Monday, July 30, 2012

FEATURE WALLS.... Friend or Foe?

                One of the most common design trends in recent years is the “Feature Wall”, or “Accent Wall”.  This trend consists of selecting a bold color to paint on one wall in a room for a dramatic look.  It is a very inexpensive way to change the look of a room, which is one reason why is has been so incredibly popular.  It has been shown hundreds of times on various shows on HGTV, along with many home decorating publications, and hence has been widely used and abused.
Design no-no:  "Feature Half-Wall"

  Feature walls are indeed utilized by interior designers, and can make for a very appealing space.  However, like many things, there is a wrong way and a right way to do this.  That is one aspect of feature walls that is so confusing to the consumer.  They are commercially promoted to be bold and bright, but that is not always the best way to use them.  Fire engine red walls have their place, and I can tell you, they do not belong in most homes.  However, they are used frequently throughout the US, due to the sensationalism on TV and other do-it-yourself references.  My article “DIY… Not for Everyone” elaborates on the pros and cons of tackling one’s own home design project without professional input.  I agree that Feature Walls can have a fantastic effect on a room.  But a teal wall in a Victorian living room is no more appropriate than heavy make-up when going out for a jog.  

To elaborate on my own professional opinion regarding this design practice, I support feature walls in certain situations.  These situations include: tying a room of mismatched furniture together with a wall that uses a color to unify all the pieces; providing a dramatic backdrop for a room with dramatic furniture; enhancing potentially unique architectural features, such as vaulted ceilings, etc.  There are specific circumstances in which I have seen a DIYer’s feature wall fail.  Most commonly is the Feature Half-wall.  This is a wall that is interrupted considerably by doors and/or windows.  Some people assume that the feature wall MUST be the biggest wall in the room, or the very first wall you see when you enter.  Not true… at least in my book.  The wall selected should be blank, with no doors or windows (this can vary slightly by case), and should be reasonably sized.  If the room’s architectural elements do not support a feature wall, one should simply go without. There are OTHER WAYS to get color into a room. 
Alternative to feature wall---Subtle pink creates a feminine, but not overpowering feeling to this bedroom

You don’t have to have a feature wall in your room just because your friend has one, or your favorite show uses them frequently.  In some cases they are perfect, but in MANY cases, they are without merit.  Another mistake (at least in my book) is the Random Feature Wall.  This is when a homeowner goes to the paint store and selects a bold color from the shelf, without considering the overall composition---the furniture in the room, the flooring, the lighting, etc.  This is a HUGE mistake.  Regardless of one’s favorite colors, one must select a color that is in keeping with the existing furniture and style of the room.  If your favorite color is purple, but your room has green and orange upholstery, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.  The color of the feature wall should be dependent not only on the occupant's taste, but the existing pieces and the anticipated new pieces that may be added in the near future.  In most cases it is best to select a bold color that has a lower saturation level, for example, a bright red when it has reduced saturation will tend to be more of a deep rust or burgundy.  These tones are more likely to be pleasing to the eye today, and years into the future.  

There are obviously many factors that can make or break this “easy” do-it-yourself project.  I cannot vouch for all designers by any means, but I usually promote the use of more classic colors that will be compatible with a variety of furniture types and trends, should your tastes change, as they most likely will.  A more modern space of course will support the use of stronger, higher saturation.  Other than that, a dark, but classic color will usually do the trick.  Color consulting is one of the services that JOI offers.  I carry the entire color catalog for Kelly Moore paints, and can bring the store to you, saving you many trips back and forth.  Call or email me if you would like a professional color consultation.  
Classic chocolate brown provides a dramatic backdrop for a minimalist modern bedroom

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


           Welcome to Part 3, the final segment of this post.  Part 1 was addressing exterior investments in relation to resale value.  Part 2 covered interior investments in relation to resale value.  Part 3 is addressing interior investments, not directly related to resale value.  Enjoy!

