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Is DIY really the best option?

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Homeowners are urged to be cautious and do their research.

Cape Town – Do-it-yourself home projects appear to be the way to go for many South Africans as they balance a need to have homes they can be proud of with the pressures of the current economic climate.

But homeowners who are taking this path have been warned by experts to be cautious and do their research. Some say people’s obsession with trying to raise the value of a home can be a waste of money, especially if they do a bad job.

However, in tough economic times, DIY seems to be a good option for those still determined to find ways to improve their homes, either for purposes of resale, to create a more comfortable living space or have homes of which they can be proud.

Google search trend reports for South Africa revealed home DIY searches had increased from 2011. From November to now, the increase has been particularly sharp.

Proof of the rising trend can be found in building materials retailer Italtile’s recently-released trading statement for the six months ending on December 31, which disclosed system-wide turnover for the period would be between 12 percent and 15 percent higher than the same period the previous year. Furthermore, South Africa’s largest hardware retailer, Cashbuild, recorded increased revenue last year.

However, Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, warns that there are a number of factors homeowners needed to consider before deciding to embark on DIY home improvement projects.

Goslett advises:

* Only embark on projects you are confident you can complete in a manner that adds value to your home.

* Be aware of the space-reducing factor, especially for projects such as retiling or plumbing that could take entire areas of the home out of commission.

“Regardless of whether the homeowner does the work themselves or hires a professional, certain jobs will mean being unable to use that specific space in the home. However, hiring a professional may mean that the job is completed within a faster time frame,” he says.

* Consider the time a project will take. You need to be realistic about your time constraints and whether you can fit it in with your existing work schedule.

“The project might be begun with the best intentions, only to have piles of supplies sitting in and around the home for ages. It is vital for homeowners to be honest with themselves rather than have a permanent, unfinished item on their to-do list,” Goslett says.

Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Properties, an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, says there’s nothing wrong with DIY if “you have the skills to do a neat job and you are convinced that the end result will be an improvement”. However, do your research, he also advises.

He explains that investors might be less fussy about appearance if they plan to upgrade the property themselves, but most would-be homeowners tended to feel more positive about a property that was neat and well maintained and “ready-to-occupy”.

“The upgrades needn’t be extensive, nor should they cost a fortune,” says Greeff. “Sellers could remove rubble and or clutter; paint a front fence or wall; trim the lawn; deadhead and cutback overgrown plants; weed and mulch flower beds and accent the front path and front door with colourful, healthy pot plants.”


Entrances, bathrooms and kitchens best for upgrades

If you’re planning a renovation with the intention of improving your property’s selling price, there are three areas which require priority focus, says Greeff:

* entrances,

* bathrooms and

* kitchens.

Greeff says many real estate experts believe a house can be sold on its kitchen and bathrooms. “Given that these are the rooms everyone spends time in on a daily basis, this is a solid theory.”

Greeff cautions sellers on DIY or patch jobs in these areas.

“It’s worth spending a little more and enlisting the help of an expert for bathroom and kitchen renovations, but do some research before splashing out.”

Renovation experts say: A new kitchen should not cost more than 2 percent of the current value of the home.

“A qualified estate agent can help you ascertain what your home’s current value is by doing a comparative analysis of property values in your street and immediate vicinity, and then zoning in on comparing properties with the same accommodation and amenities as your current home and those with the kind of kitchen you are planning,” says Greeff.

Once you have made a decision to go ahead with your kitchen renovation, it’s wise to keep colours neutral and include appliances that are targeted at your potential buyers. This acts as a check against over capitalising. The most economical bathroom renovations are those which involve a facelift to existing elements, without having to move anything around.

“This way you’ll save on plumbing costs,” says Greeff.

He stresses adding a bathroom will increase your selling price.

“First impressions count, so the entrance to your home should not be overlooked.”

Research shows that buyers who are impressed within the first 10 seconds of entering a front gate are more likely to be among those putting in an offer – Greeff.


Biggest DIY mistakes

In its list of the biggest mistakes people make with DIY home improvements, the UK Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said these two were the main culprits:

* Cheap new floors.

* Converting a garage into another room. Garages are extremely popular among home buyers who want a safe place to park their car, as well as the chance to reduce the cost of car insurance.

Independent HOME


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