Experts' Top Home Improvement Projects for a Booming Housing Market

More consumers are dusting off their cordless drills, tape measures and jigsaws, or at least are shelling out for paint, spackle or flooring products. Home remodeling is on an upswing, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. A byproduct of rising home sales during this past year, new homeowners are spending more at big-box stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot for their DIY projects. Home sellers are also adding to the increased sales at home improvement stores as they spruce up a home before putting it on the market. TV programmers, meanwhile, have been paying attention -- and adding new home-improvement series or renewing old ones.

"Homeowners are more comfortable investing in their homes right now," said Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. "Consumer confidence scores are back to pre-recession levels, and since recent homebuyers are traditionally the most active in the home improvement market, the growth in sales of existing homes is providing more opportunities for these improvement projects."

Home Depot and Lowe's both reported favorable earnings in August, with Lowe's saying that its net earnings rose 26 percent from a year ago and Home Depot recording its highest number of transactions in company history, according to MarketWatch. The unfortunate aftermath of natural disasters -- from hurricanes to tornadoes or wildfires -- have also sent homeowners to the home improvement stores.

But homeowners' inspirations don't necessarily come in retail aisles, but on the tube. With record-breaking ratings and a first quarter that attracted more than 67 million adults, HGTV and the DIY Network expect to premiere a combined 27 new series this year, plus bring back more than 50 series. These shows do not include the 50-plus specials they also expect to debut in 2013.

The TV specialists on home improvement shows give eager do-it-yourselfers and their armchair dreamer-counterparts ideas. From remodeling to design, Americans are tuning in and taking advice from the likes of the "Property Brothers," Jonathan and Drew Scott; licensed contractor Amy Mathews, home inspector Mike Holmes or real-life cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri of HGTV's "Cousins on Call." These TV experts lower the wrecking ball on outdated, dysfunctional spaces or show us how to transform our spaces from playground rebuilds to fixing faulty roofing or how-to remove asbestos.

"Celebrity driven vehicles and 'hybrid hour' programs highlight the three things our viewers love the most: real estate, renovate and decorate," said Burton Jablin, president of Scripps Networks Interactive's Home Category, which operates HGTV and DIY Network.

"Rescue my Renovation" with John Desilvia (pictured above) premieres its second season Sept. 4 , and the "Property Brothers" airs Wednesdays on HGTV. These guys are just three of the experts who chimed in to give AOL Real Estate readers some DIY tips for home remodels and renovations. Flip through the slideshow to see what our celebrity and local experts alike have to say about what home remodels you should tackle first, or can do easily on a tight budget.

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Experts' Top Home Improvement Projects for a Booming Housing Market
Laying stone or bricks for your patio can instantly upgrade the look of your backyard. But so could giving your deck a makeover. "Use composite decking with hidden fasteners," suggests John DeSilvia. "It costs more for composite, but you never have to maintain it. Which will pay for itself over the life of the deck."

"You will always build the most equity with a kitchen renovation," says John DeSilvia. "I always recommend doing your own demo. You can save as much as 20 percent from your total cost."

This particular dated kitchen pictured has dark wood cabinets and laminate counter surfaces that can make the room feel drab. And the original appliances just makes everything feel old.  In the next slide, see the "after" photo for how the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott updated this dreary space.

This after photo from The Property Brothers shows how bright new cabinets, a tile backsplash and granite countertops can transform a room.

One great way to save when remodeling your kitchen is to use ready-to-assemble cabinets, says John DeSilvia of Rescue My Renovation. "These cabinets can save you 75 percent over custom and semi-custom. There made much better than they used to be and will stand the test of time."

Drew Scott says, "If you save money on the cabinets, you may have a little extra to splurge on, say, the commercial grade double wide kitchen sink."

"Large bulky appliances like coffee makers and can openers take up precious space and takeaway from the ‘wow’ factor of a beautifully designed kitchen," says Designer Robin Wilson, president and CEO of Robin Wilson Home.  "An appliance garage is a great solution because it‘s seamless and built to match the cabinets."

Granite was hailed as the king of the countertops after the turn of the century.  "While no doubt a beautiful natural stone material that is still very popular," says Designer Robin Wilson, president and CEO of Robin Wilson Homethe newest trend in kitchen countertops is now composite materials with bacteriostatic protection." 

She also recommends designing cabinets with more pull-out drawers. "Our firm designs a lot of kitchens with slide-out pot drawers.  It’s the perfect solution for the multigenerational home, someone with back problems or anyone who doesn’t want to always bend down to access heavy pots and pans."

This master bathroom was completely gutted by the Property Brothers. Terrazzo tile floors were put in, as was a custom-tile vanity. White subway tile never gets old, unlike wallpaper, which can become dated.

"We all want a high-end look for less," says Jonathan Scott. "You can achieve this by mixing low-cost, products with certain higher-end finishes or features."

This dated master bathroom with a corner toilet, was further hampered by old fixtures and wallpaper.  In the next slide, see how the Property Brothers transformed the space with some higher-end finishes.

If you want to be eco-friendly, that doesn't have to entail ripping out all of your drywall or replacing floor boards. "You can make your home more sustainable and green in easier ways than you think," says Drew Scott of the Property Brothers. "One of the easiest ways is by upgrading your old appliances for new, energy efficient ones. These models come in a variety of grades and prices, and will save you money on your monthly utility bill."

Before you make any purchase, be aware of a few other options. "You may be able to find a better deal online, from a warehouse, or even at a consignment store," says Jonathan Scott of the Property Brothers. "If you plan ahead, you might be able to purchase certain products off-season while they are on sale - outdoor furniture and appliances, for example, sometimes tend to be less expensive during the colder months."

John DeSilvia of "Rescue My Renovation," says that once you know some of the items you want you can often save by negotiating the price, especially on bathroom renovations. "Try and buy all fixtures and tile from one place. The more you purchase from one place the more buying power you have," he says. "You should get all prices first then ask for a 10 to 15 percent discount."

He reiterates: "It is very important to get prices first!!"

"We encourage DIY whenever possible," says the Jonathan Scott, the contractor among the Property Brothers, who also have another HGTV show called "Brother vs Brother." "But know your limits and understand that certain aspects of a renovation will require the work of a certified professional."

Adds brother Drew, the real estate agent: "If you plan on this being your forever home then your design choices should reflect that. You can create a safe, accessible and comfortable home without compromising on modern, fresh designs."


More about home improvement projects:
Top 5 Home Improvement Projects With Winter in Mind
Don't Move -- Improve: How to Rethink Space in Your Home
Home Improvements That Get Your House Sold

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