Q&A: Cash is king when it comes to home improvements

Dear Liz: My husband and I are squabbling over how to pay for the pool we may get. We have a line of credit on the house, and rates are still low. I say we use that, make it part of the mortgage and pass the cost on to the next owner (assuming that, someday, we sell this house). He wants to pay cash, which seems insane to me. I don’t pay cash to buy a car — why wouldn’t I finance a pool?

Answer: You probably should pay cash for your cars. Borrowing money is usually advisable only when you’re buying something that can increase your wealth, such as an education that helps you make more money or a home that can appreciate in value. Paying interest to buy something that declines in value generally isn’t a great idea.

Whether a pool can add value to your home depends a lot on where you live. If pools aren’t common in your neighborhood, adding one may not add much if any value. A pool could even place you at a disadvantage by turning off potential buyers who might not want to deal with the hassle and expense of pool maintenance. Parents with young children also may shy away from pools because of the drowning risk.

Adding a pool could increase your home’s value if you live in a warm climate and most of your neighbors have pools. But even then, it’s unlikely that your pool will add as much value as it would cost to install. (Home improvements rarely result in a profit — even the best-considered upgrades typically cost more than the value they add.)

A reasonable compromise might be to finance half the cost and pay cash for the rest. You’ll still want to pay off the line of credit relatively quickly, though. Lines of credit typically have variable interest rates that can make this debt more expensive over time.

You won’t be passing on the cost to the next owner in any case. Any money you borrow against your home has to be paid off when you sell, reducing your net proceeds. That’s yet another reason not to borrow indiscriminately.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Lay groundwork for better home value with artful landscaping. Also in the news: How to manage the cost to finish a basement, more Wells Fargo refunds are coming, and how long you should keep your tax returns.

Lay Groundwork for Better Home Value With Artful Landscaping
Increasing your curb appeal.

How to Manage the Cost to Finish a Basement
Create a man cave or a family room.

More Wells Fargo Refunds Coming After $1 Billion Fine
Planning to pay back customers.

How Long Should Tax Returns Be Saved
Start with a minimum of 3 years.

How to buy the last house you’ll ever buy

My husband and I bought what we thought was a starter home 20 years ago. Now we think of it as our “forever” home, where we plan to retire and live out the rest of our days.

We got lucky, because most of the features that make our place good for “aging in place” — the single-story layout, open design, wide doorways — weren’t on our must-have list when we were newlyweds.

We’re not the only people who didn’t think far enough into our future. The vast majority of homebuyers and remodelers don’t consider what it might be like to grow old in their homes, says Richard Duncan, executive director of the Ronald L. Mace Universal Design Institute, a nonprofit in Asheville, North Carolina, that promotes accessible design for housing, public buildings and parks. In my latest for the Associated Press, what you should take into consideration for the future when buying a home.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

money-down-the-drainToday’s top story: Home improvements that don’t pay off in the long run. Also in the news: How to build a budget, easy ways to vet financial aid offers, and how to lay the financial groundwork for a career change.

4 Home Improvements That Don’t Pay (and 4 Better Options)
How to avoid turning your home into a money pit.

How to Build a Budget
Step by step.

Three Easy Ways to Vet Financial Aid Offers
What to ask when deciding on offers.

How to Survive a Career Change
Laying the financial groundwork in advance.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: A little known tax credit could save future retirees money. Also in the news: How to avoid overspending during the holidays, making the right upgrades when selling your home, and how to maximize your Social Security benefits.

The Crucial Tax Credit Retirement Savers Don’t Know About
Your 401(k) contributions could save you money come tax time.

Watch out! 11 ways retailers get you to overspend
Retailers have their eyes on your wallet for the holidays.

Know Your Market When Doing Home Upgrades To Increase Value
Investing in the right improvements.

How to Maximize Social Security for Your Retirement
When you decide to start taking benefits can make a huge difference.

5 Ways to Whip Your Budget Into Shape for the Holidays
The holidays don’t have to leave you broke.