This is the third installment of a new occasional column called Getting Real About Renovations. We’re looking at renovation realities for all sorts of projects, from hardwood floors and open floorplans, to master suite additions and kitchen upgrades. We’ll give you the unadulterated truth about options, costs, effort, Realtor opinion, and estimated ROI for these projects. You can read the last one about garage doors here

When people think of home renovations, things like “new kitchen” and “hardwood floors” typically come to mind. But when it comes to bang for your buck — and it might not be as sexy as a new vaulted ceiling or bathroom tile treatment — you really can’t beat adding insulation.

Both nationally and in Dallas, the top home remodeling projects last year were those that increased the functionality and sustainability of the home. They did this by improving either a home’s drive-up appeal or energy efficiency, according to the 2016 Cost vs. Value Report by the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine.

Fiberglass attic insulation, which increases a home’s energy efficiency, ranked among the top five most profitable projects nationwide. In Dallas, it recouped 100.9 percent of initial investment, based on an average project cost of $1,482, according to that report.

“I think adding insulation is a great ROI in most cases —it is relatively inexpensive, as compared with radiant barrier, HVAC, solar panels, and a lot of other energy efficiency features,” said Kay Wood, a Realtor with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. “There are also sometimes incentives from Oncor or federal tax credits for increasing the efficiency of your home. I always encourage clients to think about how long they plan to stay in their home and how long it looks like it will take to see that savings pay for their investment. Energy efficiency and green features can also improve resale.”

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hardwood floors

Antique wormy chestnut reclaimed hardwood floors by Olde Wood Ltd.

Today, we’re starting a new occasional column called Getting Real About Renovations. We’re going to look at renovation realities for all sorts of projects, from hardwood floors and open floorplans, to master suite additions and kitchen upgrades. We’ll give you the unadulterated truth about options, costs, effort, Realtor opinion, and estimated ROI for these projects.  

Americans can’t get enough about home improvements, from reality TV shows to demand for renovations in properties on the market at all price points. In the first ten months of October 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on remodeling their homes, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report.

Many homeowners wonder which will bring them the most happiness and get the best return on investment (ROI) should they sell in the future (or if they’re flipping a property!).

We’re starting this series by looking at hardwood floors in all their forms: engineered, solid wood, and reclaimed wood floors, as well as refinishing existing floors.

So are they worth the investment? In a word, absolutely.

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Photo: Dallas ReStore

All photos: Dallas ReStore

If you’re DIY aficionado or planning a home renovation project on a budget, then you’ve got to be jazzed about the Feb. 21 grand opening of the newest Habitat for Humanity ReStore Resale Outlet in DFW. The store will be located in Lake Highlands at the southeast corner of Skillman Street and Abrams Road in the space formerly occupied by Big Lots, which closed last year.

This location is the eleventh in the DFW area, all of which are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers selling new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at steep discounts (like 20 to 70 percent off retail prices). Each store is operated by local Habitat chapters, and proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity homebuilding efforts around the world.

The range of items at a ReStore is always surprising and it varies tremendously by location: I’ve seen everything from front doors to front-loading washing machines. And for the creatively inclined, this place is a mecca. The Dallas area ReStore knows what’s up: they’ve got their own Pinterest page with 25 boards featuring everything from Dallas ReStore sales and fab finds to inspiration for specific rooms around the house and upcycling ideas. I’ve already repinned a thrift store lamp makeover, projects using pallets, and a DIY furniture re-do from their pages. Jump to read more!

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All photos courtesy Erik Schuessler

All photos courtesy Erik Schuessler

When Erik Schuessler first encountered the midcentury modern house at 1434 Bar Harbor Cir. in the Wynnewood Hills neighborhood of Oak Cliff, he fell in love with its potential and retro aesthetic. As he renovated the 4,600-square-foot beauty and learned more about it, he also grew fascinated by its history.

