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Hi all! I’m back again with a quick question. Do you ever wonder which home improvement projects will make the biggest impact on your property value? I do! I would hate to fork out a wad of cash for a project, only to find out it didn’t increase on my property value. So which projects will have the most impact? Which one should I do next? Should I hire a contractor to do the project or tackle it myself? Will hiring a contractor cost too much? How much should it cost? My list of questions before planning a project seems endless. That is where Realm comes in. Realm is a new database that offers personalized insight into your upcoming home improvement projects, for free! I can’t wait to use it as a planning tool for my next DIY project!
Real estate entrepreneur Liz Young founded Realm in 2019. She kept asking herself, “Why doesn’t every American homeowner have access to the same information as a real estate investor, a commercial real estate developer, or a seasoned house flipper?” She wanted a one-stop-shop for accessible, actionable home advice. So, Realm was created.
Realm is a free database that covers most single-family homes in the United States. It will take all of the information it can find about your house and using your input, give you a standardized score between zero and, a thousand (called a Realm Score). This makes it easy to compare your property to other properties.
How does it work?
Realm only takes into account the things you can change about your property. They have purchased data from various sources, but also collect their own data to create their database. You can create a free account and use your address to analyze your specific home with their data. Their analysis of each home uses thousands of data points like:
- Tax assessor history
- Building permits
- Zoning regulations
- Listing price history
- Photos from previous listings
- User input
When using Realm, you can be confident that the information you see is accurate and up to date about YOUR property, not just generic information based on your zip-code.
Realm will help you figure out how much your project is going to cost based on local labor and material costs. It will give you property specific ROI (Return on Investment) estimates for over 50 different customizable projects. Their Property Plan tool includes:
- Renovating outdated spaces (kitchen remodel, bathroom remodel)
- Adding space (home addition, garage conversion, backyard home)
- Installing amenities (pool, deck, landscaping)
- Completing repairs (HVAC, plumbing)
- Updating components of the home (siding, paint, exterior doors).
If you live in California, Realm offers an additional advisory service that you can use. This service includes an in-depth custom analysis of your property, guidance on setting a budget, recommendations on how to finance you project, and personalized matching to high-quality contractors. They only introduce you to vendors once you’re ready, and vet everyone in advance so you don’t have to worry about it.
What does a free membership give you?
Does it this sound great so far? If you’re like me, you’re wondering what you really get with a free membership…right? Well, I tried their database with my information to see what it was all about. Let me tell you, it was pretty easy. First, I input my property address. Next, they ask you a series of questions. The questions were easy enough to answer, the hardest part was remembering which year I completed the projects on their list. I just gave my best guess if I didn’t feel like looking it up.
Once you finish all of the questions and input your information, you are taken to your dashboard. There you can find:
- An aerial view of your property
- A picture of the front of your property
- Your address with specific housing information (square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, year built and lot size)
- Your current home’s value
- A dollar amount of untapped potential
- Projects that will increase your home value
- Buildable area that gives you zoning information for your property
- A Realm Score for your property
- A property plan that lets you add upcoming projects
- A financial overview
- Rental value potential
- A comparison of houses in your area
So, it gives you A LOT of information, all in one place. This is a great place to look if you are planning a DIY project.
When checking out my dashboard, one of the things I noticed first is the current property value and rental value potential that Realm has listed. They were both significantly lower than the current Zillow Zestimate value for my house ($24k in property value and $195 per month for the rental value). This was interesting to me, since Realm takes into account the current updates that I have done to my property. One thing Realm accounts for is the potential value of your property based on land size. The dashboard says,
“Your Realm Score only takes into account the things that you can change. It shows you how much of its potential has been realized, relative to other nearby homes with similar land sizes.”
I also explored the list of suggested improvements. This is the most helpful information for me as a DIY-er. When you are making your home plan, you just click on the project that you would like to do out of the list of suggested projects. It will automatically populate your plan with the total number of Realm points that the project will add to your Realm Score, how much the project will increase your home’s value, estimated cost, and the percentage of money you can expect to recoup when you sell.
