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Remodelling to keep up with the neighbours

A recent survey, conducted for Wilsonart by OnePoll, reveals that one in three improvement projects are done merely to keep pace with or impress a neighbour, relative or friend.
A recent survey, conducted for Wilsonart by OnePoll, reveals that one in three improvement projects are done merely to keep pace with or impress a neighbour, relative or friend. - Contributed

Study reveals that one-third of renovation projects are done to impress others

By Erik J. Martin CTW FEATURES

A remodel can enhance your home’s value, increase your comfort and satisfaction, and prevent your abode from looking outdated. But surprisingly, those aren’t the only reasons why many homeowner pursue home improvements. Lots of owners actually opt for upgrades because they want to keep up with folks on the block or wow visitors, per a new study.

A recent survey, conducted for Wilsonart by OnePoll, reveals that one in three improvement projects are done merely to keep pace with or impress a neighbour, relative or friend. Also, about 20 per cent confess to doing a remodel in order to outshine those next door. The average spend to accomplish these goals is $3,558. 

Other notable findings include:

42 per cent feel some competition to have the nicest home on the block.

48 per cent admit to being envious of a renovation or home addition they observe at a neighbour, friend or relative’s residence.

The top five projects completed to awe others are landscaping upgrades (41 per cent), kitchen remodels (39 per cent), bathroom redos (32 per cent), decks (25 per cent), and window/door replacements (23 per cent).

Jessenia Toro, with MyHome Design + Remodeling in New York City, was taken aback by some of the study’s results.

“Nearly half of those surveyed admitted to walking into someone else’s home and being jealous of an aspect of their home — I found that number to be surprisingly high,” says Toro.

The fact that landscaping topped the “trying to impress” list shocked Vanessa Deleon, an interior designer also based in the Big Apple.

“I would have thought a higher percentage would be in the kitchen area,” Deleon notes.

Yet Steve Somogyi, an interior designer with Chicago-headquartered Steve + Filip Design, isn’t surprised that homeowners often feel the need to outdo others.

“It’s human nature. Many people don’t want to have the house on the block that looks unkempt or in need of updating, because in some ways they think it reflects on their values or sense of self-worth. If you have a house that’s the envy of the neighbourhood, it shows status, success and creativity,” says Somogyi.

But some caution that this is a misguided motivation.

“It does not pay to compete. I would never advise basing a renovation on your neighbour's last project,” suggests Stephen Fanuka, host of the DIY Network show Million Dollar Contractor. “There will always be homes that are either nicer than or not as nice as yours, so it’s better to do what you can afford and make it your own.”

The biggest risk in trying to keep up with the remodelling Joneses, of course, is that you can break the bank.

“If you’re not careful, you can become house poor — meaning you’ve put so much money into your house that you have none leftover to enjoy the things you love and need,” Fanuka adds.

Somogyi seconds that sentiment. “The last thing you want is going overboard on a specific item and overlooking all the other wonderful things visitors may love about your home,” he adds.

To prevent these pitfalls and ensure greater satisfaction with the final results of a renovation, follow these recommendations:

Aim for improvements with a higher return on investment. “These include kitchen and bath renovations, outdoor living upgrades, and bonus rooms,” says Somogyi.

Prioritize your needs. “Consider budget first and foremost. Do a little at a time if you have to,” suggests Fanuka.

Get help before getting in over your head. “Talk to a professional designer and contractor before making any decisions,” Toro advises.

Stick to the plan. Devise a project strategy and timeline, and be decisive. “Too many times I see renovations go bad or take too long because clients can’t make a decision or keep changing their minds,” says Fanuka.

Build in a financial buffer zone. “Always have a contingency fund for any unexpected costs,” adds Toro.

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