In its heyday, Bar Harbor Drive was known as “Pill Hill” because so many doctors lived on the street. The house’s original resident, Dr. John B. Chester, ran Parkland Hospital and later ventured out on his own with The Chester Clinic and Hospital.

Dallas Morning News society editor Ann Draper wrote a piece in the early 1960s on his wife, Charlotte Chester, which described the Bar Harbor house as “among the most unusual and elegant in Oak Cliff. An indoor swimming pool has been a favorite with large and small groups of guests, as have rooms in the living area, which lend themselves to any number. Set in a wooded area, the house is on the very edge of the Oak Cliff Country Club’s No. 2 green of the golf course.”

1434 Bar Harbor

Located near the intersection of W. Redbird Lane and S. Polk Street, south of Highway 67, the house was what Schuessler describes as “pretty beat up” when he purchased it in early 2012.

“You can tell it was designed so well, and the way it was built is head and shoulders above many other midcenturies I’ve seen, and newer properties,” Schuessler said. “You can look in every corner and see that it was thought out. I fell in love with the aesthetic of the house.”

And thus began a three-year renovation for Schuessler and his girlfriend Meredith Moore, with Schuessler as the general contractor, carefully overseeing every detail of the revamp. The goal was to bring the house back to its original glory and perhaps make it even better by updating key elements, like HVAC, pool equipment, and the roof.

He is selling the house himself—it is listed for $475,000, or around $100 a square foot—but the intent was never to flip the property. It was to restore it.

“I think most flips are terrifying—it’s a ‘beige-ification’ with beige walls, Berber carpets, boring, boring, boring, nothing original to the style of the house except for maybe a pillar or two,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of houses and I buy a place, I really get into it, live in for three to five years, then move on. I find myself enamored by a place or an area and I have to buy it.” Jump to read more and see photos!

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102 Skyline A

Gone with the Wind was a childhood favorite of mine, with its winding storyline, genteel fashion, and dramatic romances. In one memorable scene, Scarlett’s father, Gerald O’Hara, an Irish peasant immigrant, proclaims in his rough brogue, “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

That sort of mentality about the importance of land to heritage, identity, and wealth still exists, and there’s something visceral and deeply gratifying about owning actual land, as opposed to, say, stocks, which seem to exist in the ether.

If you’re an urban homeowner, the amount of land you’re likely to own is quite small, as plantations like Tara don’t exist within city limits. But there are properties in DFW with actual land, and for today’s Tuesday Two Hundred, I found one sitting on almost an acre in Collin County.

The house at 102 Skyline Dr. in Murphy is listed by William Duke of Carrington Real Estate Service for $259,000 and sits on 0.98 acres. It is located near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 544 and S. Murphy Road.

Murphy is a fast-growing bedroom community of about 18,000 residents, bordered by Plano, Richardson, Wylie, Sachse, and Parker. It’s about 20 miles from Downtown Dallas, 35 miles from DFW Airport, and 25 miles from Love Field Airport.

This house is a 2,496 square foot fixer-upper with three bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and a pool. At $104 per square foot with all that land, I think it’s got huge potential. Jump to read all about it!

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IMG_7312

My home has been standing since 1952, according to DCAD. In that time it has seen a cycle of haphazard “renovations,” including a rather embarrassing “remodel” of the home’s sole bathroom. My home didn’t come with the cute vintage Daltile in the many different colors of the rainbow, nor did it have one of those fun vanities with the cool scrollwork cutouts.

Instead, it had an ugly particleboard vanity from the 80s that had so many stains in the cabinets and drawers you really had to wonder what the previous owner was doing in there. The shower, well, it had jacked up tiles and ugly grout, and more caulk than San Francisco’s Tenderloin (see what I did there???).

But we loved the rest of the house. It had a great layout and big windows for a home of its size, and a much larger kitchen than most of the houses we’d seen. We were willing to see the bathroom as a project that we could get done in time. Despite the discolored linoleum, stained formica, and tarnished brass fixtures, it was still functional.

That was almost 7 years ago.

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