When you click the customize button, it gives you a lot more options to price out your specific project. I was curious to see how customizing the project would affect the price of the project and property values, so I thought I would give it a try. I chose a random project, landscaping, to add to my property plan. It gave me with following customization options:
- Selection of quality of materials (economical, standard or high)
- Size of the yard
- Plant installation options (sapling tree, mature tree, shrubs or flower beds)
- Sod options (none, Zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine, or Fescue)
- Curbing/ Edging options (none, granite, concrete, plastic, brick, steel, or wood)
- Retaining wall options (none, concrete, cinder block, railroad ties, or gabion)
- Fencing options (none, glass, wood, picket, vinyl, or rail)
- Selection of additional landscaping features (construct dry well, install sprinkler system, install water fountain, install pond, grading, mulch, lawn aeration, install turf, and fertilizer)
As you can tell, there are tons of customization options for each project.
There is also a snippet of information in the right sidebar of the customization menu that tells you how the project will affect your Realm Score, your new home value, how the project will change your livable square feet, the total cost, and the percentage of money this project you can expect to recoup in a sale. The best part about this sidebar is that it changes in real time as you customize the project. You can see how the materials you use, or the size of the project will affect the overall cost and how it will change the value of your home. This is such a cool feature that I haven’t found anywhere else yet. Keep in mind, if you are DIY-ing your project, it will effect the total cost, but won’t be reflected in the calculator.
I am super excited for Realm’s Buildable Area on the dashboard. This area analyzes your parcel of land and zoning requirements for your area. It shows you where you will have zoning setbacks, and where you can still build on your land. Since Realm is still a new company, they are still working on getting coverage for my area, but you can bet I will be checking back frequently to see when it is updated. This would be super beneficial to see if you are thinking about building an addition on your house, or adding a structure on your property. Especially if you are planning to DIY the project.
Another really cool feature that Realm offers for free is the Financial Overview, you can find it in the Equity tab, or at the bottom of your dashboard page. If you update your financial details in the database, Realm will keep track of your information in a really handy and easy to read format. They will tell you the amount left on your loan, the rate, term and origination date for your loan, as well as your mortgage equity change in the last 30 day, and the amount of money you might be overpaying for your mortgage. Realm even has a privacy promise that states,
“We use your financial data to provide personalized recommendations for your projects. We keep this data private and do not share it with other customers or 3rd party partners.”
So, you can feel secure when trusting Realm with your personal financial data.
If you scroll down towards the bottom of the Equity tab, you will come to the Accessible Funds Estimate. This section uses your personal credit information to see if you are qualified for any cash-out lending options. They offer options such as HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), and Cash-Out Refinancing. Each option gives you an estimated amount of funds you can access and the current interest rate for that option. This is pretty handy information if you need some funds for an upcoming DIY project, but aren’t sure how to get them. In my opinion, this is the best feature of the Financial Overview section.
Another thing I noted was the property comparison feature. It shows you how you compare with your neighbors based on your last renovation, your potential home value, current home value and Realm Score. You can get more information about how your property stacks up against local properties on the main Realm website under the Compare tab. You don’t have to be logged in to use the Compare feature.
Do I Need Free Personalized Insights for my Next DIY Project?
Absolutely! They say knowledge is power. Realm gives your that in spades, and for free. Yes, you can get all of the information offered by Realm from other vendors free of charge, but you can’t get it all in the same dashboard. If you are thinking about doing a home improvement project, you definitely need to check out Realm. It is a great tool to add to your DIY planning arsenal. It gives you a lot of information about your home, all in one place. Realm can help you:
- Prioritize home improvement projects based on added value
- Estimate project costs based on local labor and material costs
- Evaluate home value in real time
- Access financial and loan information