Monday, April 25, 2011

REPAIR AND MAINTANENCE: Looking to Spend a Tax Refund? Consider Outside Projects

It’s that time of the year—what to do with the tax refund?

For home owners who want to spend part of their checks on home sweet home, the possibilities seem endless.

New floors or kitchen cabinets? Windows or granite countertops? What gives you the most return on your investment?

The answer might surprise you—what’s on the outside counts the most right now.
The latest figures from local and national real estate groups indicate that the best investment for your home is related to curb appeal.
“An entry door, the front door to your house, will get you the most return for your money,” said Mike Cotrill, chief operating officer for the Greater Tulsa Association of REALTORS®.
Cotrill said figures from the “Cost vs. Value” report, conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and Remodeling magazine, show that upgrading or replacing a front door is more than worth the money.
“They’ll get 102.1% of that cost recouped,” Cotrill said. “And locally in our region, it’s 116%. It’s all about curb appeal, that’s the entry point to your home.”
According to the report, which received data from Realtors in 80 cities, the “big-bang projects” include garage door replacement (83.9% payback), siding replacement (80%), kitchen remodels (72.8%), and outdoor deck additions (72.8%).
“It’s interesting that the top three are all about the outside of your home,” Cotrill said. “On a kitchen remodel this survey says you’ll get about 73% of your cost recouped, so you’re not going to get every dollar back. And these are all midrange averages.”
And outdoor projects continue to be appealing to potential buyers, he said.
“The backyard, decks, or outdoor entertainment areas are becoming more and more popular. If you get that spring fever, go outside and do some landscaping,” he said.
To read the full report, visit

Inside out

Other home owners are interested in projects that will add value and save energy.
Upgrading or repairing fundamental areas of the home will save money in the long run, said John Madden, Green Building Council Chair for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Tulsa.
“Having your HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) serviced is the biggest thing,” he said. “It’s one of the most overlooked things that I think people should do every year, even on new houses. Your HVAC accounts for a massive amount of your electric bill.”
It also might be a good time to replace insulation, especially in older homes.
“Lot of times in older homes, the insulation settles. It needs air in it, and when it’s years old and compresses, you’re losing a lot of (its effectiveness), especially in roofs. And in Oklahoma, you build up so much heat in there,” Madden said.
Some home items can be adjusted to consume less rather than be replaced, he said.
“Instead of replacing the toilet, you can actually get converters now that are anywhere from $15 to $20. It turns it into a dual-flush toilet,” he said. “That’s a great water saver.”
And if your spend your tax refund on a new refrigerator, you’ll probably save money in the long run.
“Getting rid of old appliances, your refrigerator or your washer and dryer—those units themselves coming out are much more efficient. It’s pretty remarkable.”

It’s lawn time

Getting good curb appeal for your home starts with a healthy lawn. Here are some tips on keeping it green and lush from the Home Depot:

When to fertilize: Begin to fertilize once grass starts turning green to produce a thick, healthy lawn so weeds can’t readily take hold. Read labels to get the right blend for the season.
Feed again in late spring, summer, and early and late fall.
Consider using organic fertilizer, which decomposes and releases nutrients more gradually than synthetics and nourishes lawns more steadily over a longer period of time.

How often and how much to mow: Before you start cutting the grass this spring, conduct a lawn mower maintenance check. Sharpen the blade, change the filter, and add fresh oil to the tank.
Make the first cut of the season when grass is about 3 inches tall. Never shear off more than one-third of the grass’ total height in one cut.

Warnings for pests: Sod webworms show up in late spring and create dead patches of grass on a healthy lawn. Grubs feed off the lawn and can cause some serious damage. Look for 1-inch holes in your lawn to identify their presence.
Beneficial nematodes, small microscopic worms that live below the soil, can be used as an efficient, organic insect control method.
Chinch bugs show up in St. Augustine grasses but can attack bluegrasses and bentgrasses as well. They create large, distinct patches of damage on your lawn.

Kim Brown April 17, 2011 918-581-8474

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