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Pride and Joy – Boosting your enjoyment of life and the value of your real estate too through smart home improvement

News for 05.22.17
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winter2017_remodeling_B When it comes to thoughtful home-improvement planning, there may be no better time than right now to begin fleshing out your family's comprehensive wish list—for both today and for the years ahead.

While it's almost a given that you'll have to take on small and cosmetic repairs and improvements when it's time to sell your home, there's at least one big plus in taking on one or more larger upgrades as soon as possible: to maximize the enjoyment of living in your home for as long as you're there.

In fact, many mid-century modern homeowners are doing just that—choosing to use strategic planning to update their existing homes, and protect the investment they already have, rather than even considering the notion of moving.

Nationally, home remodeling is on the rise. Growth in home improvement and repair expenditures will reach eight percent as we move into 2017, according to a new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing. That is well beyond the 4.9 percent historical average.

"Homeowner remodeling activity continues to be encouraged by rising home values and tightening for-sale inventories in many markets across the country," says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center.

winter2017_remodeling_C For recent home buyers, the rise in remodeling isn't being seen yet in the Bay Area, where realtor Kevin Swartz of the Erdal Team, based in the South Bay, says his team has seen a significant drop in the number of buyers undertaking extensive remodels just after purchasing a home.

"This is mostly due to the record-high Bay Area home prices and low affordability," Swartz says. "Buyers are putting a good portion of their savings into the down payment, just to get into the real estate market."

Also, as regional home prices began to plateau during the second half of 2016, Swartz adds, "Coupled with the general sense of uncertainty in the real estate market, the perceived bubble, and the recent presidential elections, new homeowners are hesitant to invest significant amounts of money into their home at the moment, and are choosing to wait until the dust settles.

"Thus, we are seeing many buyers who want to remodel, but they plan to space it out over smaller projects, spanning several years, just to make it more financially manageable."

This trend may be a blessing in disguise for some incoming first-time Eichler owners, many of whom historically have had a tendency to rush into remodeling, and particularly before gaining a solid understanding of their new home's design aesthetic.

"Unless the house is a total fixer upper, I would recommend living in the home for at least six months ​before considering a remodel," says interior designer (and Sunnyvale Eichler owner) Lucile Glessner of Lucile Glessner Design. "You need to have time to evaluate what works and what needs the most improvement."

Homeowners who have lived in their homes for a number of years, say five to ten, tend to be better prepared, all the way around, to take on remodeling projects, and most look to make improvements that first and foremost enhance their quality of life. "They are investing their savings, and oftentimes for home expansions, such as creating a larger master suite or adding a bonus room or office," Swartz says.

winter2017_remodeling_D For owners on the brink of selling, it's wise to consider only minimal improvements, and ones that will be cost effective, maximizing return upon the sale.

"Since they won't be enjoying the improvements themselves," says Swartz, "they want to only do those things that will…improve the salability or desirability of the home to potential buyers. In this market, it is a good idea to invest in cosmetic changes that improve the presentation of a home, such as painting, and replacing older flooring, outdated light fixtures, and untended landscaping.

"But it just doesn't make financial sense to undertake a large remodel just before selling. Taste is so subjective. It is often best to leave it [larger remodel projects, such as kitchens and baths] to the new buyers to make it their own."

winter2017_remodeling_E Driving forces

There are many driving factors that motivate people to remodel. The first priority is anything that affects the home's function. Is your home in disrepair from years of neglect or deferred maintenance? Is your roof leaking, has the radiant heat stopped working, or is your siding victim to dry rot? That's where to start.

"Now, I want to be the first to say that if the toilet is not working properly, you don't just replace the entire bathroom," says Cindy Carey, co-owner and COO of Starburst Construction, based in San Jose. "You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, if other things [in the bathroom] are starting to get dated or are not working properly, maybe you'll want to consider a more comprehensive project."

