday.

According to recently released data from Remodeling magazine, it turns out that replacing the garage door was a good move, as it adds value to your home over and above the actual cost. In fact, Hawaii leads the nation in value-added garage-door additions, even though they cost a bit more here.

In Hawaii a new garage door costs a bit more than $1,500 to install and adds an estimated $2,769 to the value of your home, a bump of a whopping 180.8 percent, according to the magazine’s "Cost vs. Value Report," done in conjunction with the National Association of Realtors. The report evaluates home-remodeling jobs and then projects a return on investment.

GET INSPIRED

Get more ideas on fixing up your place at the BIA Home Building and Remodeling Show 2011, Friday through Sunday at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Call 629-7503 or e-mail ckw@biahawaii.org.

On the mainland, by comparison, its costs $1,291 to install a new garage door, changing the value by an estimated $1,083, or 83.9 percent. Even though you don’t "get back" all you’ve spent, it still adds something to the perceived value of the home, and the garage door also leads on the mainland in appraisal value.

Bathroom remodeling? A 108.8 percent return in Hawaii. A deck addition? A 125.5 percent return — unless the deck is made of expensive composite wood, and the return becomes 105.2 percent.

Dallas-based Overhead Door, a nationwide manufacturer of garage doors with a branch office in Hawaii, commissioned Remodeling magazine to include garage doors in its annual survey for the first time. Beyond Honolulu, other cities with a more-than-100-percent return on garage doors include Charleston, W.Va.; Providence, R.I.; and San Francisco.

Hawaii real estate appraiser James K. Jones points out that no item on the list returns 100 percent of the cost, due to depreciation and other factors, although "it looks like, from the data, garage doors have a pretty good rate of return," he said. "Every home is different, and charts like this are just guidelines."

Jones wondered whether the Realtors surveyed were working from actual "historical data," and pointed out that some "improvements" might actually make your home less attractive to buyers. "Is the improvement functional rather than cosmetic? Take swimming pools — a potential buyer might not want one, which makes the pool a negative value in that case. But what if the house is in a neighborhood in which everyone swims? In that context it’s a positive," he said. "That also goes for landscaping to a certain extent. Everything you add that’s out of the ordinary will also make your home appeal to a narrower and narrower audience."

Garage doors, explained Jones, are both functional and cosmetic, adding security while also making the home look better. Other sure-fire improvements that tag both bases are kitchen and bathroom upgrades. "Do your homework when planning upgrades and remember that every property is unique," he said.

"Don’t overdo it!" advised Hawaii real estate appraiser Michael J. Chun. "The more it costs, the harder it will be to get your money back."

When preparing a home for sale, it really helps to fix any damaged or defective workmanship, he said. "Anything that’s worn out, like leaky faucets. If it looks bad, clean it up. But if it looks decent and works, you may never get back the money you spent in replacing it."

Realtor Diane Anderson of Sundance Realty advises adding hurricane clips and other storm-proofing, which might also affect your home’s insurance rates. "And it’s a no-brainer to go solar; photovoltaic panels and solar heating may cost a lot, but they really add to a home’s value."

What needs tweaking can depend on what’s most utilitarian. "If the value added leads to more enjoyment in the home, then it’s likely a safe upgrade. And tastes change," Chun said. "For example, these days families prefer stainless-steel appliances, whereas in the past they preferred all-white appliances. Things change, as does value."

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