Meet the Winner of Our May 2016 Call to Action!

Meet the Winner of Our May 2016 Call to Action!

Kristin Kush in kitchenFor many of us, home is where memories are created, where celebrations take place, where we relax after a long day at work and—of course—where the heart is.

So it makes sense that people are willing to pull out all the stops on their home projects, whether that's putting in the pool of their dreams or refreshing their living room décor. Beyond improving home-life satisfaction, in some cases, a well-planned renovation can also boost the return on your property investment.

That led us to ask our May Call to Action question: What was the best home improvement upgrade you ever made, and how did it boost the value of your home?

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We heard about a variety of dreamy home renovations, from the couple who upgraded their patio for summer entertaining—which ultimately helped them sell their house in one day—to the couple who overhauled their backyard to better weather the California heat and accommodate their growing family. Thanks to those who answered!

And congratulations to our winner, who will receive $100 to help reach her financial goals: Kristin Kush, a research and evaluation associate from Kansas City, Missouri.

Here's her story.

"The best home improvement project my spouse Reda and I ever did was knocking down the wall between our kitchen and dining room, and putting in a bar counter with seating instead.

This was one of the many projects we worked on after we bought our fixer-upper in 2011. We had spent five years saving for a down payment and another year on the real estate search before we lucked out on a foreclosure property in pretty good shape. We purchased our home for around $65,000 knowing we'd need to do another $30,000 worth of improvements.

We did all the renovations within a year of moving in. Because our original home-buying budget was between $100,000 to $120,000, we were able to make the needed improvements quickly, and I estimate we spent a total of $25,000 on improvements to our roof, plumbing, water heater and kitchen, as well as some minor landscaping.

As for opening up the kitchen and dining room, we were motivated to make the change because our previous apartment layout was similarly cramped, and we knew from experience that we'd want house guests to be able to gather in the kitchen. The renovation made conversation much easier during dinner parties.

One of my favorite memories was hosting our annual "Friendsgiving" the first year after moving into our new space. Since then, we've been hosting it every year. With the kitchen and dining room more open, I can cook while friends chat in the bar area. We no longer have to run back and forth between the food and our friends, making the time with our guests more enjoyable.

Bonus: With the wall gone, a lot more natural light gets into both rooms.

About a year and a half after all our renovations were complete, we had our home value re-assessed for property tax purposes, and it was valued at about $150,000. Today, Zillow puts it somewhere between $180,000 and $200,000. So in the end, it was all definitely worth it!"

Thanks for sharing, Kristin!

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