Retaining Home Value
Smart Choices Now Pay Dividends Later
by Dawn Sloane Downs
You're about to buy a new home in Atlanta and hundreds, if not thousands, of dazzling possibilities dance in your head like the quintessential sugarplum on Christmas Eve—Granite countertops. Hardwood floors. Berber carpeting. Sunken tubs.
Many of the choices you make, like upgraded carpet or antique bronze plumbing fixtures, will simply add to your comfort and pleasure with no impact on your home's value. That's okay. Our homes are meant to reflect our personal style and serve as havens of comfort and joy. However, some crucial choices you make may determine how well your home retains its value in the years to come.
"Location! Location! Location!" It's the apocryphal motto of real estate agents as far back as anyone can remember, and for good reason. Aside from the size and style of your home, few choices affect the value of your home more than location. When looking for a home, consider locations that are a close commute to major business corridors where many jobs are located. In the metro Atlanta area there are lots of options.
A study by the National Association of Realtors shows that home buyers increasingly prefer homes in walk-able neighborhoods and mixed-use developments as they attempt to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce time spent away from their families commuting, and create lives centered around family and community. Close proximity to mass transit can also have a beneficial impact on your home's value.
Naturally, you'll also want to consider the quality and reputation of the school district in which you purchase your new home. "Even if a buyer doesn't currently have or plan to have a school-age child, school district continues to be one of the strongest indicators of home values," says Joan Kaplan, a Realtor with Drake Realty in Decatur.
Kaki Colvin, a Realtor at Harry Norman Realtors, agrees. "The better school districts tend to sell faster, but even those areas still have their short sells and foreclosures right now, which means prices are still dropping, and there are some real bargains to be found that will regain much of their value due to their location in one of the better school districts."
A Quality Build
Whether you're choosing an older home in an established neighborhood or want to work with a builder in a new development to personalize your dream home, look for the highest quality in your price range. "Homes made of quality materials by quality craftsmen are far more likely to hold their value," says Kaplan.
One of the best ways to find a quality home is through the referrals of family and friends. If they're happy with their home and have had no major problems, you can probably depend on the quality of other homes in their neighborhood or built by their builder. Also, look to builders who can show a proven track record of quality builds.
If you're looking in a new development, don't make your decision to buy based solely on a visit to a model home. Insist on seeing a finished house or unit that is still vacant. Also, visit older developments built by your builder and see how well the homes have held up over time.
The Devil is in the Details
Many of the choices you make in choosing a home and neighborhood will pay for themselves in years of cozy contentment. Others will continue paying dividends when you put your house on the market years later. Learning about which options have the biggest financial impact on your home's value can make your choices a little easier.
So, is finding a neighborhood with a pool worth it? Probably so, says Colvin. "A well-maintained neighborhood pool can definitely add to the value of your home, though it's hard to put a figure on the actual impact."
Both Realtors also point out that any amenities like pools, tennis courts, parks and playgrounds, or neighborhood clubhouses can increase the value of your home but come with the added cost of HOA dues.
What about your home's interior? Is the high-end custom kitchen worth the extra cost? Kaplan says no. "Kitchens and master bathrooms are very important to future buyers. You want them to be nice, but don't over improve them! For instance, upgrading to mid-range cabinetry will give you more value and retain it better than upgrading to superior cabinetry since most buyers can't tell the difference."
One splurge she does recommend? Hardwood floors. Lisa Justus, Vice President of Benchmark Homes, agrees. "Hardwood flooring and ceramic tile are always worth the cost of the upgrade in return on investment because they will last for decades and never go out of style," Justus says. "They are second in value only to adding granite countertops. Builders can upgrade your countertops from laminate to granite relatively inexpensively."
Where to Look in Atlanta
Fortunately, as you start your search for a new home here in Atlanta, you'll find developments by builders with solid reputations offering many value-holding features and amenities.
For example, The Highlands at Inverness Ridge by Benchmark Homes features a community pool and playground. These Smyrna/Vinings-area homes start in the $200s and offer front porches, 9 ft. ceilings, and whirlpool tubs.
The Lofts @ 5300 by Charter Development Co. may be Atlanta's best kept secret. Condos range from $63,900 for a studio to $130,900 for a three-bedroom unit. This mixed-use development located adjacent to the Chamblee MARTA station features a pool, gardens, rooftop tennis courts and is within an easy walk from a park and Chamblee's new walking trails.
Wyndham Falls Estates by Wilson Parker Homes is just minutes from downtown Decatur, Arabia Mountain Park, and downtown Atlanta. These elegantly styled three- and four-bedroom single-family homes in the fastest growing part of DeKalb County offer master suites with sitting rooms, plus stainless steel kitchens.
The Estate at Walden Park by Traton Homes—a gated, master planned community in South Fulton County—offers homes starting at $270,000. The community features a pool, walking trails, lighted tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts, and an amphitheater.
The ultimate value of any home is the love and laughter shared inside its walls. Practically speaking, our homes remain the largest financial investment most of us will ever make. That's why it is so important we make smart choices when buying them.
Choosing wisely when it comes to the core decisions that will help our homes hold their value, we can enjoy the fruits of our thoughtful decision-making regarding location, quality and a few choice amenities long after our new home dreams have settled into a beautiful reality.