Northside SF  

Experts say S.F. homeowners would rather improve than move
By Ed Attanasio

San Francisco homeowners are choosing to improve their homes instead of selling them. In this market, adding value to your house, apartment or condo is a sage decision, because once the economy rebounds, your residence will be worth more and therefore more attractive to buyers if and when you’re ready to make a move.

By polling contractors, remodelers and various builders that work in the Marina and Pacific Heights, we discovered three main methods homeowners are using to increase their property’s overall value: remodeling kitchens and bathrooms; installing environmentally friendly windows to capture available rebates; and landscaping upgrades such as building new fences or walls and installing fountains and environmentally friendly irrigation systems.

Many homeowners are opting to take advantage of the energy rebates and tax breaks associated with replacing old windows, for example. Vlad Merabian, owner of SGK Home Solutions Inc., has seen a lot of San Franciscans getting this work done now while these rebates and tax incentives are still available.

“In the end, these newer windows will pay for themselves,” Merabian said. “Windows and doors are a big way to save energy, and when you add in the [tax] incentives, it’s an easy decision.” The calls he’s been receiving lately indicate that many people are moving in this direction. Properly installed Milgard Windows, Merabian explained, are less drafty and block more noise than many other windows currently on the market. He consults with homeowners to determine which windows types are best suited for each situation. “The options for materials are vinyl, fiberglass or aluminum, and each has its own positive attributes,” he said.

Another way people are adding value to their homes during the recession is by remodeling. The idea is to build in the value rather than sell, according to James Madden, owner of Madden Construction in San Francisco.

“We’ve seen a trend recently where people want to improve rather than move,” Madden said. “Some folks are adding rooms or redoing parts of their homes to add value. Madden said that one benefit of the recession for his business has been that it’s been easy for him to find top-notch skilled workers to help in his current projects, both small and large.

Another method to add significant value to your home is to incorporate new landscaping, walls, fences, or earth-friendly enhancements to your yard, according to Janet Moyer of Janet Moyer Landscaping in San Francisco.

“Homeowners want to improve their yards in order to create a nicer environment for themselves,” Moyer said. She explained that the industry’s new technology has increased the options for enhancing and beautifying landscaping, while being green at the same time. For example, many of her clients are installing high-tech, satellite-based automatic watering systems. “These systems gauge the weather and will water more or less based on the weather the day before. … People obviously like the idea of helping the environment while saving water and money,” she said.
Improve rather than move? Many homeowners like the idea. And in this economy, it could just be the better investment.


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