One growing trend right now is the “Media Room”.  These originated in high end luxury homes, but have made their way into 5 and even 4 bedroom homes.  It is interesting though, that even though a homeowner may invest many thousands of dollars into furnishing a media room, a surprising number do not actually use them.  At least not frequently enough to warrant the expense.  Be honest with yourself as to whether the room will ACTUALLY get used.  If you are not planning to sell, it is completely up to you.  However, do not expect a significant return on the investment, unless you are selling a luxury home.  If you personally would use a media room, but are unsure as to whether you will sell, consider furnishing the room as a multipurpose area (a media room, playroom, game room, and den).  This will help ensure that prospective buyers will feel that the room will be of use to them, if they do not have interest in a media room.  A new and similar investment is Home Automation, which is also growing in popularity.  Home automation is cool, and can be helpful in everyday life (if you are tech savvy), but it can be EXTREMELY expensive, and in most homes you will not receive much of a return, if any. 
These days, consumers that would have been buying high end furniture ten years ago are shopping in lower end department stores and in bargain furniture warehouses.  The companies that pitch a $699 sofa set are making millions.  These deals are usually for poor quality imported furniture that will last about 3 years before it starts looking old and worn.  It is incontrovertible that products manufactured in the US, with much higher quality standards will be at least a little more expensive.  US manufacturers that do not apply a sufficient markup are the ones going out of business.  That is why you see good quality furniture mom and pop shops closing all over the country.  They are trying to remain in competition with the imported furniture pricing, and are not managing their costs effectively.  However, high priced furniture that is American made will not ALWAYS be the best quality.  It is important as a consumer to be educated on what to look for when investing in the best quality furnishings.  A qualified designer will be able to consult with you on this.  A few basics would be dovetailed drawers (although not all are created equal), 8 way hand tied springs, and ply versus mdf and particle board.  Consult with a designer as to which pieces of your project should get the bulk of the budget.

Skylights are an interesting and organic architectural touch to a home.  In some situations, they are very fitting.  A home in the mountains that is designed to appreciate all nature has to offer should employ multiple skylights throughout.  It is important to remember that while skylights can add extra light and character to your home, they are not without their issues.  One of the top issues is MAINTENANCE.  Skylights will involve a recess into the ceiling that will accumulate dust and spiderwebs, not to mention the inevitable leaves and moisture residue and caking on the roof.  Plus, on those relentless summer days, skylights can be your worst enemy if you do not have some sort of covering on them.  Effective coverings for skylights can be expensive, so plan accordingly.  If you are considering a skylight, be honest with yourself as to whether you want to maintain them.

Handpainted wall or ceiling murals can be just exquisite and can sometimes be a crowning touch to a home.  Bear in mind though that murals are very PERSONAL.  Their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  If you have no plans to sell, go nuts.  However, if you anticipate selling within 5 years, reconsider.  A nice handpainted mural by a professional can cost thousands of dollars.  Don’t invest a significant amount on a personalized mural that you will have to paint over in a few years with a cheap bucket of Behr.

Murphy beds date back to the early twentieth century as a space saver.  The bed was designed to fold up into a closet, away from view during the day, making it easier to reside in smaller spaces.  Today, millions of Americans are downsizing, sometimes very dramatically from a 6 bedroom to a 2 bedroom.  Never has the need for space saving furniture been more in demand.  While the futon and sleeper sofa are still the reigning champs when it comes to a stow-away guest bed, they are also the least comfortable.  The Murphy bed is making an amazing comeback, and is the best way to go to save space while offering guests a comfortable place to sleep.  There are numerous types and sizes available.  The biggest drawback would be cost.  They can range between $2,000 and $6,000 installed.  However, when you consider the cost of an additional bedroom, or a room addition in comparison, the cost is minimal.  Murphy beds are usually designed to last a LOT longer than sleeper sofas and futons.  If you purchase a new sleeper sofa every 5 years that would be about $6000 out of pocket over the course of 15 years, and the majority of sofa beds are extremely uncomfortable even when new.  A good quality wallbed with a good mattress can last you 25 years for as little as $2,900.  A Murphy bed is a logical piece for most homes, and is usually worth the investment.

