AD Main Menu

Ramseys: A home needs more than just preventive maintenance

Barbara,Clair Ramsey

As Anchorage's vacant land becomes more built out and our housing stock matures, remodeling permits are now exceeding those for new construction. This raises a new question for more and more homeowners: How do you protect and maximize your investment in an aging home?

First, it isn't enough to do just preventive maintenance; you also need to do more expensive remodeling as funds allow. Think of it from a medical viewpoint. Maintaining is doing all of those little things that help prevent bigger problems: annual checkups, eating right and exercising. Remodeling is a more focused change designed to preserve a more youthful appearance.

One way to see what remodeling your neighbors have been doing is to look at the Permit Activity Reports on the municipal website (search for Online Services). Permits issued and types show "Reported" home improvements.

While the website only lists monthly data from 2008 forward, we've been watching the numbers since the early 2000s.

The first graph compares structural, electrical and mechanical permits. Much of the activity after 2008 likely came from the Alaska Housing Energy Rebate program. Thankfully this program was one of the factors that helped keep the effect of the recession to a minor blip for our local economy, instead of the cliff it was in other parts of the nation.

The energy rebate is available to year-round, owner-occupied Alaska homeowners (with no income limits). While only one rebate is allowed per dwelling, a recent change in rules allows an owner who moves to still take advantage of the program (if available) on a new residence two years after their last rebate check (between $4,000 and $10,000).

The second graph shows residential alterations (additions, new roofs, deck upgrades, etc.) compared to new construction activity. The disparity has grown between the two since the financial crisis. Energy-related upgrades also helped nudge along other remodeling projects that had been postponed or might not have been done otherwise. We've seen amazing things done as homeowners try to squeeze more use from limited space. This is especially true with garages, crawl spaces and even attics.

What sets an older home apart from new construction is usually location, larger lots and mature landscaping. While an older home may not have the latest cosmetic amenities, prospective buyers in Anchorage are still drawn to subdivisions like Rogers Park, South Addition and Bootlegger Cove. The appeal could be a shorter commute, proximity to schools or other nearby amenities. Since home-buying is a series of compromises, being newer doesn't always win.

A second way to maintain your home investment is to think beyond your home. Subdivisions go through a "cycle of life." In the beginning, everything is new and everyone takes care of the home and surrounding area. At middle age, the sags and wrinkles appear. Without proper care it gets worse and the inside neglect spreads to the neighborhood. Eventually an area becomes so neglected, prospective buyers avoid it. Sometimes an area gets a second chance as neglected homes are renovated and an external draw (location, ambience, etc.) revitalizes an area again. Think about where your home and subdivision are in this cycle of life.

So protecting your investment also means being a good neighbor. Take a moment to meet your neighbors. Occasionally, look at your home from your neighbor's perspective. Trim those overgrown trees and remove the trash you didn't think anyone could see in the backyard.

The work of owning a home only ends when you sell it.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears monthly in the Daily News. Their email address is info@ramseyteam.com.


Barbara and Clair Ramsey
Housing