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Phil tackles your real estate questions

From the Ground Up

Q: We bought a large house in a great neighborhood. The only problem is that it was built in 1959 and needs updating. We decided to do one room at a time and would like your opinion on which room to begin with. Is there one room that updating would benefit the most? We are trying to decide between the bedroom/master bath and the kitchen. Any thoughts?

A: If you talk to a homebuilder you will discover that 10% or more of the cost of a new home is spent on the kitchen. That’s not surprising when one considers that it is one of the most important rooms in the house. Also, I have seen remodeling guides that estimate that a homeowner will recover about 85% of the cost of remodeling the kitchen. I have also seen reports that adding a new bathroom can return as much as 110% of your investment. Adding a new bathroom is different from updating a bathroom, so I would go with the kitchen as my first choice.

According to experts I talked to, a functional kitchen should have adequate storage space, appliance space, counter space and activity space. Designing for maximum efficiency is especially important in the kitchen.

The term “triangle” is often used to describe the essential work zone of the kitchen, since there are three key work areas of use and activity — the refrigerator area, the sink/wash/preparation area and the range/serving area. It does not matter where on the triangle each area is located. What matters is that they be arranged in a logical way, determined by the personal preference of the owner and the space available. Ideally, no traffic should flow through the triangle.

Speaking of traffic, the kitchen should not be an area where traffic flows through it. That might be a challenge in your case because many homes built in the late 1950s and early 1960s had the kitchen door opening to the carport.

Also, at least one section of the work area should have a window over it. Most people seem to prefer a window over the sink. A range should never be placed under a window.

Q: A real estate company in North Carolina gave us a brochure and there was an article in it by you. Did you know that? It was about discovering the history of your home. We lost the brochure, but would like more information about the subject.

A: Glad to oblige. Here’s the article:

Do you live in an old house and want to unearth a bit of its history?

If you live in an older house and are not familiar with its heritage you might want to consider becoming a house detective, so to speak. It’s fun and educational to find out about the history of your property. In my college real estate class students are required to select a property, preferably one they have interest in, and research its ownership back to 1900. They tell me it’s the best assignment of the course.

Here are some places you can go for information: First, go to the county courthouse and check the property records. There will be deeds filed by names of owners, plus there will be tax records. It will help tremendously if you have the legal description and the tax number of the property you are investigating.

Another sources of information is your local historic preservation program, if there is one in your town. Also, the state archives has tax rolls and birth and death records. Census records are available at regional National Archives’ centers and some libraries. And don’t forget local libraries that might have city directories, newspapers and magazines. Good hunting.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is philhardwick@usa.net.

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