Not so long ago, purchasing a home was an investment, a sure thing. Buy, improve, sell at a profit. You just had to decide how much you should spend on each project to get your money back. Common knowledge was that a new kitchen would pay you back if you didn’t get carried away. An additional bathroom, if the house needed it, would do the same.
Times changed and the unthinkable happened when the price of real estate plummeted. No longer was your home a stable investment. In fact, selling your home and buying another one, bigger, better, in a better neighborhood, with more bedrooms and bathrooms, became nothing but a fantasy. You found yourself downing in your mortgage, upside down in debt. Unless you could buy your way out of your mortgage or your current mortgage was nowhere near the estimated selling price of the house, you weren’t in a position to take advantage of the new, lower prices for real estate.
- Remain in your home and live with it as is.
- If you have the funds, rent it and purchase a replacement home while waiting for real estate prices to rebound.
- Assess the potential property values in your neighborhood and improve your current home to turn it into your dream home.
In the Miami area you don’t even need a Realtor to make preliminary decisions. Realtor.com is a website that contains links to all the information that Realtors can access: The MLS (multiple listing service), property histories, school information, demographics in an easy to use website. There was a time when the MLS was printed in books that were as thick as phone books, not changed frequently enough, and resided in real estate offices. Individual Realtors knew much of the information that is now available on Realtor.com for public consumption and more than earned their commissions. Now you can save some money by using the tools that are available to you. If you have the time, it will be worthwhile.
Public records are also available on the Internet. The Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Website contains information about every residence in the owner’s name to gain knowledge that will help you decide whether to move or improve.
Of course, answering the question isn’t straightforward or easy. You’re talking about emotions, habits, your family’s welfare, not just money. Unfortunately, emotion can sometimes be the catalyst that leads to economic disasters. You just have to make your decision with your eyes opened and don’t forget influences on property values that aren’t obvious at first glance.
Location and the influence of the water can be out of proportion in the Miami area. Good waterfront is worth money.
What, then, is good waterfront? The best waterfront properties have unobstructed views that you can take advantage of when you design your property. Easy navigation to the open ocean is another factor that influences property value.
- Good waterfront doesn’t have fixed bridges, that is any bridges lower than 16 feet that have to be navigated to arrive at open water.
- Good waterfront property has dock space large enough to accommodate a boat larger than 40 feet, the larger the better.
- The condition of the dock and seawall are important--repairs are expensive.
In addition to waterfront, all the usual factors pertaining to location influence property values.
- Is the home in a stable, residential community?
- What are the crime statistics?
- How are the schools?
- Is the property influenced by unwieldy traffic patterns?
- Is it too close to major highways?
- What about shopping, recreation?
“Location location location” is a tiresome phrase that everyone hears repeated when trying to answer the move or improve question, but, of course, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the home, the size of the lot, the floor plan, the cosmetics, those are among the factors that can be changed.
Home improvement projects small and large are fun to plan, sometimes not so much fun to live through, but so satisfying to live with. As long as we understand the cardinal rule of home improvement: Every major renovation will take twice as long as you think and cost one and one half times the estimated cost, you will live to enjoy the results.