Kitchen Renovations Make Owners Happy, According to NAR

When considering a home renovation, what tops the list of the best upgrades? According to the NAR Remodeling Impact Report for 2019, kitchens top the list! The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) said that when it comes to tanking projects in how much they appeal to buyers, Complete Kitchen Renovation and Kitchen Upgrade top the list. Kitchen projects also ranked 1 and 2 on their rank of projects’ likely value to the home for resale. But kitchen renovations aren’t just good for your future buyers: it’s also a way to make owners happier in their homes.

Kitchens Have The Highest Joy Score

Kitchens appear to be the most satisfying home renovation to complete. Out of all renovation projects, complete kitchen remodels received the highest joy score, with a score of 10 out of 10. Kitchen upgrades were right behind with a 9.7 out of 10 joy score. They calculated joy scores, “based on the happiness homeowners reported with their renovations.”

A complete kitchen renovation increased the sense of enjoyment while owners were home (95% of respondents). It even gave them a greater desire to be at home since completing the project (93%).

To DIY or Not to DIY

36% of owners did their home renovations themselves. 35% of wonders hired a professional for the entire job. If you choose to DIY, be sure that the project is within your skillset and you have the correct tools for the job. 12% contributed some DIY and let professionals do the rest, so it’s okay to get help where it’s needed.

Quick Kitchen Updates

If you’re not ready to dedicate the money to a complete renovation (NARI Remodelers’ cost estimate was $68,000!), here are a few updates you may want to try.

  1. Change your lighting. Do you have an ancient chandelier that looks dated? Try updating your lighting with pendant lights. There are plenty of options to choose from at your local store. A new light fixture can create a different focal point for your kitchen.
  2. Replace your hardware. An easy and affordable update, replacing your drawer pulls, can update the look of any cabinet.
  3. Repaint cabinets. If your cabinets are tired and chipped, try a fresh color! Traditional white kitchens have now given way to more vibrant cabinet colors. Another idea? Try contrasting your island color with your cabinet color.

If you’re ready to update your kitchen, be sure to check out the HUNT Homeowners Club for a list of HUNT approved vendors and contractors.

Take Your Basement From Fright to Functional on a Budget

A finished basement increases your home’s usable space, but taking it from concrete and cobwebs to a comfy hangout spot may be pricier than you think.

The cost to finish a basement and turn it into a livable space ranges from $6,500 to $18,500 on average, according to an analysis by Home Advisor. Basement remodeling projects — to improve or replace existing features — tend to cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Your basement finishing costs could fall anywhere on the spectrum, depending on room size, where you live and how extensive the improvements are.

Find out what factors affect the cost to improve a basement and how to keep expenses under control.

» MORE: Ways to finance your dream home-improvement project

Breaking down the cost to finish a basement

Finishing, remodeling or renovating: While contractors might see subtle differences, all three terms describe a basement improvement project.

No matter what you call it, finishing typically involves adding walls, a floor, electricity and lighting so the basement is ready for habitation, says Bryan Sebring, a certified graduate remodeler and owner of Sebring Design Build in Naperville, Illinois.

Flooring and wall coverings like paneling are the biggest expenses, making up approximately 15% of the total cost to finish a 1,200 square-foot basement, Sebring says. Plumbing and electricity are next, at around 14% and 11% of the cost, respectively, while interior carpentry needs — like trim and railings — account for about 10%. Remaining costs may include things like drywall and insulation, cabinets and countertops, painting and even cleanup.

Exact costs will vary depending on basement size, whether extra features like a bathroom or wet bar are included, and how fast you want the job completed, Sebring says. And that’s assuming your unfinished basement is in good condition.

It’s important to have your basement inspected for foundation and drainage issues before finishing. If an inspection reveals water damage or the risk of water seepage, basement waterproofing and possibly foundation repair will likely add to the cost.

» MORE: How to pay for emergency home repairs

How to plan your basement finishing project

Consider needs and neighborhood

Do you want a place for the kids to hang out after school, or are you dreaming of a state-of-the-art man cave? The way you’ll use the space will dictate how extensive the improvements need to be.

Look at other houses in the neighborhood as well, says Nick Yahoodain, president of Advanced Builders & Contractors in Los Angeles. If unfinished basements are common in your market, improving other areas of the house might be a smarter investment.

Set a budget

Make a list of the features you absolutely need, then add a few things you’d like. Once you’ve decided what you’re willing to spend, talk to a contractor. That discussion should help you separate realistic improvements from the upgrades that will bust your budget.