Improvements that can instantly add real-money value to your home: double-pane windows and sliders (center); insulated roofing systems (such as polyurethane foam) and bathroom remodel (top); and high-efficiency radiant-heat boiler (above)). Also on the list is a kitchen remodel. A desire for more space inspires many homeowners to catch the remodeling bug.

"Adding onto a mid-century modern home allows for that fourth bedroom, that master bathroom, that usable closet, that family room, or whatever else is lacking. Twenty-first century families have more stuff and use more space than mid-century families ever did," says architect John Klopf of San Francisco-based Klopf Architecture.

Chopped-up spaces are another great reason to remodel. Despite being open-plan houses, MCM homes are oftentimes made up of a number of maze-like and small, albeit highly efficient, spaces.

"In some ways these spaces reflect the traditions of the time and are largely obsolete today," Klopf says. "For example, the mostly closed-off galley kitchen worked fine when it was mom cooking for the family. But today's families often cook together, or entertain and cook at the same time, or they just want a feeling of togetherness as mom or dad cooks for the family."

Improvements that can instantly add real-money value to your home: double-pane windows and sliders (center); insulated roofing systems (such as polyurethane foam) and bathroom remodel (top); and high-efficiency radiant-heat boiler (above)). Also on the list is a kitchen remodel.

Enlarging windows, opening up walls with sliding-glass doors, and installing skylights add to opening up the home's interior and connect it with the outdoors in an even greater way.

A desire for an updated look, or to honor the spirit of the home's original architecture, is another major kick-starter. Many MCM homes have been poorly remodeled over the years in inappropriate styles. Remodeling is the time to remove the ugliness of Victorian crown molding, Bavarian woodcarvings, 1980s oak cabinets, and four-inch tile countertops with wide grout joints, and replace it with something more in line with the modernist style.


Three experts who know Eichlers: (L-R) Cindy Carey of Starburst Construction, John Klopf of Klopf Architecture, and Kevin Swartz of the Erdal Team.

"A homeowner knows it's time to update if they're looking through magazines and ads, and see things that would help them have a more functional house and a more up-to-date look—[things] that would give them a greater passion for their home," adds Jeff Fracker of Transcontinental Construction Concepts, a general contractor who works on Eichlers and other MCM homes throughout Orange County.

winter2017_remodeling_H Sometimes improved functionality can be as simple as replacing appliances and fixtures that haven't been operating properly rather than continuing to cope with their inconveniences and repair costs.

Eichler owner Rob Castaneda looks to add space and value to his Los Altos home.

Many homeowners opt to replace dated or inappropriate materials with higher-end finishes that will serve their needs for many years. For instance, Glessner points out referring to floor finishes, "Selecting the right flooring material will add beauty and functionality to each space." Also, removing carpeting helps to reduce allergens and dirt, she adds, and it presents an opportunity to introduce a uniform flooring material throughout the home that brings cohesiveness.

Top trends

winter2017_remodeling_I Homeowners are investing larger budgets into their kitchen and bathroom renovation projects, according to a recent Houzz & Home survey conducted by Houzz of more than 120,000 respondents in the United States.

The average spend for kitchen and master bath remodeling projects in 2015 increased by 12 percent. Consistent with the last five years, kitchens remain the most popular interior-remodeling project (31 percent), followed by master/non-master bathrooms (22 and 26 percent, respectively) and living/family rooms (23 percent).

When it comes to the motivations behind renovations, 'finally having the time' was the top trigger for home renovation projects in 2015 (38 percent), ahead of 'finally having the financial means' (37 percent), the top trigger for 2014 projects. Homeowners are renovating instead of buying a 'perfect' home largely due to their desire to stay in their current home or lot (49 percent) or remain in their current neighborhood (31 percent). Financial considerations such as 'renovation being a more affordable option' or 'providing a better return on investment' (28 percent each) trail behind.

