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Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to Armando Montelongo, a real estate professional and the exuberant host of the A&E television show Flip This House, about the long- and short-term value of making certain home improvements to your home. After a briefly chatting with him about the plans I have for my own home, he told me I was a sea urchin. It wasn’t about name-calling. It’s just the way Armando sized me up based on my personality type, which he says influences how I make important investment decisions, like buying or renovating a home.
Since Armando dedicates himself to buying properties as an investment, fixing them up and selling them at a profit, I hoped to find out if he thought my home improvement ideas made good sense from a resale-value perspective. When I gave him the list of my plans and explained how I wanted to go about them, he decided that I fall into what he calls the “sea-urchin” category of people. He said sea-urchin types are highly intelligent thinkers and planners (the other personality types in this sea-creature-inspired model are sharks, who are aggressive and dollar-driven; whales, who are loving and caring; and dolphins, who are playful and fun). And based on the value of the home I share with my husband and the amount of time we plan to live in it, he thought all of my renovation plans would be worthwhile to undertake, not just from a resale perspective but from an emotional perspective.
“If you’re not planning to sell your home for 20 years, your home is an emotional investment,” he told me. “If you’re planning to sell it in 20 months, it’s a financial investment.” Since I don’t plan to move any time soon, he said my home was an emotional investment. “Based on what you’re planning to do and where you live, in terms of rate of return, you can to put in between 10-20 percent of the current value of your home and count on getting it back if you plan to stay put for 10-20 years,” he said. But he said the real value of these investments for me is the emotional value, or what real estate professionals call the “utility value,” of the home improvements. “If you’re working hard all day, you want to come home to a place that makes you feel amazing,” he said. And he thought the home improvements on my list are going to make me—and hopefully my husband—happier while we live in our home.
According to Armando, some of the projects on my Wish List are also vital to improving the value of our home from a resale perspective, which helps me prioritize. “If your floors are damaged, that’s the number one thing you need to fix,” he said. “From a resale perspective it’s much more important than changing the wallpaper in your bath.” The next step from both an emotional and resale perspective should be updating the kitchen, he told me. “We as a society don’t really acknowledge the intelligence of women when it comes to buying houses,” he said. “Unless they’re gay or single, men don’t buy houses, women do. If a couple is thinking about buying a home and the woman doesn’t love it, they won’t buy it.” He went on to say that since the kitchen is a place where I—as well as my family and friends—spend a lot of time, it’s one room that really needs to make me feel great. And since our kitchen is more than 20 years old, he said it would need to be updated before we sell in any case. Our kitchen is also compact and my plans for updating are rather modest, too, so in his opinion improving the kitchen is a no-brainer.
From a resale perspective, he said the other must-do elements on my Wish List are painting the walls and refreshing the terrace. “Painting the walls will make the rooms look great and give the place that new smell that buyers like, and improving the exterior space is like having a shiny new car in the driveway.” I appreciate the good advice, Armando. After I get organized and get a new mattress, I know where I’ll be focusing my attention.