So you’re ready to sell your home, and you want to do whatever you can to make it stand out. But which home improvements and renovations should you focus on? Which ones will help your home sell faster, and which will help boost its final sale price?
Great questions! When it comes to renovations, there is a high degree of variability when it comes to increasing your return on investment (ROI). Finding the right projects that offer big ROI when it comes time will help you make sure your home gets sold fast and at the best possible price.
Certain renovations, such as enhancing your home’s kitchen and bathrooms, will often pay off in quicker and better offers. Others, such as adding a new pool or home office space, usually won’t. It’s all about value and cost vs. reward.
What Adds Value To A Home?
Buyers can certainly be picky, but luckily there’s a lot of research out there about what the majority of them are looking for. Open floor plans and stainless-steel appliances? You bet. Teal green wallpaper with flowers on it? Not so much.
Here’s a look at the best ways to spend your time and money when preparing your home for sale and which improvement projects you should probably avoid.
When it comes to updates that will entice buyers, kitchens are king. Mark Cianciulli, a real estate agent and co-founder of The CREM Group in Los Angeles, California, said that owners should focus on their kitchens when spending money on remodeling.
“One of the most popular requests from buyers pertains to the kitchen,” Cianciulli said. “Buyers are looking for spacious and modern kitchens.”
You can spend a lot on gut renovations to your kitchen, which will increase attention and offers from buyers. But, don’t expect a $40,000 kitchen renovation to add $40,000 or more to your home’s sales price. You usually won’t see a direct payback.
The numbers tell the story: A major kitchen remodel that costs an average of $66,196 will add an average of $41,133 to your home’s resale value, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report. That’s a return on investment of 62.1%. A more expensive upscale kitchen remodel costing an average of $131,510 will add an average of $78,524 to your home’s resale value for a slightly smaller return on investment of 59.7%.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take steps to improve your kitchen. Cianciulli said you can upgrade your kitchen on a more limited budget by replacing older appliances, adding granite countertops or building a new island. These smaller touches won’t cost as much but could have a big impact on your home’s final sales price and how many offers you receive.
A minor kitchen remodel costing an average of $22,507 will boost your home’s resale value by an average of $18,123, according to Remodeling magazine. That’s a far higher return on investment of 80.5%.
With most things in life, first impressions are everything. Getting new buyers in the door to tour your beautifully updated home starts with making sure the outside is as welcoming as it can be. Jim Kabel, owner and general manager of Case Design/Remodeling in San Jose, California, said that any improvements you can make on your home’s exterior are well worth your dollars. That’s because when potential buyers drive up to your home, its exterior will make that all-important first impression.
If your home’s yard is choked with weeds and cluttered with fallen leaves or peeling paint is visible, buyers will immediately wonder how well you’ve kept up the home’s interior, and that’s no way to attract a strong offer.
“One of the places that age shows most easily is the exterior of the home,” Kabel said. “Freshening up your front entry is one of the most affordable and effective ways to make significant improvements to your home.”
Repainting your home’s exterior, repairing cracked driveways, pulling weeds and planting bright flowers can all boost your home’s curb appeal and its resale value, Kabel said.
The results of Remodeling magazine’s survey also show that projects designed to add value to your home’s exterior generally provide some of the best returns on investment. For instance, the magazine reported that replacing an old front door with a new steel front door will only cost an average of $1,826 but will add $1,368 in resale value. That’s a solid return of 74.9%. Replacing a garage door pays off even more, with an average project costing $3,611 adding $3,520 in resale value, or a return on investment of 97.5%, the highest in the Remodeling magazine survey.
The magazine said that replacing your home’s exterior siding will bring an average return on investment of 75.6%, while replacing vinyl windows will bring a return of 73.4%. Replacing wood windows will bring an average return on investment of 70.8%.
Adding Living Space
Adding additional living space will usually pay off, too. If you add a primary bedroom suite, complete with its own bathroom, you’ll boost the number of buyers interested in your home. This is especially important in 2021, when people are spending much more time in their homes, both working and living. We’re all spending a lot more time with our families at home and pondering whether or not we have enough space.
As with kitchen improvements, though, you need to be careful as you don’t want to overspend on adding living space. If you do, you won’t see a good return on your investment when you sell.
Tod Colbert, president of Weather Tight, said that owners don’t want to add so much space, or upgrade their homes so much that they become the most expensive in the neighborhood.
