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The best bang for your buck

Increase the value of your SCV home, and live more comfortably

Posted: April 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.

After a deck remodel, the deck is transformed into a stylish Trex deck.

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So, you’re tired of your kitchen, with its 1980s look, cracked tile on the counter and its crowded cabinets. In fact, your master bathroom is no prize, either, having become the kind of place where only mold feels comfortable.

You are considering remodeling, and you figure fixing up these two rooms will not only increase your comfort, but increase the value of your home, as well. You are correct, sir.

But, according to Randal Winter, owner of Randal G. Winter Construction in Valencia, there are other remodeling projects that will give you even more value for your investment.

“The best bangs for the buck in today’s market are garage conversions and adding lofts,” Winter said.

He said homeowners can visit and find the results of National Association of Realtors surveys that indicate which remodeling projects give you the most return. And, while you won’t find garage conversions and lofts on the list, Winter said these immediately recoup their full costs.

“When these are completed, the next day, you will gain more value than it costs you to do them,” he said. “These are home runs.”


Garage conversion

Winter said three- and four-car garages can be converted into livable space, as long as you leave space to park two cars.

“The footings are already there. The roof is already there. Three of the four walls are already there. We pour a slab over the existing slab to bring it up to grade, we run in electric and air and we put in a door and a window,” he said.

All of this keeps remodeling costs down.

For example, he said creating 220 more square feet of livable space via a garage conversion might run you about $18,000, or about $81 per square foot. “That’s plans, permits, all inclusive,” he noted.

And he said, that, depending on the home, sale prices could go as high as $200 per square foot.


Adding a loft

“A loft is another great investment,” Winter said. In a two-story home with a vaulted ceiling over the living and dining rooms, you can easily put in a loft, creating a second-floor room.

“We build a wood deck floor, reroute the air upstairs and add some electrical, put down a little carpet and add drywall for the new ceiling,” he said.

This can add 150 to 350 more square feet of livable space, which could cost you from about $17,000 ($113/sq. ft.) to $35,000 ($100/sq. ft.). And, as you can see, the cost per square foot goes down as the size of the loft increases.

You should immediately recoup your investment and more in home value.

“We’ve done hundreds of these,” Winter said. “Most of the time, people find their living rooms are more warm and cozy afterward, and the air and heating are much more efficient.”


Kitchens and baths

Winter said that bathroom and kitchen remodels in L.A. County are “hot,” currently offering about an 83 percent return on investment, which is pretty good. But they also increase livability, comfort and convenience in the home and make it look updated.

People add such things as new cabinets, porcelain tile, stone floors, new lighting, fans, tubs, tile, low-flow showers and toilets.


Surface materials

Winter said granite counter tops are very popular, but “solid surface” materials, such as Silestone and Caesarstone, are being used more and more.

 “They have the look of granite, but are impervious to water and stains. They are homogenous and contemporary,” Winter.

“Maybe 20 percent of our kitchens are going with these materials,” Winter said. “I encourage clients to try and select products that are timeless, so  ‘dating’ of the home is postponed. These are things that look natural — granite, stone, natural wood.”



“We also focus on window change-outs,” Winter said, “for energy savings.” And he added that one of the most cost-effective and “green” windows marketed today is the Fibrex by Andersen.

These are dual-glaze windows with inert-gas fill, incorporate recycled products and offer one of the highest efficiencies on the market. It keeps the heat in during winter and the cool in during summer.

“Termites won’t eat them, and water won’t penetrate them,” he noted.

These windows come in all types — sliders, double-hung, casement — and eight different colors.

“We don’t do retrofits,” Winter said. His company will break out and replace stucco to install these, unless there is window siding, which makes things easier.


Trex decks

Winter said that Trex decks are the latest thing. This composite material is also “green,” and won’t be damaged by water, UV light or termites.

It comes with a 25-yer warranty and never needs any painting.

“We replace more old, rotten wood decks with Trex than we install new decks,” Winter said. “People are tired of nails popping up and rails splitting,” he added.

“Trex is Earth-friendly (recycled materials) and cooler on the feet, as well,” he said.

Trex comes in wood colors and gray colors, he said. “It’s one of the high-return-on-investment projects.”


Need vs. investment

Winter said his company also does fireplaces, barbecues and patio covers. And though these projects don’t have as high returns on investment, they increase comfort significantly.

He said homeowners should not undertake a remodeling project merely to increase your home’s value.

For example, with two people living in a home, it doesn’t make sense to add a fifth room.

“With bigger families, there is a need,” he said.

“The need has to be there to justify the investment,” he said. “Don’t just do a remodel to increase home value — invest in gold instead,” he quipped. “Live as comfortably as you can, and don’t worry about the next owner.”

Randal G. Winter Construction, Inc. is located at 28348 Constellation Road, Unit 810, Valencia, CA 91355. Call (661) 799-8089 or visit



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