get the word on home updates worth the investment
The process of selling a home begins with ensuring that the property is ready to be marketed. In some instances, this is as simple as staging key areas of the home, but in more extreme cases, sellers may think that major renovations and repairs are required in order to command top dollar. In a balanced market, sellers must work with an experienced broker to identify home improvements that will increase the home’s value and prepare it for sale while keeping in mind the return on investment.
Below, we’ve categorized home improvements by the amount of effort each update takes plus a few key tips for what not to do when preparing a home for sale.
// simple updates //
When thinking about the easiest, most cost-efficient ways to create value in a home, start small. “For sellers that want to take on a project before listing their home for sale, I always have them think it through,” says Carmelo Paglialunga, Co-Owner of milehimodern. “You never know what will resonate with a potential buyer. Before diving into a huge renovation, start with a deep clean, fresh paint and fantastic staging.”
The first step of this process is to deep clean the entire home, especially high-traffic areas such as the living spaces, kitchen areas and mudrooms. Freshly steamed carpets, gleaming windows and scoured tile finishes make an immediate impact on potential buyers by allowing them to focus on the home’s features rather than normal wear and tear. General handyman tasks, such as light fixture installation and light carpentry, should be considered in this phase as well.
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Once the cleaning is complete, sellers and brokers can identify which areas may need a fresh coat of paint. Ideally, the home will have a cohesive color story throughout — think neutrals, like greige and warm whites, that allow potential buyers to see the possibility.
// moderate updates //
The sweet spot for most sellers includes home improvements that add moderate value but do not require a time-consuming — and costly — renovation. Most moderate home improvements can be completed in two days or less depending on the size of the home and the availability of contractors.
In the bathroom and kitchen areas, regrouting and reglazing tile allows the timeless finish to shine without needing to replace it. If the appliances in the kitchen or dated, mismatched or otherwise defective, sellers can create an elevated cooking space by simply replacing the appliances to create a cohesive experience. Cabinetry can be refinished rather than replaced and countertops can be easily swapped out for something trendier, such as Caesarstone.
Flooring is another moderate update that sellers should consider before listing their home. Hardwoods are perpetually in style and sought-after by buyers but can be costly compared to other flooring options.
“There’s no need to install new flooring throughout the entire home,” notes Paglialunga. “Strategically installed hardwoods and luxury vinyl plank flooring in the living, kitchen and dining areas may be enough to attract buyers. Carpet in the basement and bedrooms is fine, but a fully carpeted home is not the best experience for potential buyers when touring a home.”
// extensive updates //
A whole-house renovation may not provide an immediate return on investment for sellers looking to sell their homes quickly, but there are a few key areas that will provide added value without demolishing down to the studs.
“The two areas that sell a home more than anything are the kitchen and the primary bathroom,” continues Paglialunga. “If homeowners can nail those two spaces, they will always get the ROI.”
With this in mind, Paglialunga warns that “going too flashy” in these spaces will have the opposite effect. “Buyers may not see the appeal in a particularly bold renovation, despite the amount that sellers have invested.”
Still, buyers will typically perceive a kitchen with updated cabinetry, stainless steel appliances and generous counter space as more valuable than a kitchen with surface-level improvements. Sellers should consult with their brokers to determine whether vanity enhancements or a full renovation is appropriate for their goals.
// what to avoid //
When it comes to investing in home improvements that add value to a property, Paglialunga encourages property owners to spend money on the things that buyers can see. “I have seen homeowners invest a lot of time and dollars in audio and visual entertainment, but at the end of the day, buyers are less interested in those improvements than sellers may think.”
The same idea applies to the home’s internal systems. Buyers expect the home’s water heaters and HVAC to be in working order from the start, so homeowners may not see the immediate value of updating those systems just before listing their homes for sale.
Another item to avoid? “Custom window treatments,” says Paglialunga. “More often than not, I advise sellers to uninstall custom window treatments so that the home’s natural light and expanse can be fully experienced.”
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