Poor lighting is one of the biggest problems in a home, and often goes unrecognized as a problem that can be fixed.  However, one does not necessarily need to install recessed can lighting throughout their home to resolve this problem.  Nor does one need to install a skylight.  There are numerous ways to integrate additional light, or even give the illusion of light.  If you have three light fixtures in one room, and the light emitted is still insufficient, you do not necessarily need an additional fixture.  It may be as simple as using a different lamp/bulb.  All light bulbs are not created equal.  One common misconception is that a higher watt bulb will give off more light. NOT TRUE!  The number of watts will determine the amount of ENERGY used, hence the amount charged on your energy bill.  What homeowners need to recognize is not the number of watts, but the “lumens per watt” or L/W.  More lumens equals brighter light.  This is the biggest advantage to fluorescent, halogen, and LED lights.  You can have more light, using significantly less energy.  If you are still using incandescent bulbs, there is a very easy way to add more light to your room.  Watts and lumens aside, there are still many ways to solve your lighting problems.  Contact a qualified designer with lighting expertise for a consultation if you want more light in your home, but don’t know the best route to take.

Thank you to all who have followed this article.  I have shared this information from experience, education, and “designer logic”.  These investments are some which I have found to be popular.  What is popular is not always what is right--- that rule applies in so many aspects of life.  I have stressed disadvantages to many common investments, but that is not to say that any of those investments are not right for you.  It all depends.  I can only recommend being open-minded when considering one investment or another.  Be honest with yourself.  Do your research, and if you are still unsure, bring in a qualified designer for input.  Even if a designer does not give you the answer in black and white, at least you will have a professional opinion from an UNBIASED party.  That small investment may be worth it to give you peace of mind.  Call or email 925-895-1336 for a consultation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


          Hello JOI fans!  This is Part 2 in what I have decided to make a 3 part series that addresses common home investments, and the pros and cons of each.  Part 1 covered investments made to the exterior of a home.  Part 2 will address interiors, with focus on resale value.  Part 3 is for interiors, but focuses on the value to homeowners not planning to sell right away.  Enjoy Part 2, and stay tuned for Part 3 later this week!


There is no doubt about it.  Granite is a beautiful material, and is very well known and popular in recent years.  I am a granite fan in general, but I believe that like laminate and tile countertops, it is a trend that will eventually subside---at least for a while.  There are other options for countertops that are unique and can help you sell your home:
  • QUARTZ  - One newer countertop option is quartz.  Brands like Silestone, Caesarstone, and Zodiaq are becoming VERY popular.  They have great advantages over granite, such as being low maintenance, and it is a green material.  Quartz countertops come in hundreds of colors and textures, some that are engineered to appear like granite, some that are more unique and whimsical. 
  • SOAPSTONE  - This option is a very durable material with a deep green tone.  It is a natural material like granite, and is becoming a new popular choice for something out of the mainstream.    
  • LIMESTONE-  Limestone is an exquisite material---beautiful and neutral.  However it does have a similar density to marble, which stains easily.  Be sure to finish the stone properly to avoid stains.  I recommend if you are considering limestone, to use it for mainly bath countertops, and not in kitchens.
  • CONCRETE- For homes that are more modern and being promoted as such, concrete countertops are becoming well known and desired. They can have a matte finish or can be polished.
The fore-mentioned are options that may help you stand out from the competition.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry are going to have granite countertops.  Do not feel like you HAVE to invest in granite in order to sell your home.  Be different, but retain elegance and class.  Speak to a designer to determine the best fit for you.

Crown molding is becoming one detail that many prospective homebuyers are noticing.  They may not go out in search of a home with that one specific feature, but when they view a house with crown, it is usually noticed and admired.  The cost of crown molding can be as little as fifty cents per linear foot, so it is a small investment that truly makes a large impact.  I recommend white crown, because not only is it classic and sure to please, but it does not have to be solid wood.  It can be purchased in paint grade MDF, or even vinyl.  Vinyl is excellent for curving walls that normally would require a bunch of complicated cuts.  While crown molding and upgraded door and window trim can be cost efficient, they can also become very costly depending on the size and material type.  Speak to a qualified designer to determine what size and style is appropriate for your home, and if in fact it is a necessary investment.  It is very helpful in older homes that need a facelift, but in homes that are 10 years old or less, it may not get you a high enough return to make a difference.

