Think of your next major purchase like an investment:  How We Finished our Upstairs and Increased our Home’s Value by $70K!

Arch window

Buying a new home is a very exciting process, whether it is your first, or fifteenth!  However, if you are hoping to sell it in the future for a profit, there are a few things that we recommend you take into consideration.  Too often people, myself included, tend to let their emotions, societal norms, or immediate needs rule their decision making and end up buying more home than they can actually afford in an area where home values may not appreciate well.   When we originally decided to purchase our first house, we chose a location where the home values had steadily appreciated over the past 20 years due to the proximity of a steady incoming workforce (It was near a military base).  We were able to sell that home and make a considerable profit after living there for a few years.  When we were searching for our second home, we were looking to reinvest what we had earned from our first home, with “invest” being the key word.  We were looking for a home as an investment opportunity, with the intent to resale for a profit in the future.

     During our home search, we found several homes that would have suited our immediate needs and been nice by society’s standards, nevertheless when we chose our second home, the 850 square feet of unfinished upstairs space was a major factor.  With several handy men in our family, including my go-getter husband, we were sure that we could eventually finish the upstairs and consequently increase our livable square footage thus increasing the value of our home. During our first few years of living there, we used the space upstairs as a walk-in attic.  I would walk up and walk around the space and visualize what I wanted it to be once a month or so during that time. We even did some research on prices of materials and contacted a few contractors to see how much they would charge to do the job for us.  We were sure that we could do it ourselves for less and embarked on our first major D.I.Y. adventure as a family of three.

     It took us five years, but we eventually turned a bare, open space into an office, bathroom, and bonus room.  We tackled each aspect of the project one chunk at a time as money and our time off would allow. My husband bartered services with other tradesmen along the way which helped tremendously.  I devoted a lot of my time off as a teacher to cleaning or working on finishing details. My parents spent numerous weekends with us; Dad supervising and sharing his expertise while Mom helped watch our girls.

     There were times when I thought that we would never finish.  Anytime I would get discouraged though, I would pull up a camping chair and just gaze out the arched picture window and visualize it all being done.  I’d either be freezing or have sweat pouring off me, but I’d turn away from the window and look out at that barren construction zone and imagine my children playing in front of me and the air conditioning keeping the space a comfortable 75 degrees. I’d lean back in that chair and imagine that I was curled up in a comfy swivel rocker, rather than a fold-up camping chair and just relax for a few more minutes.  After a while, I’d get up and walk back down the stairs with my hope renewed.

Today, I can say that we are finished!  We installed the floor and the plumber came and finished connecting everything in the bathroom and I am sitting in a comfy swivel rocker (thanks Grandma!) looking out the arched picture window at the hot July sun, while enjoying a comfy 75-degree temperature up here in the upstairs that took 10 years to build (technically 5 to build after 5 of passive planning).  We have learned so much along the way! The most important lesson though is that hard work, patience, and persistence definitely pay off!


Here’s our advice for treating your next home purchase like an investment:

1.Keep the end in mind! – If you are looking to increase the value of your property you are either going to have to purchase in a location where the housing trend is positive and/or be prepared to make some improvements on the property. Do your research and check local economic reports. Is there a steady demand for housing in the area (or does it look like there will be due to new companies coming to the area?)  Is the demand for housing greater than the number of houses for sale?  Also think about each property with new eyes open to the possibilities of that property. What can be improved?  Could the kitchen/bathrooms be updated?  Is there an unfinished attic or basement space that could be finished?  Could you improve upon the landscape and or curb appeal?  Could a section of the property be used as a rental space?  If you’ll look at each property from the perspectives of both the current buyer and a future buyer, then you will be better able to determine which property will be the better investment.

2. Leave the technical stuff to the techs! – Although we strongly believe that anyone who sets their mind to it and does the right research can tackle most DIY projects themselves, we also strongly advise you to hire licensed contracters to complete the more technical parts of your home improvement projects. We bartered services with a few licensed contractors (sheetrock, HVAC, electric) and outright paid others (insulation, plumbing) in order to comply with our county permit codes and protect our investment which leads us to tip #3.

3. Apply for the correct building permit(s) with your local government! – Where we lived, we had to go to our county tax office to apply for a building permit BEFORE we began any official work on our DIY project.  However, oftentimes these permits have a time limit, so you want to have as many of your “ducks in a row” as possible before applying for the permit.  Our permit had a place for various tradesmen to put their signature and license number which helped us know what we could legally tackle on our own during this project and what we should leave to the pros (see tip #2!).  *We have heard horror stories about families that couldn’t sell their homes, or sell them at a fair price, because they failed to apply for a permit for their larger DIY projects.

4. Visualize! – We are big believers in the power of visualization to help design your dream life and your DIY project is part of that life! Spend time visualizing not only how you will use the space once your project is complete, but also how it will be seen by future home buyers, and how this project will help move you along to the next phase of your life journey.  Our DIY project helped provide the financial cushion that we needed for our current phase as a fulltime RV family!

5.  Enjoy the journey! – This can sometimes be the hardest step for me because I have so many dreams and I want them all to come true RIGHT NOW! However, we learned so much during this phase of our journey!  It really strengthened our bonds as a family, created memories that could never have happened otherwise and honestly, if you don’t learn to enjoy the journey, you’ll never enjoy your life because it is a journey!


We wish you the best in your DIY and life journey!  What stage of the journey are you in currently?  Right now, our life is a constant journey as we travel the continent as a family of 5 in our 5th wheel.  We’d love to have you tag along by following our journey on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.  Remember that no matter what phase of life you are in, there’s always another perspective available when you have your new eyes open to all of life’s possibilities! 


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