It’s not uncommon to spend 15% to 20% of the home’s value on a basement improvement project, Sebring says. He cautions against spending more unless you’re sure you’ll live in the house for more than five years.

Think about ROI

Yahoodain considers the effect on value to be the “golden rule” when it comes to home improvements. Will a finished basement help you rent or sell your home in the future? If the answer is no, your money might be better spent in another part of the house, he says.

Though basements — even finished ones — don’t usually add square footage to your home for appraisal purposes, they can have a positive impact on marketability. A basement finished to include a bathroom, bar area and living space recoups around 70% of its cost in improved resale value, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.

Hire the right pro

In many cases, basement finishing is best left to professionals, but choosing a contractor requires some research. Take the time to:

  • Request estimates from more than one contractor to avoid overspending
  • Read verified reviews of each pro and the materials they suggest
  • Ask for past customer referrals and find out if their projects were finished on time and within the original budget
  • Check with your local building department or state consumer protection agency to be sure potential contractors are properly bonded, licensed and insured

Make your finished basement more affordable

1. Keep it simple

Opt for standard materials and fixtures instead of custom features to avoid premium prices. And resist the urge to add features that require expensive plumbing or electrical work like a wet bar or home theater system.

2. Opt for open space

Unless you have a genuine need for an enclosed workshop, office or exercise room, leave the space open. Carving your basement into separate rooms means paying for additional studs, electrical wiring, drywall and doors, and limits the ways you can use the space.

3. Choose carpet

Hardwood, laminate and tile flooring significantly increase the cost to finish a basement. Sebring, who calls carpet “the king of basement flooring,” says many people are scared about the consequences if a carpeted basement floods. But even top-of-the-line vinyl and tile has to be pulled up if there’s serious water damage, he says, and you can replace carpet multiple times for the same cost of installing hard flooring once.

4. DIY (with caution)

All but the most skilled and motivated homeowners should leave basement finishing to the experts. “You run the risk of not understanding the building codes and having to tear it out and redo it,” Sebring says. Hiring subcontractors and managing the job on your own, rather than hiring a general contractor, could save some cash, but be prepared to treat it like a full-time job, he says.

Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @bethbuczynski.

The article Take Your Basement From Fright to Functional on a Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Dog-Friendly Designs Attract Home Buyers and Remodelers

Some eras are defined by bumper crops of new babies, like the 1980s and ’90s, when baby boomer parents birthed the millennial generation. Today, a new twist: We’re in an era of pets — dogs in particular. Sixty million U.S. households have a dog, and dog ownership grew 29% in the last decade, according to a recent survey from the American Pet Products Association.

Pet-crazy millennials, now ages 18 to 34, lead the pack, say pet products researchers, who keep a keen eye on dog demographics. And they spoil their pets. From calming shirts and fashionable attire to supplements and allergy-free organic foods, pet owners will go to just about any length for their beloved “fur babies.”

The next phase in extreme pet pampering? Entire communities and custom-designed home features dedicated to the physical and emotional well-being of canines.

Read on to see how architects, designers, homebuilders and remodelers are adding dog parks, dog concierges, built-in feeding stations, home elevators and more to make sure dogs — and their owners — feel right at home.

1. Buying and remodeling with dogs in mind

Eighty-one percent of respondents in a National Association of Realtors survey said they’d take their pets’ needs into account in choosing their next living situation.


A laundry room can be outfitted with a pet-washing station.

Fences, dog doors and laminate flooring are the most common pet-friendly improvements Americans make to homes, the NAR adds. In Sacramento, national homebuilding firm Taylor Morrison shows buyers how they can modify some floor plans to add a pet-washing station, like this one, in the laundry room.

2. Sacramento’s a dog town

In the Sacramento, California, area, homebuilder Taylor Morrison has 15 communities. Most of its home buyers are dog owners, leading the company to design dog runs, built-in dog beds and other dog-friendly options that can be added to its properties. Aren Bazzocco, Taylor Morrison’s Sacramento division president, lives in the Calabria community in Newcastle, California. For the family’s Shih Tzu, Chloe, they added an outdoor pet-washing station and a laundry room dog door that opens onto a fenced exercise area with synthetic turf and a concrete walkway.


The Bazzocco family includes Chloe, a Shih Tzu.

3. Options include a canine concierge

Taylor Morrison’s Esplanade 55-plus community at Highland Ranch, in Clermont, Florida, includes homes with cabinets that can be modified to accept pet beds and feeding stations.

built-in dog bed and feeding station

Cabinets can be modified to hold pet beds and feeding stations.

