By Shelley Sakala, Realtor

In this month’s real estate column, local realtor Shelley Sakala addresses the topic of upgrades in response to a reader’s question. “Now that the market has cooled off a little, I’m rethinking my home improvement plans. Should I hold off? Should I go for it?” asks Marcus, a Phoenix homeowner.

Today’s homeowners are more informed than ever, with access to online resources for calculating and forecasting home values. They’re factoring in return-on-investment, neighborhood comps, and curb appeal when deciding whether to do home upgrades.

With this in mind, I always ask one key question when homeowners ask my advice on home improvement: How long do you plan to stay in that house? Knowing the answer can guide you when planning upgrades to your home. I like to divide improvement projects into three categories based on how long you’ll be there.

1. Short-term Stay (1-2 years)
2. Medium-term Stay (3-5 years)
3. Long-term Stay (5+ years)

If you only intend to stay in your house for a couple of years, you might not want to sink a bunch of money into your home. Here’s why: A $100,000 swimming pool may only bump up your home price by $20,000-$30,000. Great family fun but a not-so-great ROI. Instead, consider doing cosmetic upgrades to the décor such as interior paint, cabinet hardware, curtain rods, and toilet seats. These DIY projects don’t require a contractor and the price point is relatively low. You’ll end up with a quick refresh you can enjoy while you’re still living there.

Medium-term projects include switching out the light fixtures, replacing the carpeting, or installing new ceiling fans. You may need to hire a handyman and shell out a few more bucks for the projects, but you’ll be in the house long enough to enjoy the upgrades before you move. Installing new faucets, for example, will set you back a few hundred dollars each, but will instantly modernize a tired-looking kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room.

You’ve decided to stay awhile. Maybe it’s your “forever” house. This is where you go for it with home improvement projects because you’re not worried about profit margin or ROI. This could mean new flooring, windows, countertops, or even a swimming pool. You’re about to cross over from “redecorating” to “remodeling,” which requires a contractor (and a few more zeroes on the price tag), but you’ll love the results for years to come.

Whatever you choose to do and however much you choose to spend, remember that any on-trend enhancements will make your home more appealing to a buyer (if and when you decide to sell). You might not see a dollar-for-dollar return on your investment, but a more desirable home usually sells faster. That’s something you’ll appreciate down the road.

Shelley Sakala is a local realtor and owner of The Sakala Group Real Estate. Learn more at