Home improvement is the process of making improvements to a house, including fixing or upgrading existing systems. It can also include adding, removing or changing elements of the house’s structure or landscape. Homeowners often make home improvement projects to increase their house’s value, but it can also be done to improve the comfort of the house or to meet specific needs.
In the United States, homeowners have spent billions of dollars on home improvements in recent years, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, conducted every two years. The survey includes questions on the types and dollar amounts of projects done by owners.
Many people view home improvement as a leisure activity, and television programs like Bob Vila’s This Old House helped popularize the idea that anyone can do it yourself (DIY). This trend contributed to the popularity of power tools among men, as well as the growth of DIY retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Historian Carolyn Goldstein writes that the DIY movement also contributed to a fascination with old-style features in newer suburban houses, such as fake molding or columns and Victorian-style window trim.
It is important to consider the cost-vs-value of a project before undertaking it. Some home improvement projects produce excellent return on investment (ROI) values, while others may not. A real estate agent can provide advice on the best ways to improve a home and which projects have the highest ROIs.
Generally, structural and design improvements tend to add more value to homes than technology improvements, which quickly become obsolete. Also, a homeowner’s location in a neighborhood can affect the amount of value an improvement adds to a house.
If you intend to sell your house, it’s a good idea to consult with a real estate professional about what projects will boost your house’s value most. They can recommend reputable contractors and help you budget for the costs of renovations.
Homeowners can finance most projects with cash from savings. But more expensive improvements often are paid for with sources such as home equity loans, cash-out refinancing, credit cards and contractor arranged financing. Using these financial resources can prevent you from going into debt and paying interest that will be incurred after the sale of your house.
When hiring a contractor, be sure to check their licenses and insurance coverage. It is also a good idea to get references from previous customers. A licensed and insured contractor will have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance, which will protect you in the event of an injury or damage to your property. It’s also a good idea to find out whether your home improvement project will require permits from local authorities. Failure to obtain a permit can result in fines, delays or even denial of your building project. Some projects may even require permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If you plan to build on your property, check your city or town’s zoning regulations for details.