There is no question that wood floors are IN DEMAND now.  Carpet, linoleum, and even tile are now frowned upon by most prospective buyers, regardless of how practical they may be.  It is important to remember what actually sells, and not so much your personal preferences.  However, if the budget is tight, don’t go bankrupt trying to please the masses in an attempt to sell your home.  My recommendation in some cases would be to install wood flooring in the entryway, and the areas that are more public, such as the family room area---the areas that you notice first, before touring areas like the laundry room, or the bedrooms.  Carpeting is usually perfectly appropriate in bedrooms, but if you are re-carpeting, remember to choose a NEUTRAL color and pile.  In addition, not all woods are created equal price-wise.  Maple for instance will cost you much less than Cherry or Mahogany.  The right type of wood will vary by home—based on the architectural features and how the home is expected to be received.  A modern home with strong angular elements will not appeal to modern buyers if it has traditional oak flooring.  Consider consulting with a designer to determine which type of wood will be right for the property type and budget.

When updating your home for sale, first off, don’t concern yourself with the potential nit-picky preferences of the home buyer.  If someone just happens to be a gourmet chef, and makes souffl├ęs and sushi every other day, that should not break YOUR bank.  Second, as a rule of thumb, “High end appliances” are expected in “High end homes”.  If you are remodeling your kitchen immediately before sale to increase your asking price, your goal should be to make a good first impression and create that wow factor.  In the average 4 bedroom home, most prospective buyers do not walk in EXPECTING a Viking 6 burner range and oven, which can cost you over ten thousand dollars.  For wow factor, stainless steel gas powered is the ticket (currently), but that does not mean you need to go super high end to impress buyers.  Again, this is not the case in luxury homes.  Whether selling a luxury estate, or the average 3-5 bedroom, if you do not have much to spend on home improvements, consult with a qualified designer that can help you determine how to get the biggest bang for your buck.

One feature in a home that will most definitely make an impression on buyers is a walkin master closet.  However, in many spaces, walkin closets are simply not feasible.  It is true that walkin closets are in demand, but they can actually do more harm than good when it comes to storage space, AND general square footage.  Some homeowners have more than enough linear feet of closet space, but are not utilizing it properly.  A 6 foot wide sliding door closet can more functional than a walkin and vice versa depending on the circumstances.  A walkin closet will likely be to your disadvantage if it eats up too much of the square footage within the bedroom.  Whether reselling or not, if you are considering adding a walkin closet, is it advisable to speak with a qualified designer that specializes in remodels and preferably storage systems to determine if it is a practical investment.  These are JOI specialties, so call 925-895-1336 for an appointment.

One of the top investments in homes right now is interior shutters.  These are definitely in high demand and add significantly to curb appeal.  However, it is not always necessary to install them throughout your ENTIRE home.  When considering this investment, I recommend using shutters on at least the windows visible from the street.  Shutters are not right for everyone though, nor are they right for all window types.  Many homeowners will put shutters on literally every window in their home, including sidelights and tiny accent windows.  On a 1x5 or a 2x2 window a shutter looks ridiculous, but it happens ALL the time.  Furthermore, the custom size surcharges can be ridiculously high.  For those special size windows, it is often best to just leave them uncovered.   Shutters are available in wood as well as vinyl, so cost varies.  They are usually worth the money, but you may want to address this with a professional designer who will have an unbiased and educated opinion.  As far as other window covering types, the options are endless.  Mixing more than one type of window treatment in a home can be a bit tricky though.  I offer and specialize in window coverings, so call for an appointment.  925-895-1336

Whether or not you are selling, walkin showers have become all the rage.  They give a luxurious spa feel to any master bath. “Master bath” being the operative term.  Walkin showers are popular, but many times can put sellers at a huge disadvantage.  You should have at least ONE tub in your home to accommodate buyers that have small children.  Tubs are often a deal breaker, so BEWARE!

