Is It Worth It To Renovate Before Selling My Home?

Couple painting homeIf you know you’re selling your older home in the near future, you may be wondering if you need to renovate first. And if so, how much you should spend? You may have heard that “great kitchens sell homes”, “curb appeal is essential”, or about the popularity of spa bathrooms.

While these things are generally true, whether or not you get your investment back when you sell will depend on a lot of circumstances. There are renovations that pay, and those that will add some value, and those to avoid like the plague.

The key lies in the difference between what buyers like and what they’ll actually pay more for.

Renovations That Always Pay

These are the renos that can make the difference between actually selling at all and not selling. You may not get more money, but if you don’t do them you may end up having to drop your selling price.

1. General Repairs

A good rule of thumb is to fix anything broken. If someone tours your home and sees anything that is in obvious need of repair, they may lose interest in your home entirely.

It doesn’t matter if the broken item is actually a minor fix. Buyers find damage scary because that ripped screen or cracked floor tile may mean there are more serious issues hiding in the walls. Also, many buyers, especially first timers, don’t know enough about home repair to tell if something’s major or minor.

2. Fresh Paint in Neutral Colours

If you haven’t painted in a few years, or have a highly creative sense of colour, it’s worth it to paint your home if a light, neutral colour like off-white, beige, or grey. Best of all, paint is not an expensive project, even if you hire professionals.

3. Decluttering and Professional Cleaning

While not technically renovations, the importance of these steps cannot be underestimated. They help make your home as fresh and new as possible, even if it doesn’t make sense to renovate. And, again, these won’t cost much.

You can learn more about the essentials of how to get your home ready to sell here.

Renovations That Can Help – But Won’t Always Pay Off

Whether or not these renovations pay off will depend on two things:

  1. What’s the overall standard for the rest of the neighbourhood, and for homes in a similar price range? Don’t over-renovate.
  2. How seriously out of date is what you have in your home now?

To find out if these renos are worth your while, look at homes of a similar style in your neighbourhood and in comparable neighbourhoods. Get an idea of what the minimum standards are and make your decisions from there.

As a rule of thumb, the more expensive your home already is, the more likely a renovation will be worth it. If someone’s going to be buying your home for $700,000, for example, they’re going to expect a really nice kitchen. Someone whose budget is around $250,000 is going to expect to make some compromises.

Better yet, do renovations like these to your new home when you buy it. That way you’ll get the styles and colours you want, and you’ll get to enjoy the results as long as you own your home.

1. Kitchen Overhauls

This is a tough one, because almost everyone really does want a great new kitchen with an up to date look and new appliances. But styles are always changing, and people’s tastes differ. Your “farmhouse chic”, for example, may be someone else’s old-fashioned eyesore.

In general, cosmetic upgrades like updated taps and backsplashes can pay off, but you won’t see the ROI for a full rebuild with new counters and cabinets.

2. Upmarket Bathrooms

Bathroom renovations face the same issue as kitchen renos: you’ll never really see all the money you put into them. Unless it’s truly frightening, make sure it looks spotlessly clean, but otherwise stick to cosmetic fixes.

The other big problem with bathroom renos as a presale value-builder is that some people want showers and others want bathtubs. A lot of bathrooms are not large enough for separate areas for both.

3. Gorgeous, Intensive Landscaping

People like looking at full landscaping. Not a lot of people have the gardening skills or the desire to maintain it.

Gardening is often sweaty, backbreaking work, and buyers know that. If you’re planning to sell, keep the lawn in good shape, maybe add a bed or two around the house if you can see the foundation, and set out some containers in the front. Don’t redesign with a lot of new plantings – it won’t mature for years, anyway.

5. Invisible Essentials

These are the fundamentals for every home: roofing, plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling. People want functional, and they certainly don’t want to see shingles blowing away in the wind, but they don’t always pay full value for the costs to do these projects.

You need a working furnace, and the roof needs to look like it’s actually keeping the water out of the house. If it needs to be done, get it done, but don’t expect to add the cost to the selling price of your home.

6. New Hardwood Floors

We get it: everyone hates parquet, and it’s everywhere in Ottawa because of all the 1970s builds. Gorgeous new hardwood floors will help you sell your home – but you won’t necessarily get dollar-in dollar-out return on your investment, unfortunately, if you’re replacing existing parquet or hardwood.

The story changes entirely if you’re removing wall-to-wall carpeting, however. It’s often a great move for homes of medium to high value.

Renovations to Avoid

1. Swimming Pools

Swimming pools sound like so much fun, don’t they? They can be – if they belong to someone else.

A swimming pool will actually reduce the value of your home because they’re expensive and a pain to maintain. They are also a safety risk. These days, most buyers looks at a swimming pool and see a lawsuit – or worse, a tragedy – especially if they have small children.

2. Wall to Wall Carpeting

Many buyers don’t like wall to wall carpeting because it’s impossible to keep clean; they prefer hardwood and tile. Some buyers, however, actually like it on the second story, especially in bedrooms.

If you have existing carpeting that’s shabby and stained, get it professionally steam cleaned and try to leave it at that. Replace it if it’s seriously scary.

But don’t cover hardwood floors with new carpeting – if hardwood floors are in rough shape, have them refinished.

3. Tailoring Rooms to Specific Functions

Home theatres, built-in bars, and garage mahals may appeal to some buyers, but they’ll also turn off others. They’re not an investment to make if a sale is on the horizon.

4. Additions

Adding an extended room or an additional story to your home almost never pays off when you’re trying to sell. This is only worth it if you’re staying long term.

Learn more about home improvements that don’t add value to your home>

Play it Safe, and Appeal to the Average Buyer

As you can see, there are a lot of variables that can make it difficult to decide what’s worth upgrading on your home and what’s not. When it comes to fixing up your house, it’s important to have a feel for all the other properties competing against yours on the market.

When you’re not sure, get the advice of an experienced realtor that knows what’s selling on the market right now. The Paul Rushforth team sells hundreds of homes every year, and our team of over 30 specialists work together to ensure your home sells as fast as possible and for the best possible price. We offer free home evaluations that are based on real market data.

Find out What Your Home’s Worth

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