Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home Remodeling Projects with a High Rate of Return

By Mark J. Donovan

Kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects are two of the best home remodeling projects you can do for maximizing the rate of return on your investment. Prospective home buyers value updated kitchens and bathrooms more than any other home remodeling project. Landscaping also offers a high rate of return, as it provides the curb appeal for luring the prospective home buyer into the home. Once in the home, the newly remodeled kitchen and bathroom often seal the deal.

All other home remodeling projects offer less of a return on investment, and/or a longer time to recoup the investment, so consider your time horizon on how long you plan to live in the home after completing the project. If for example the housing market is in a recession or in a depression, as is the case today, you may want to think long and hard before investing more good money after bad.

With any home remodeling project, develop a good set of plans and a timeline so that you can better understand and control all of your costs and schedules.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Home Sales Up While Prices Continue to Sag

By Mark J. Donovan

Well the good news is that new home sales were up in March. New home sales were up 11.1% in March compared to February. Also, the supply of new homes was at a 43-1/2 year low. Both facts suggest a glimmer of hope in the housing market. But not so fast! The bad news is that the average sale price on a new home fell 4.9% from a year ago to $213.8K.

How can this be? With limited supply home prices should be going up. The problem is that this data is solely for the new home construction market and does not take into account all of the homes on the market. The housing economy’s natural equilibrium point is about 2 to 2.5 million homes for sale at any one time in the U.S. Unfortunately there are 3.55 million existing homes on the market today. In addition, when foreclosures or near foreclosures are included in the mix there are approximately 8-9 million homes on the market. Consequently new home construction has to compete with this entire housing market supply, and traditionally older homes are priced less than new construction. Thus the reason for declining prices on new home construction.

Data suggests that foreclosures should begin to dry up in the next 6 to 12 months. When and if this occurs, the housing market should begin to recover. However, the recovery will most likely be a slow process over a number of years.

So in the mean time, if you own a home continue to make the best of it. Make repairs as required, invest in it as your family and income grows, and enjoy what many people have always wanted and have been unable to have, a home they can call their own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time to Start Planting your Garden

By Mark J. Donovan

With the weather getting warmer and the birds returning it’s time to start planting your garden. Before planting, however, you should prepare the soil to maximize your garden harvest. It’s wise to do a soil test first. This way you can determine the type of fertilizer and nutrients your garden needs. Once you’ve determined your garden soil’s needs, fertilize the soil and add compost and Lime as necessary and turn the soil over with a shovel, spade and/or rake. Then allow a couple of weeks for the fertilizer, Lime and compost to break down in the soil before actually planting.

Once the soil has been prepared for planting you can begin planting vegetables that thrive in cooler weather such as peas, beets and onion sets. As the days and nights get progressively warmer you can plant beans, squash and lettuce. Also, after planting these types of cold weather resistant vegetables it’s a good time to put up any protective fencing to keep out the local wood chucks and other animals that like frequenting a healthy garden.

With the threat of frost largely past, you can then begin to plant tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower and broccoli. If after planting cold sensitive plants there is a chance for an evening frost cover the plants overnight with cheese cloth to protect them from freezing. Also, make sure to stake the tomato plants right after you plant them, or at least pound into the ground the stakes for holding the plants up when they begin growing in earnest.

After planting your garden make sure to water it frequently, however limit watering to the morning and noon time hours. Watering the garden in the evening could cause mold and fungus growth on the plants. You may also want to spread some mulch or grass clippings around the plants to mitigate weed growth and to help retain moisture in the soil.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tiling Kitchen Backsplash

By Mark J. Donovan

I spent much of this weekend tiling the kitchen backsplash in our home. It looks fantastic even though it’s not completely finished. I still need to grout it. Though tiling a kitchen backsplash is fairly easy to do, it is quite time consuming and it is awkward to do, particularly when you’re a tall person like me. Fortunately though, my wife helped out positioning the tiles after I measured and cut them. A wet tile saw is key for this type of tiling project. It’s important to get clean straight cuts due to the fact that a tiled kitchen backsplash is so visible.

Prep work also took quite a bit of time. After removing all of the items on the countertop, I had to install electrical outlet box extenders so that the outlets and switches would be flush with the finished tile surface. In addition, I used 80 grit sandpaper to rough up the painted drywall surface. Sanding the kitchen backsplash walls helps to ensure a good bond between the tile and drywall surface. We used 4”x4” Travertine tile for most of the kitchen backsplash tiles, however we added a row of small glass tiles to add some unique character to the tile design. I applied the tiles using a tile adhesive instead of thinset mortar due to the fact that this area of the kitchen backsplash doesn’t get wet.

I went with 1/8 inch spacing between tiles based on the fact that the small glass tiles that I used were affixed to a mesh backing with 1/8 inch spacing between the tiles. I also used small 1/8 inch wedges to prop the first row of tiles off of the granite backsplash. In addition, I used 1/8 inch tile spacers to ensure the rest of the tiles maintained proper spacing.

All that’s left to do now with my kitchen backsplash tiling project is to grout it. I plan on using a sanded grout and expect to complete the project next week. Stay tuned for more pictures!