         I hope you enjoyed Part 2.  Stay tuned later this week for Part 3, and contact me with any questions or if you would like to schedule a JOI consult in your home.  Thank you!   :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What is a "Qualified Designer"?

           When writing my articles, I often recommend that my readers employ a “qualified designer”.  But what does this mean?  I consider myself qualified of course, but generally speaking, a qualified designer is one who is:
  • Educated
  • Experienced
  • Talented
  • Good listener
  • Connected
  • Compatible
  • Recommended

There is no substitute for a formal education in interior design.  While education will not necessarily give someone “talent”, it is crucial to understanding the different aspects of the trade.  In an accredited design program today, courses include: architectural drafting; building codes and standards; color theory; different materials and applications; textiles; furniture design and history; lighting design; green design; commercial design; ADA compliance; universal design; environmental psychology; business; and more.  Many people assume that an interior design education is merely learning which colors go together, and how to create a room furniture layout.  These sorts of things do not require formal education.  Schools that are FIDER or CIDA accredited will comply with the highest educational standards in interior design.

As with education, there is no substitute for experience.  Working in the real world directly with clients and contractors refines and adds to the skills acquired in formal training.  Do not assume however that a designer with 30 years experience will automatically be BETTER than a designer with 10 years experience.  That is a matter of talent.  There are some “designers” that have been in the business for over 30 years that are unable to read a floor plan.  This is why it is important for a “qualified designer” to meet a variety of requirements.

No amount of education and experience will give a designer natural talent.  “Talent” is the ability to deliver a truly pleasing design to a wide variety of clientele.  Of course, talent is in the eye of the beholder.  That is where portfolios come into play.  When hiring a photographer, one does not hire based on education and experience alone.  One MUST view the photographer’s portfolio to determine if their style is compatible with one’s preference.  You may find 5 excellent photographers, but they will all have different techniques, and those techniques will identify which one is best for you.  It is the same for interior designers.  They can have all the education and experience in the world, but if their technique just does not go with your preferences, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere.

This is probably the most critical aspect of qualifying a designer.  If a designer has impeccable talent, education and experience, but is not a good listener, they cannot possibly produce a design that is best for you.  If a prospective designer talks more than he/she listens, it is not a good sign.  A good designer will want to make sure you are 100% comfortable before final decisions are made.  

A connected designer usually has a list of reputable contractors and vendors that he/she refers on projects.  Vendors include custom cabinet makers, furniture manufacturers, art galleries, drapery companies, etc.  Contractors include architects, builders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters and miscellaneous specialists for interior work.  The point of a designer having connections is to save the client time and stress.  If the client needs to sift through the phone book for contractors, make appointments for dozens of bids, and visit dozens of various showrooms, it does not reduce, but ADDS to stress.  As a full service designer, I coordinate and supervise estimates and installs, and do all the research and product selection on behalf of my client.  I also have connections with various vendors that allow me to save the client money as well.  Designer discounts and connections are part of the advantage of hiring a qualified designer.

A qualified interior designer needs to be open to new ideas and different styles.  Your home should not be part of a typical routine, but a brand new concept that is customized to your style and personality.  Whether your style is modern, very traditional, or somewhere in between, the designer needs to accommodate that easily and gracefully.  If the client consists of a couple, or a family of five, the designer must be compatible with all the individuals to deliver the most functional and suitable results.  If a client is wheelchair bound or vision-impaired, the designer must be familiar with ADA/special needs design/universal design to have a good sense of the design approach needed.  Formal education will usually include this in the curriculum.  In addition to compatibility with the client, a qualified designer needs to be compatible with the CONTRACTORS working on the project.  This is one advantage of hiring a designer with connections, is it is already pre-determined that the designer and contractors will work well together.