“The remodel needs to be in line with the neighborhood,” Colbert said. “A $100,000 kitchen in a starter home will not return value. It might help the home sell faster. Buyers will gladly take it. But few will want or be able to pay for it.”
The same holds true for bedrooms. Colbert said that a room addition will usually be a positive if you don’t overbuild for your neighborhood.
“Just don’t add 3,000 square feet to a house in a neighborhood with 1,500 square-foot bungalows,” he said.
Adding bedrooms could open your home to a greater number of buyers. More people will be interested in your home if it has three bedrooms instead of two, for example. That said, don’t expect to recoup all the money you’ve spent on adding a bedroom when you sell.
Remodeling magazine reported that a midrange master suite addition, costing an average of $130,986, will only add an average of $77,785 to your home’s resale value. That’s a return on investment of just 59.4%. Meanwhile, an upscale master suite addition costing an average of $271,470 will boost your home’s resale value an average of $136,820, a return on investment of just 50.4%.
Again, though, the real value of a primary suite addition lies in increasing the number of offers you do receive. Buyers like primary suites and are more likely to bid on homes that have them. And, if you add that primary suite long before you sell, you get the added benefit of enjoying that space for yourself.
When asked which rooms are the most important when selling a home, most agents point to kitchens and bathrooms. It makes sense to remodel or upgrade your bathrooms before putting your home on the market.
Buyers today want spacious, bright bathrooms. You might love the pink tile from the 1950s, but unless you catch that midcentury modern buyer that loves period specific original finishes, you could be out of luck. You might consider replacing an old tub, switching out that old toilet and giving your bathroom a fresh paint job. Adding extra storage space in the room can help, too.
“Upgrading your bathroom is the easiest way to communicate to buyers that your home is move-in ready, even if they feel the need to perform other cosmetic changes,” said Jed Lewin, a real estate agent with New York City-based Triplemint. “Most people can live through a kitchen renovation, but everyone needs access to a working bathroom. Not having to renovate it after they purchase will make your home more attractive to the greatest number of buyers.”
According to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report, a midrange bathroom remodel that costs $20,420 will add $13,717 to a home’s resale value. That’s a return on investment of 67.2%. A larger-scale upscale bathroom remodeling job that costs $64,743 will add an average of $38,952 to your home’s resale value, for a return on investment of 60.2%.
Again, though, you don’t have to spend too much money to boost your bathroom. Fresh paint, new toilets and a new sink could make your bathroom look more appealing to buyers and drive up the number of solid offers you’ll receive. You don’t need to break the bank to make it more appealing to a broader buyer group.
Floors And Paint
Jake Lizarraga, writer with Interior Charm, a blog focusing on home design, says that owners shouldn’t forget about their home’s flooring when considering improvements. Hardwood floors are big pros for buyers today. And if those floors are scuffed or saggy? That will turn off potential buyers. Keep in mind that if you have carpet you might strike gold and find some lovely hardwood floors if you pull it up. Pull a little bit up in a corner to see what you’re working with underneath before you rip it all out.
Another important, cheap touch is paint. Lizarraga said that painting your home’s walls with fresh, neutral colors will make your space look bright and airy. That’s a low-cost way to make a good first impression on buyers.
“Floors and paint, especially if you’ve chosen kooky colors or wallpaper or your floors are old and scratched up,” Lizarraga said. “Returning your home to a bright and neutral environment allows the buyers to imagine how they would live there, rather than you.”
What Home Improvements Do NOT Add Value?
According to Remodeling Magazine’s latest cost versus value survey, even the projects that offer the biggest bang for the buck — installing a steel front door, adding a wooden deck and making minor kitchen remodels — won’t add more than 85 percent of the cost of doing the remodel to the value of the home when you sell. As discussed, not all projects are created equal when it comes to ROI. Let’s look at a few specific ones to steer clear of.
Five Home Improvement Projects To Avoid
1. A Major Home Renovation
Do you hate your kitchen and want to gut and renovate it? That’s a good idea if you’re doing it to enhance the enjoyment of your home. But, if you’re taking on such a major home improvement project to boost your home’s sales price, be careful. Odds are high that you’ll never see a return on your investment.
That’s because major home improvement projects – whether you’re gut renovating your kitchen or building a new bathroom – rarely return all that you spend on them. You might spend $30,000 only to see your home’s sales price jump by $10,000 or less.