Esplanade communities — there are 13 in Florida — have canine concierges who coordinate services like visits from mobile groomers, “Howl-o-ween” costumed dog parades, wellness and behavior education, photos with Santa and monthly newsletters. “Yappy hours” give dogs and their owners a chance to socialize. “People seem to loosen up and meet each other more easily with dogs,” says Taylor Morrison communications director Colleen Rubart.

4. Fur babies get royal treatment


Agnes’ patio boasts antimicrobial “grass.”

About half of architect Phil Kean’s clients consider their pets’ needs when planning their new upscale homes, he says.

A handful request entire rooms built for their dogs’ care and feeding. More often, clients ask Kean to design grooming and washing stations, food storage cupboards and feeding spots into family areas, usually the mudroom, of their new homes. Kean’s 6-year-old basset hound, Agnes, has an outdoor potty area “planted” with antimicrobial artificial grass at Kean’s home near Orlando, Florida. Behind Agnes are a dog door and washing station.

5. Whose lift is it anyway?

Taking the stairs can be hard on a basset hound’s spine. To protect Agnes, Kean added an elevator to his home. The cost: $30,000. “I don’t think there’s anything that hasn’t been done for Agnes. She’s the most spoiled dog I’ve ever met,” he cheerfully admits. Kean trained Agnes to stand next to the elevator when she wants to go up or downstairs.


Agnes stands next to the elevator when she wants to go up or downstairs.

Managing dogs’ movement inside a home can be tricky. For one client, Kean built an air-lock-type entry consisting of a small dry chamber flanked by two dog doors to keep the home’s temperature constant. Kean says clients have requested baby gates to limit dogs’ movement indoors. Dutch doors, he notes, are a good way to contain dogs indoors while letting them hop up and peek outside through the door’s open upper half.

 6. No more tripping on dog bowls

A feeding station built into the end of a run of kitchen cabinets is the brainchild of Susan Cracraft, vice president of design at Interiology Design Co., a Boston-area interior design firm.

Elway has a built-in feeding station

Elway has a built-in feeding station.

Her dog Elway, a 2 1/2-year-old mini goldendoodle, enjoys it, and it solves a perennial problem for humans used to tripping on dog bowls underfoot. Mark Haddad, Interiology president, estimates the feature adds about $2,000 to $4,000 to their kitchen remodels, depending on materials. Cleanup is made easy by lining the station floor with the same stone from the kitchen countertops.

Interiology’s dog-owning clients like built-in storage space for supplies and equipment — and even for a dog. Solutions have included food-storage cabinets similar to trash-can pull-outs and an enclosed dog den built into the triangular area under the stairs. Is a built-in feeding station practical for your home? It depends on your cabinets, the height of the bowls and the size of the dog.

7. Lucky Kentucky canines

Norton Commons, in the northeastern corner of Louisville, is a planned community of about 1,300 condos, townhomes, single-family homes and rental apartments built around a village center with small businesses — including a wildly popular dog salon. 


Norton Commons has three dog parks and an agility course.

The community has sold 500 canine memberships for its three dog parks and one agility course. But Marilyn Patterson, Norton Commons spokeswoman, thinks the dog population is higher — more like 800. Why? She orders the dog-poop bags. “We have 45 doggy cleanup stations scattered along our sidewalks and walking trails in the community. That’s a lot of doggy bags,” she says.

 8. Snug as a bug


The step-in washing area works for dogs and humans, too.

Ken Perrin, owner of Artistic Renovations in Seven Hills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, often fields requests from clients who want to make life with dogs both easier and aesthetically pleasing.

This built-in dog-bed cubby and washing station packs a lot of utility into a laundry room. The walk-in bathing area eliminates the need to haul a dog into a tub or utility sink, and is potentially useful for gardeners or small children, who can hose off muddy boots before entering the house. In another recent remodel, Perrin installed softer flooring to help an owner’s beloved old Labrador retriever keep from slipping on hard floors.

Photo credits: Featured image: Getty Images; (1) LUX Films; (2) Mike Hammons; (3) John Unrue, Unrue Photo; (4) Jeffrey A. Davis Photography/courtesy Timberlake Cabinetry; (5) Photo courtesy Phil Kean Design Group; (6) Jared Kuzia Photography; (7) Norton Commons; (8) Ken Perrin, Artistic Renovations of Ohio.

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Marilyn Lewis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email:

The article Dog-Friendly Designs Attract Home Buyers and Remodelers originally appeared on NerdWallet.