It is reassuring to the client when a designer can provide a list of testimonials and references.  Despite how photos may appear in a designer’s portfolio, that does not necessarily mean that the client was pleased, or that the project went smoothly.  The professionalism of a “qualified designer” will mainly be determined by client reviews, not a portfolio.  It is good to ask for references if you are deciding on a designer for your home improvement project.

        In conclusion, when selecting an interior designer, it is important to fully understand what “qualified” means.  The candidate should be considered by ALL the above criteria.  Interview them and see if you are compatible.  It should be very obvious in an interview whether a designer is right for you.  Trust your intuition, but be sure to ask about all the above mentioned.  Regarding fees, do not assume that more expensive is better, or that less expensive is poor quality.  If you are considering employing a qualified professional interior designer for your next project, I would be pleased to meet with you for an interview and initial consultation.  925-895-1336

Monday, July 9, 2012


        This week, I am addressing some very common home investments being made in the past 10 years.  These are largely related to homeowners that want to increase their resale value.  My post will be split into 2 segments: part one covering exterior investments, part two covering interior.  I do not claim to be an EXPERT in exterior work, but I am very familiar with these common investments and the effectiveness when it comes to resale.  Being a designer, I can easily recognize the magnitude of visual impact for certain types of investments.  Call it "Designer Logic".  When selling a home, there are two phrases that come to mind.  The first being "First impressions are everything".  The second being "Seeing is believing".  The first thing a prospective buyer will notice when home shopping is the VISUAL appeal.  If the property is not immediately visually appealing, it can poison the entire viewing, whether the home is in excellent condition or not.  If you are claiming your property to be worth more than your competition, it must APPEAR as such.  Seeing is believing.  I am going to give a break-down of my educated opinion is on these particular expenditures:  Landscaping, Stonework and pavers, Upgraded windows, Vinyl siding versus paint, Garages, and Backyard splurges.

While not my particular field of expertise, I can say that landscaping is EXTREMELY important to selling a home.  The front of the property in particular is critical.  "First impressions are everything".  Shoppers do not enter the home through the bedroom.  The first thing they see is the front of the house.  However, your exterior and lawn area do not need to be super exotic and complex to be effective.  Planting a few shrubs and floral bushes in strategically placed areas can make all the difference in the world, and may only cost you as little as a few hundred dollars.  It is a matter of proportion, balance, and color.  Good interior designers are trained on techniques to make spaces appear larger, or more intimate.  Inside or out, the concept is the same.  A little landscaping can go a long way.  Therefore, it is a wise investment when selling.

One investment trend right now is adding extra stonework to your exterior, and pavers instead of plain concrete to the driveway and/or walkway.  While it may indeed add curb appeal, this investment should be more on the conservative side when reselling.  Unless the entire interior is perfect, do not focus all your attention on excessive landscaping and stonework details.  Going all out on this may actually be to your disadvantage.  Stonework is often based on very personal tastes.  Your home's exterior needs to appeal to the masses if you wish to sell.  If the type of stone, the type of seam, orientation, and quantity get too personalized and unique, however beautiful it may seem, it may turn away several potential buyers.  A hint of upgraded stonework may be the perfect touch though, such as some rustic slate or cobblestone on the pathway to the front door.  It adds a bit of character without being overwhelming, and without being overly expensive.

One of the most common trends for resale, AND for new homeowners, is new vinyl windows.  These are usually double, but sometimes triple paned and most times are VERY costly.  Window sales reps will pitch the idea of a "40% reduction in energy costs", and the fabulous return on investment, but reports are showing that consumers have been disappointed.  Energy bills are not GUARANTEED to be reduced 40%, they are usually guaranteed for "UP TO" 40%.  Huge difference.  As for "Tax rebates", do your homework.  It is likely that you will be required to have a preliminary energy appraisal in order to become eligible.  There are indeed multiple potential benefits of new upgraded windows.  First, visual appeal, second noise reduction, and sometimes, but not always, significant energy conservation.  If energy conservation is your main reason for investing in new windows, consider alternative approaches such as upgraded insulation systems, which are less costly with the same or even better impact.  If you are planning to occupy your home for more than 15 years, then the investment on windows may be well worth it.  If you are about to sell, bear in mind that new windows are not usually at the TOP of a buyer's list.  Aside from the aesthetic appeal, they probably won't hold that much merit.  If it will put you out 12 thousand or more, consider another less costly option that will be sure to get you a return on your investment.

