Remodeling your home in a way that makes it more functional and enjoyable for the next couple of decades is usually worth any type of manageable expense and effort. But how about if you are planning to sell your home sooner rather than later?
Few large-scale remodeling projects add enough equity value to your home to pay to realize a profit or break even with an impending sale. Generally, you are better off accepting lower offers than investing in major remodels. Home remodeling in order to sell is different from remodeling to improve your quality of life.
A homeowner considering home improvements for the next two decades might well find a $75,000 kitchen remodel to be a valid expense. But this is not the case if you are considering improvements prior to selling your home. It will be very rare for that $75,000 kitchen to translate to a sale price that adds $75,000 or more.
Never Spend More on Remodels Than You Can Recoup
While this seems obvious, it is surprising how many people decide to throw vast amounts of money into a house that they will only inhabit for less than a year. Why buy expensive whole-house new flooring if the expected resale value is less than that? Brutally calculate the cost of the remodels and repairs against the higher sale price you expect to realize from them. Seasoned real estate agents can advise you about the cost vs. value angle of your home remodels. If the intended home remodel involves taking out a home equity loan, it is usually not the right remodel to do if you are intending to put the house on the market soon.
Net Zero Remodels to Attract Home Buyers
Is it a success to spend money on a bathroom remodel only to recoup the same amount from the sale? You might need to address a critical area that causes potential buyers to turn on their heels and walk out the door. Even if the rest of your house is in acceptable condition, one horrifying area might drag down the rest of the house. Real estate agents often advise clients to take care of minor problems, all with the understanding that the fixes only serve to support the sale of the rest of the house. Surface bathroom or kitchen remodels are often a better solution than a full-scale remodel. One important point to remember about net zero remodels is that they still do come at a cost: the price of your time and effort.
Prioritize Kitchen and Bathroom Remodels
If you end up deciding to spend money, the best areas to do so are the kitchen and the bathroom. These are the improvements most likely to gain the value and attract buyers. Most realtors will tell you that the kitchen and the bathroom are the most important parts of the house. For one reason, these are the areas where we spend much of our home lives, and so we are most attuned to them. But the other reason is that savvy home buyers will calculate the often staggering costs involved with remodeling a problem kitchen or bathroom. If the costs exceed what the buyer can or is willing to pay (in addition to the cost of the home), it can kill the sale. Minor area like garages, outbuildings, extraneous bathrooms, attics, or even living rooms and dining rooms, can be forgiven. But a disastrous kitchen or bathroom always calls attention to itself and can turn the sale in one direction or the other.
Concentrate on Countertops
Countertops are highly visible. So if you opt for any kind of expensive rip-and-replace work within the kitchen or bathroom, this is the area. Worn laminate countertops can be replaced with higher quality laminate or solid surface materials. Ceramic tile countertops are debatable in terms of quality and value; home buyers tend not to place them in high regard. Quartz countertops, as well as natural stone, are considered to be premium surface materials.
Refresh the Cabinets
Kitchen and bathroom cabinets are highly visible because they are at eye level. Replacing kitchen cabinets can easily erode any profit you hope to realize from the home sale. If your kitchen cabinets are in terrible condition, especially with the cabinet boxes falling apart, you have little choice but to install new cabinets. For cabinets that are in good structural shape, the better option that will return more value is to paint your cabinets or even reface them.
Upgrading Fixtures and Hardware Pays Off
New cabinet fixtures and hardware are surprisingly effective kitchen and bathroom upgrades. Do not assume that replacing kitchen and bathroom hardware is going to be cheap, though. Replacing all of your hardware can easily run into hundreds of dollars. On the upside, new fixtures and hardware are an easy do-it-yourself project that you can take on, even if you are in a time crunch. You can replace your kitchen and bathroom hardware in a morning.
Do It Yourself If Time and Inclination Permit
When you hire a remodeling contractor or tradesperson, you spend money on two things: materials and labor. Taking on any home remodel project by yourself means cutting out the labor piece of that cost. Thinking far ahead to a home sale two years or more in the future affords you the possibility of doing projects by yourself. But if you expect to put your house on the market in less than one year, taking on new do-it-yourself home projects may snarl you up and take time away from other things. Even worse, you run the risk of not being able to complete projects in time to put the home on the market.
Repair and Freshen up Rather Than Replace
Replacement removes one material and replaces it with another material. Usually, the fewer materials you hand over to the next homeowner, the better. Instead of replacing your existing hardwood, consider refurbishing your home's hardwood by sanding and finishing it. Instead of giving the buyer all-new windows, look into the possibility of replacing only the window sash. Rather than giving the next homeowner a new bathtub, consider refinishing your current tub. Materials always cost more than fixes.
Stress Appearance Over Function
When remodeling for sale, the best remodels are those that look good. It is better to spend money on paint or flooring rather than a water heater that still functions. As long as the water heater is safe and functional, keep it. A new water heater will not impress buyers. If a home inspector says the water heater must be replaced, that is the time to discuss replacing it or offering the buyer a credit. But appearance is not negotiable.
New Paint Works Wonders
New paint, especially well-chosen contemporary hues, will transform a house. Be careful of deep shades that darken the home. Cheerful, brighter colors reflect more ambient light, and this is especially important in small rooms like guest bathrooms and space-challenged bedrooms.
Consider the Market's Tastes, Not Yours
Home remodels done to make the home more attractive to buyers do not necessarily have to align with your tastes. This is less a case of grabbing the latest home remodel trends than it is about correcting styles that turn off buyers. You might have a penchant for home styles of the 1990s. Yet if your real estate agent says that you might want to avoid this style, this is the time to listen.
Avoid Home Remodels That Have Lower Resale Values
Some remodels are notoriously poor at returning resale value. Areas that tend not to have good resale value are media rooms, theaters, offices, basements, attic remodels, decks, and extensive backyard work. Garage conversions are typically not held in high regard by buyers, either.
Replace windows if you plan to remain in a house for at least five more years, but you will not get your money back on these if done only for immediate sale purposes.
Removing lighting, unless it will be replaced by other fixtures, can be a bad move, as well. Even poor lighting is better than no lighting. In fact, by code, all rooms must have switch-controlled lighting. So if you were to remove a ceiling light, its absence would come up in the property inspection and the buyer would most likely ask that it be replaced.