What is the difference between repair, maintenance and upgrade?
I came across an interesting article a couple of months ago in one of those beautifully photographed magazines called Kinfolk. The pictures were very artsy, design conscious, emotional. I bought it anyway in spite of the $20 price tag so that I could read an article about the Swedish concept of hemmablind. It certainly applies to what I am about to describe. The word hemmablind translates roughly to home blindness. Basically it means that you stop seeing problems because you simply adapt. It also means you become blind to a home’s beauty.
As to how this applies to our question is obvious if you think about it. If you get used to the broken doorstep, the malfunctioning lock, the dirty carpet, the 20-year-old kitchen and the dated decorating, you don’t have an accurate picture of your home.
Sometimes I show houses where a seller has left a list of updates. The buyer will sometimes look at the list and laugh when it includes items such as roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new carpet, new appliances, etc.
So that you can be knowledgeable when you think about spending money on your house, consider these definitions:
REPAIR. If it is broken, it needs to be fixed. If it does not bother you that something is broken and you can put up with it and be hemmablind, you can spend your money elsewhere, but a buyer will devalue what ever price you have on your home by more than the aggregated cost of the items, when you go to sell.
MAINTENANCE. Hot water heaters, furnaces, siding, roofs, carpet, appliances, etc. have to be serviced and cleaned regularly, and ultimately replaced based on their expected lifespan. Buyers expect these things to be in working order. They will not pay extra just because they are in working order, but they will pay less if they are not.
UPGRADE. Means you have put in a newer and better version of what was already there. For example, your kitchen now has granite countertops instead of perfectly maintained Formica countertops. Or, it has new double paned windows everywhere instead of perfectly maintained single pane windows. Interestingly, buyers are more willing to pay a premium for upgraded kitchens and bathrooms than they are for upgraded mechanicals.
If you are like me there are some areas of your home where being hemmablind is OK, because you know you are about to do a bigger project which would resolve the issue/broken item. No use to spend money on something that is about to be ripped out. The flipside of that attitude however, is that it can be subtly demoralizing to live with things that are broken. As my new age friends say they pull at your energy. Being conscious and making a specific choice is important!