A popular home investment is Vinyl Siding.  It usually simulates wood siding, but is SIGNIFICANTLY more durable with less maintenance.  If you intend to occupy your home for another 10 years or so, it is a fabulous investment.  It can also be good for resale, however it is not cheap.  If your current exterior is in good condition and you plan to resell, don't concern yourself with whether the buyer will need to replace it in 5 years.  That is their business and their expense. Also, if your siding is in decent condition, but not the most stunning in appearance, a new paint job can be just the ticket.  The return on this will most likely be significantly more than buying vinyl siding, even if you pay a professional paint contractor.  It is a good idea to consult with a designer on a project like this.  Choice of color can make or break this investment, so spend the extra hundred or two on a qualified designer.

To some, the layout and quality of garage equipment is one of the most important in the home. However, this is usually in the case of the homeowner that has no immediate plans to resell.  A phrase that has become mainstream lately is "Kitchens sell houses".  I have never heard the phrase "Garages sell houses" and it certainly does not seem logical.  This should be considered when it comes to potential investments on a garage while prepping for resale.  Like everywhere else within the home, it is beneficial to have things neat and tidy, free of clutter to appeal to buyers.  It requires little to no expense to clean out one's garage.  However, some homeowners opt to furnish their garage with wall-to-wall in built in cabinets, and install rubber or vinyl flooring for a clean, sleek appearance.  That is great for personal use, but going out of one's way to be sure the buyer will have a perfect garage is not a logical investment.  Traditionally, garages are intended to be a space that contains a vehicle(s), protecting it from the elements, and from theft.  Today, they are often converted to game rooms, workshops, and lounges.  This is NOT what buyers are looking for, at least not the majority.  I agree that it is a worthwhile investment to put some basic shelves in, but don't go overboard.  It is more profitable to just clean out your garage than to buy wall to wall cabinets in order to hide your stuff from prospective buyers.

In a perfect world, we would all have island resorts in our backyard.  However, it is generally not EXPECTED by those looking to buy a home.  There are two backyard investments that I will address:  swimming pools and outdoor kitchens.

Swimming pools are not a new concept in upgrading one's backyard retreat.  In recent years though, studies have put many on edge when it comes to child safety, in relation to pools.  Laws are now being enforced to avoid child safety hazards, requiring fences that must surround the pool area.  The majority of home buyers either have, or are planning to have children, and may immediately consider a pool to be a DOWNSIDE on a potential home.  If there is a fence in place already, it usually does not make the best impression aesthetically, and if there is not, that is an unwanted extra expense to the home buyer.  This issue will vary based on demographic and property size.  Luxury estates with large yards are typically expected to have a pool and/or water feature of some sort.  Also, homes in very warm climate areas such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida, will basically be expected to have a pool.

Another increasingly common investment is the Outdoor Kitchen.  These also are now considered a necessity for luxury estates.  However, for 2-5 bedroom homes, it is still a personal indulgence, not expected by the masses.  For many, it is definitely a plus when buying a home, but the question is, at what COST?  If one is planning to sell their home, and decides to make some adjustments to the backyard, it can sometimes get out of control.  The cost of putting in a fully equipped outdoor kitchen with a gas range, fridge, sink(s), wine cooler and granite counters can be astronomical.  Unless you are selling a luxury estate, it is hardly worth the investment.  It is widely agreed that having an outdoor kitchen is nice, but honestly, how many prospective buyers are willing to pay an extra 50 thousand dollars for one?   Unless all your neighbors have one and you are in direct competition with them, put your money elsewhere.