- - Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last year, Americans spent $115.8 billion on home improvements, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The American Housing Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, estimates there are 76.4 million owner-occupied homes in the United States. Crunch those numbers, and it works out to the average household spending $1,515.15 a year on home improvements.

Interestingly, the number 15 in numerology signifies home, family and domestic harmony.

But even if homeowners are not running complex calculations or pondering numerology, most people do think about the impact remodeling projects will have on the resale value of their home - whether that sale is imminent or years down the road.

While every home is different, many improvement projects revolve around the same factors - appliances, counters, cabinets, flooring, wall colors, lighting and hardware. Talk to a handful of house stagers, Realtors, and builders, and clear trends emerge about what’s hot and what’s not.

Stainless steel appliances have been hot, hot, hot for years. But Harold Huggins, owner of Harold H. Huggins Realty in Burtonsville, said they are no longer the rage they once were.

“Some people don’t like how it shows all the fingerprints,” he said. “It’s OK to go with black appliances.”

Lynn Chevalier, owner and lead stager of Staged Right in Falls Church, said homebuyers, particularly those closer in to the city, still want stainless steel.

“Black smudges as much as stainless,” she said.

Joseph G. Zorc, a builder and also a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Georgetown, said he’s heard some rumblings about how difficult it is to maintain stainless steel but added that it’s still a high priority for buyers.

“It looks perfect at the open house - it gives kitchens a nice, clean look,” he said.

Dave Lloyd, a Realtor with Weichert, Realtors in Arlington, agreed that stainless steel appliances are still a good investment because they attract more potential buyers.

“When you advertise a house and you can say ‘stainless steel kitchen,’ that will draw more people to the open house,” he said, adding that the same holds true for granite counters. “You’re limited to very few words in those listings, but those two things are high-impact.”

Across the board, the real estate professionals agreed that granite counters are still in fashion, but they also all noted that the darker granites - especially the blacks and dark greens - are fading in popularity. Instead, lighter colors - primarily whites, creams, and tans - are in vogue.

Cindy Fortin, president of Cynthia Anne Interiors, a home-staging firm in Hamilton, Va., said the lighter counters offset dark wood cabinets.

“You’re seeing espresso- and ebony-colored cabinets,” she said.

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