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Post-Bubble Home Improvement Rules

The housing market remains shaky, even if the broader economy is improving. And after years of price declines and slow sales, homeowners have changed their priorities in home improvement.

Duo Dickinson, a home remodeling architect for more than 30 years, has seen his share of ups and downs in real estate. But this time it is different, he says.

Instead of waiting for the return of the good old days, homeowners are scrapping second-home dreams and fancy remodeling projects. They’re focusing on staying put and value-focused home renovations.

Jacuzzi bathtubs and high ceiling “great rooms” that no one uses are out. In vogue are smaller bedrooms and insulated water heaters that cut utility bills.

Dickinson documented this shift toward frugality into a book, “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want.”

Says Dickinson: “People aren’t coping as if there’s light at the end of the tunnel, [they are] changing their expectations."

While the scaled-down approach is evident among the vast majority of homeowners, Dickinson — based in Madison, Conn. — says even the wealthy have been chastened. Think modest stairs instead of grand staircases.

“Every cost is reviewed more critically because even if they have a high net worth and income, they realize that home investment is not the cash cow it once was, and want control over spending,” Dickinson says.

We asked Dickinson and Kevin Daum, a building expert and co-author of “Building Your Own Home For Dummies,” to walk us through the new home-improvement rules of the post-boom residential real estate market.

By Heesun Wee
Posted 30 March 2012

Photo: Bill Truslow | The Image Bank | Getty Images