Five renovations that are guaranteed to make your house more liveable—or sellable—right now.

Blame it on too much HGTV, maybe, but who among us hasn’t dreamed of a gutting the kitchen and starting from scratch? Or turning a blah basement into a tricked-out guest suite? Or transforming a basic back patio into an outdoor living room? (Hey, if the Property Brothers can do it . . .)

As it happens, says Bob Peterson, owner of the design-build firm ABD, there’s been resurgence of renovation projects in Fort Collins in recent years. “New is very expensive around here,” he says. “That’s not because land is scarce, but because the water that allows land development is scarce,” he says. “So that’s driven a strong resurgence in the let’s-stay-where-we’re-at-and-put-some-money-into-this-place market.” 

So what, one might wonder, are the best projects to put some money into? Which are the must-have renos of the moment, the ones that help us max out a home’s liveablity and also offer a decent return on investment? We talked to seasoned NoCo pros to get their take on the best-bet additions for homeowners right now. Time to update your wishlist.


The Master Suite Retreat

Master suites have traditionally been one of the last projects homeowners get to in the house, if they ever get to it at all, if only because the public spaces generally get higher billing on the priority list. But master suite jobs have become increasingly popular, Peterson says, as homeowners have looked to add more square footage, more room for spreading out and settling in. And not for nothing—master bathroom projects are tied with kitchen renos for offering the highest return on investment.

The best bang-for-your-buck master suites are designed to be true retreats, says Kira Koldeway, general manager of design and business development for HighCraft Builders. In many cases, they occupy a full wing of the house. Features like patios or balconies, indoor sitting areas with TVs, sprawling walk-in closets, fireplaces and coffee bars are popular add-ons—as is, yes, the spa-like en-suite bathroom, where Koldeway says the once-beloved soaker tub is often nixed in favor of a luxurious, custom-built shower with all the bells and whistles: wall-mounted and hand-held multi-function shower heads, thermostatic temperature controls, steam features and the like.


The Outdoor Paradise

When you live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, it’s not hard to justify an addition designed to take the fullest advantage of the views and the glorious climate—and outdoor living spaces “loaded with features and hardscape” are exceedingly popular, Koldeway says.

Part of the beauty of the outdoor reno is its flexibility, says Dave Trujillo, a partner with NoCo-based real estate firm The Group. “An outdoor space can be large or small,” he says—and jobs can be simple or extravagant. Some favorite additions? “I’ve seen fire pits, water features, bars, outdoor kitchens, large-screen TVs, creative lighting, privacy walls and doors that open up to the inside for a larger, connected indoor/outdoor area,” Trujillo says.

In fact, he adds: “My wife and I decided to invest in our own outdoor living area so we could entertain large groups of people. We use that space three out of four seasons, now that we have heat, music, a fire pit, and a TV for football games or golf. And we’re planning more upgrades.”


The Welcoming Open Kitchen

This one’s no surprise: Everybody loves a great kitchen, and spending time and money on the room that almost always ends up being the hub of the home isn’t exactly a risky endeavor. (As Koldeway points out, kitchen remodels on the Colorado Front Range in 2017 have an 88 percent return on investment.)

Open, airy kitchens anchoring open, airy floor plans are still big, big, big, Koldeway says —and that often translates to renos that merge the kitchen, dining and living rooms into one cohesive gathering place. Oversized central islands with lots of seating are hot right now, which makes sense, given the kitchen’s role as an extension of the living room. And people are building them high, Koldeway says, so that they pull double duty as a work space and an easy hangout area in which to do crafts, homework or family dinners.

Other must-haves? Farmhouse sinks with high-end, “commercial-looking” gooseneck faucets, quality cabinetry and self-close drawers and solid surface countertops like quartz and granite and rustic, homey butcher block, says Peterson.


The Basement Bonus Room

“Buyers in this area really like finished—or even partially finished—basements with a bathroom and rec room,” The Group’s Trujillo says. “And finishing a basement is an inexpensive way to add both finished square footage and fun usable space for a family.”

Guest suites that offer a bit of privacy from the rest of the house are always crowd-pleasing basement build-outs, Peterson says, and craft rooms—designed with loads of storage and a floor that’s easily cleanable for paint spills or what have you—have grown to be popular add-ons in recent years, too. Also big are well-thought-out and “lounge-worthy” family rooms, Koldeway says, with any number of entertainment-focused extras tacked on: bars, theaters, game rooms, even climbing walls for the ambitious.


The Whole-House Special

One of the things we’ve seen a resurgence of is the whole-house remodel,” ABD’s Peterson says. “They went away for a while, after the recession [happened]. But again, with new construction being what it is, people have a new appreciation for existing homes, and so they’re doing it all—bathrooms, the kitchen, the windows, the flooring. The whole deal.”

Renovations of that scope, he says, generally involve taking down walls and merging spaces—remember, open concept is still king—and modernizing the overall layout and design. But there’s also decent reason to consider what’s going on outside, too, says HighCraft’s Koldeway: Exterior facelifts—even the unsexy ones, like adding roof extensions or covering entries or sprucing up a porch—don’t just increase curb appeal and boost the home value, she says. “It’s amazing how good it feels to transform landscaping or fix nagging repairs you’ve been avoiding for months or years.”

But buyers with reno stars in their eyes need to choose their makeover candidate wisely, advises Rucker Hill of Rucker Design Build. Moving walls for a kitchen? Adding on a master suite? Then paying high-dollar for a home that has been well kept is not what to go for. “It’s best to buy the worst house with the greatest potential, but with good bones,” says Hill. That means a solid foundation, no excessive damage to the original framing, a good HVAC. Much plumbing and electrical will be gutted during a major reno, so no need to focus on these. Hill adds that if you’re in for a “lipstick and make-up” reno—new tile, cabinets, flooring, paint—“then buy the well-maintained home.”

Bang for the Buck

“In a booming market like this, the very best thing you can do is keep your house and put money into it,” says Rucker Hill of Rucker Design Build. “A lot of people want new construction, but here, the [building sites are] so expensive that it pushes up the cost for any project beyond what most people can do. Making the house you want out of what’s there is good way to go.”

If you have to choose, Hill says the best way to  maximize the return on your reno investment is kitchens, whole-house flooring and paint—“these can quickly give you a new home feel throughout a large portion of the home.” What about bathrooms? Hill says these are good places to stop and knock out later, as they are separated by doors and removed from the visual flow of the home. He adds that just about any reno with modern design sensibilities is appealing in NoCo’s super hot market.

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