Before I got into real estate I was a builder. As a teenager in Vermont, you had to find something to do in the summer if you wanted money for your winter activities. I tried restaurants, golf courses, land surveying and sales. I never liked the idea of reporting to a "boss", so I hung out with builders and picked up a few things here and there. In the beginning, I fooled my customers into thinking I knew what I was doing. As time went on I actually learned enough from carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers and masons to start my own building company.
Well, the years of heavy lifting have taken their toll and now I work with people that want to sell or buy real estate. It's been to my advantage as I can read a home pretty well and tell what may, or may not, need to be repaired, replaced, renovated or restored. Most of the people I deal with appreciate my insight. And I still have no real "boss", other than the one at home.
I can, however, give a little of my insight to some of you future home buyers when it comes to home improvement or repairs.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when improving an old home is they try to do what's hot right now. But what's hot right now won't be hot in 10 years. What will always be hot -- and will maintain the home's value -- is keeping with the era of the home.
My advice: tear out almost nothing, restore what's there - it is not only better for the home's value, it's easier on the wallet. Add only a few modern conveniences:
Walk-in closets, but added in a way where they don't take away from the character of the home, updated heating, cooling and plumbing systems, so the home is more comfortable, safe. And energy efficient new appliances. No one will ever say, 'Oh my, why did you put in a dishwasher?'
Another example: As my kids used to plow into the house covered in snow after our first real snowfall of the winter, I could not help but smile because they were beaming with happiness from a successful sledding, snowmobiling or skiing adventure. But then I could not help but shudder because I knew what was next. A trail of snow covered clothes and boots would begin at the door and eventually end in a pile in front of the wood stove. This would not bother me as much if it didn't always end with me stepping in a puddle of melted snow in my socks.
There are two times a year when you will really appreciate turning your pantry or half your porch into a mudroom: the 1st snow day and the 1st day of mud season. For those of you who do not live in a beautiful and rural mountainside village in Vermont, mud season falls between winter and spring; the ground has thawed, the snow has melted but the grass has yet to realize it's time to sprout.
It will become clear that a mudroom, separate from the main entry, is essential. Install multiple hooks (at varying heights), to make sure there is ample hanging space for bags, jackets and snow pants. With cubbies (both large and small), there will be no lack of storage for baskets of scarves, hats and mittens, hockey skates and gear, ski helmets, goggles, etc.
A built-in bench and boot shelf, as well as a couple of steps, provides plenty of room to take a seat while trying to pull boot and shoes on and off. And finally, with a radiant slab floor covered in slate tile, all those little melted snow puddles will dry up quickly. And as an added bonus with the radiant heat, if all those coats, pants, gloves and hats end up in a pile on the floor, rather than on hooks or in baskets, they will dry even more quickly because of the heat.