Best investments

winter2017_remodeling_J Specifically for Eichlers, Fracker says the best improvements home buyers can make are changing out windows with double-pane replacements, installing insulated roofing systems, updating with a new boiler for radiant heating, and kitchen and bathroom remodels. They instantly add real-money value to the home.

"Homeowners realize their quality of life can be much greater in a house that has been recently remodeled," Fracker says. "It's always important that the mid-century modern look and vibe is preserved when updating the function of your home. This quite often is done by the design, installation procedure, as well as with the right materials and appliances."

Carey recommends looking at the "not-so-fun projects" first—the ones that protect the structure and the family. They include heating, insulation, windows, air quality, electrical upgrades, roofing, foundation, and siding. Once the building and family are secure, then look to the other sexier projects, such as new kitchens, bathrooms, additions, and so on.

winter2017_remodeling_K "If you can combine a little of both, however, all the better," Carey says. "As far as return on the investment, if this is a homeowner's 'forever house,' we recommend they do what will work best for them in keeping with the neighborhood and house style. If they don't know how long they will be in the house, the best returns are kitchens, bathrooms, roofs, and in Eichlers, a good heating system."

With budgeting in mind, Carey says her team asks clients to create a wish/want/need list before embarking on any project. There are some things that they have to have, say more stylish kitchen cabinets. Then there are those items they want to have, such as updated appliances, or maybe a more open floor plan. "All are possible by matching the right project to the budget they have at that time, and then planning for the future," Carey says.

Hire the right professional

winter2017_remodeling_L It's always a smart move to contact professionals for a design consultation before investing in any major renovations to help you figure out how to prioritize the investment and how to figure out how projects may overlap. MCM homes often have projects that must work in tandem, such as those near the roof and under the slab.

This upgraded kitchen area honors the spirit of the original architect.

For instance, to completely upgrade all wiring in an Eichler home, the original designs and construction methods used require that a homeowner perform roof work and remove the wall coverings on at least one side of each wall. That means insulating all walls, installing new wall coverings, and applying stain or paint need to be considered. If the roof is old, a roof replacement with added roof insulation could also be included. If you're already working on the roof, it's a good time to think about electrical upgrades and additional lighting and skylights.

If budget is a concern, which it always is, a professional can identify ways to control costs and reduce the scope of work to a particular area (or areas) of the house. "Leaving large portions of the house completely untouched helps eliminate that slippery-slope problem that many people will have when renovating," Klopf says. "You know what I mean—the 'while we're at it' syndrome."

Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor doesn't have to be a difficult task, but there are specific things to look for that will make the process easier, leaving you better prepared to make informed decisions that best suit your needs. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry makes the following recommendations:

Hire local

Hire a contractor with an established business in your area. Ask neighbors for recommendations, check the Contractors State License Board, Better Business Bureau, and online consumer reviews.

Be consistent with bids

As you solicit bids from multiple contractors, be sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in bids and beware of any bid that is much lower than the others.

Get a contract

A well-written agreement is essential and should detail what the contractor will and will not do, including:

• A detailed list of materials for the project, with information such as size, color, model, brand name, and product.
• Approximate start and completion dates.
• Study the design plans carefully. Insist that you approve them and that they are identified in your written contract before any work begins.
• Known as the 'Right of Recision,' Federal law requires a contractor to give you written notice of your right to, without penalty, cancel a contract within three business days of signing it, provided it was solicited at some place other than the contractor's place of business or appropriate trade premises.
• Make sure financial terms are understood and spelled out.
• A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year should be in writing.
• A binding arbitration clause is also a good inclusion in the event a disagreement occurs. Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.

Photography: Sabrina Huang, David Toerge, James Fanucchi, Ernie Braun


Starburst Construction
Cindy Carey

Transcontinental Construction Concepts
Jeff Fracker

Klopf Architecture
John Klopf

Lucile Glessner Design
Lucile Glessner

Erdal Team
Kevin Swartz