Home remodeling reaches six-year peak

Home remodeling could be especially appealing to those homeowners who have seen the value of their properties plummet since the housing bubble burst. Many of them are unwilling to sell their homes at so significant a loss, so they instead may opt to hunker down in their current homes.

Part of this shift has been toward more open living spaces, with "Great Rooms" – containing a living, dining and cooking area – replacing traditionally divided spaces. Another renovation trend has been toward reforms that promote energy efficiency, such as new heating and insulation. If the goal of remodeling is to make homes more comfortable, why not work toward home energy efficiency simultaneously?

Even if refinancing has left a homeowner flush with cash to use for renovations, consumers should try to save money wherever possible given the nature of today's economy. For that reason, many homeowners who want to achieve energy efficiency will only do so if renovations pay for themselves within, according to author Duo Dickinson's recent testimony in USA Today.

"Before, it was curb appeal, showiness and keeping up with the Joneses," said Dickinson, who wrote "Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want." "The house is the most direct mirror of your personal values. When people renovate to change [instead of improving] their lives, they waste money."

Experts suggest that some homeowners who are eager to change their living environment may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is needed to improve their living conditions. For these homeowners, a Washington, D.C. home inspector will be able to suggest the best renovations unique to a particular property. An energy audit will reveal areas where homeowners can make the most cost-effective changes to their properties while slashing their energy bills at the same time.