6 Home Renovations that Give You the Most Bang for Your Buck

Are you considering a home renovation? Do your research when you invest some time and money into improving your home, and you could get a great return on investment. But how do you decide what to invest in? The National Association of Realtors has compiled a list of home renovations, their average costs, and expected return.

Whether you’re planning to hire the pros (53%), DIY (32%), or do a mixture of both (14%), here are the best projects to complete with the most bang for your buck.


Suggestion: Refinishing Hardwoods. If you already have hardwood floors in your home, you can refinish them to add value to your home. On average, the cost was $3,000, but the return on investment was also $3,000! So with a potential 100% return on your investment, this is a great place to start.

Suggestion: Roof. Replacing your roof can be costly, but worthwhile when you’re looking to sell. On average, 45% of seller’s agents suggested that their sellers replace their home’s roof. On average, this recovered more than the amount that was spent on the roof. NARI’s (National Association of Remodeling Industry) estimated cost is $7,500, with a potential 109% value recovered! 32% of seller’s agents said that this even helped them cinch the deal.

Suggestion: Vinyl Windows. Windows are another pricey, but worthwhile investment. With a 79% potential recovery, your investment will help sell your home and help with your utilities! This creates another great selling point for your home.


Suggestion 1: Kitchen Renovation. There are two options with a kitchen renovation: an update which costs less, or a complete overhaul which is more costly. However, the added potential value recovery is higher will a full overhaul. If it’s in your budget (NARI’s cost estimate is $65,000… yikes!), the complete kitchen overhaul has a 62% recovery rate. Seller’s agents agree that kitchens are a great investment, with 44% suggesting at least an upgrade before selling.

Suggestion 2: Bathroom Renovation. Another great renovation choice is a bathroom renovation. 44% of seller’s agents suggested their sellers do a bathroom renovation before selling. While this can be a pricey undertaking ($30,000 estimated cost) it has a 50% recovery rate.

Suggestion 3: Closet Renovation. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you might upgrade your closet space. With an estimated cost of only $3,750 and a recovery rate of 53%, this renovation can highlight your storage space. This can be a great renovation for both you and potential buyers, as many buyers have storage space listed as an important feature in their new home.

Following their remodel, 75% of homeowners have a greater desire to be in their home, and 77% feel a major sense of accomplishment. If you’re interested in hiring a professional to help you out with your home renovation, check out the HUNT Homeowners Club!

6 Easy Home Projects for Your Spring Weekend

With the weather warming up, you may start to take a critical look at your home’s exterior. If you are interested in selling your home this year, your home’s curb appeal may be more important than previous years. Luckily, spring is a great time to spruce up your home’s exterior. Here are 6 easy spring projects that you can complete this weekend to create curb appeal for your home.

Pressure Wash. Pressure washing outdoor surfaces can remove years of dirt and grime off. What surfaces can be pressure washed? Concrete, wood, and even certain types of siding. If it isn’t practical to buy a pressure washer, you can rent one from a home improvement store. One note: It’s important that you are familiar with the correct way to pressure wash surfaces. If you use too much pressure, you can damage the surfaces you’re cleaning. HGTV has a great guide to help.

Caulk. Spring is a great time to check your window and door seals. If they’re looking weathered, you may want to redo the caulk on your windows and doors. Why should you invest the time and money? If you replace old caulk, your home will retain the warm (or cool) air in your home from your furnace.

Update your house numbers. Interested in a quick project to update your home’s exterior? Change your house numbers. There are tons of projects online that can help you achieve the style you’re looking for. House number visibility is also important for safety services like firefighters and police!

Change out your light fixtures. With temperatures on the upswing, you may be entertaining outside more often. Replace your old and outdated light fixtures to modernize your outdoor space. There are plenty of different styles available, and most are relatively simple to replace. Also, add light to your walkways so your guests so they can see where they’re going at night.

Paint your front door. Interested in a quick project that has a big impact? Try painting your front door. Outdoor paint is affordable, and the front door change can make a huge impact from the curb. Try a bold or bright color to make a statement.

Landscaping. Your home’s landscaping is important to the overall curb appeal of your home. If you don’t want to commit to a large garden, consider adding planters to add color and keep the rest of your landscaping simple.

Embrace the season and enjoy the outdoors. These projects are simple, easy, and budget friendly. They can create a more inviting look to your home, which can be helpful if you’ve considered listing your home for sale. If you’re ready to spring into a new home, make sure you enlist the help of a real estate sales professional from HUNT Real Estate ERA.