That’s why real estate agents recommend smaller, less expensive fixes when getting your home ready for sale. Again, it’s all about ROI.
It’s important to remember where you live. Clemens von Reitzenstein, founder of New York City-based remodeling and project management firm Brace Enterprises LLC, said that homeowners in the city should be wary of wasting money on expensive renovations.
Say you’re selling a high-end condo in Manhattan. Whoever buys your building might instantly redo any work you put into your home, Reitzenstein said. That’s because buyers in urban areas are often focused on location more than the interior look of a home. After buying your home, they won’t flinch at spending money to rework that bathroom or kitchen remodel.
You might wind up pouring a lot of money into a kitchen remodel only for the new owners to rip out those granite countertops and replace those new appliances. The renovated kitchen might play little, if any, role in convincing that buyer to purchase, Reitzenstein said.
2. Tech That’s Too Smart
Teris Pantazes, co-founder of Settle Rite Home Services in Baltimore, said that buyers like to talk about smart home technology. But if this tech is too futuristic, it might turn some potential buyers away.
Pantazes pointed to technology such as smart ovens and LED light bulbs that play music and change color. They might be interesting, but some buyers might be turned off if they think this technology is either too intrusive or overly complicated.
“The major risk is that technologies you have chosen will not become adopted, and buyers are left with a built-in Betamax player,” Pantazes said. “Don’t push the envelope if you’re looking for returns.”
3. In-Ground Swimming Pools
Timothy Wiedman, retired associate professor of management and human resources at Crete, Nebraska-based Doane University, said that an in-ground swimming pool might be a smart move for homeowners who have young children who like to play outdoors.
But in general, Wiedman says, in-ground swimming pools won’t bring much of a return when you sell your home. A pool might actually turn away buyers, he said.
Wiedman pointed to a friend who lives in Southeast Michigan. This friend’s mother decided to sell the home in which she grew up. That home had an in-ground swimming pool.
“Several buyers liked that big, old house with its beautiful hardware floors and extensive woodwork,” Wiedman said. “But they didn’t want the maintenance costs and liability issues associated with an in-ground pool.”
The real estate agent representing the house suggested that the owner fill in the pool and cover it with grass. The result? It sold quickly after the pool was gone. The lesson here is to do the research. You may think “Who wouldn’t want a pool? They’re great!” While that may be true in some areas of the country, the numbers show it’s not universal. Study the area and buyer trends before pulling the trigger on renovations.
4. Expensive Outbuildings And Decks
Benjamin Ross, real estate agent and investment specialist with Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, Texas, said that spending big money on unlivable space is usually a mistake when selling. Outbuildings and outdoor decks are nice, but they won’t bring much of a return, and they usually won’t convince otherwise hesitant buyers to make an offer.
“The price of your home is determined by how many livable square feet your home contains,” Ross said. “Adding a lot of upgrades and unlivable space can mean a big loss for the homeowner come sale. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting homeowners lose money all the time.”
Adding “bedrooms” to a basement without egress windows is another example of this. While you might think it’s just fine for your teenage kids, those bedrooms won’t count when you go to list the house for sale.
5. The Other Bedrooms In The House
Speaking of bedrooms, updating the ones that aren’t the primary is something to avoid. While spending on primary bedroom suites could pay off when it’s time to sell, doing the same on the other bedrooms in your home, including kids’ rooms, probably won’t, said Jennifer Murtland, team leader with Team Synergi, a real estate team that serves the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky regions.
That’s because parents make the decision on what home to buy. They want their kids to have pleasant, clean spaces, but they don’t need these bedrooms to be as spacious as the main bedroom.
Doing more than cleaning, decluttering and painting these extra bedrooms probably won’t pay off when it’s time to sell.
“These rooms need to be clean and nice, but with a limited budget and time they can be skipped,” Murtland said.
What To Fix Up When Selling A House?
Before renovations, consider the maintenance related items that need attention right away. In a bathroom, for example, replace or repair old, leaky faucets and put down new grouting if necessary. Also consider caulking around areas like the toilet, shower, and sink to help keep moisture out. Finally, repair or replace damaged and chipped tiles on the floors, walls and other surfaces.
Renovations with an eye on selling are all about ROI. Use this information to make smart choices. Not all renovations are created equal when it comes to prospective buyers and impact on the sale price. Do your homework, make a plan and start building that value into your home before you sell.