This article, like many that I have written over the past 12 or 14 months may not be as relevant one year from now as it is today, but I have given the same advice on many occasions throughout my career in real estate.
The question is (as I renovate my own home) is it worth it? In my case, I am updating a kitchen that is as old as I am, and was somewhat budget oriented to begin with. It’s not that I don’t care what it might cost, but rather, I do not care as much about the value it will add to the home as I don’t plan to sell anytime soon. If you have the same mindset, I say go for it. Generally real estate improvements will at least pay for themselves, unless you’re doing something that is highly specified to your style or needs.
What about for resale? In this case, it depends on the market, and particularly right now, timing. At the moment (and I suspect you have noticed) appliances, carpet, roof shingles, windows… everything is in short supply and high demand. Similarly, labor is in short supply and as a result everything is far more expensive than it was a few Summers ago. It’s a seller’s market today and timing, coupled with supply and labor shortages is not on your side. With this combination, my current recommendation would be to leave well enough alone (if it is well enough) with the exception of a few examples below. In markets where time and materials are easier to come by, I think renovations should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Either way, the examples below well usually equate to a net gain.
1) Paint, where it needs it. Changing the laundry room from green to blue probably isn’t going to make a huge difference, and your time might be better spent cleaning the basement. On the other hand, freshening up a small room with an out-of-date color or poor paint job isn’t a bad idea. Another important aspect to painting is quality – tape those edges and use a hard, fine line brush where you can’t. Prime over top of those dark colors, and always do two coats.
2) Appliances, if you need them. It’s hard to get rid of a great appliance, they don’t make them like they used to. That being said, there’s something about those quiet dishwashers and stainless steel french door refrigerators that buyers tend to notice. Again, add a month to whatever delivery time estimate you receive.
3) Your trade, but be careful with this one! We live in an area that provides skilled labor for high-end real estate and as a result many are capable of improving some aspects of their homes. Why careful? I have seen plenty of hardwood flooring contractors “showcasing” their abilities in their own homes. While the herringbone transition to a diamond pattern of oak and dark walnut is respectable in terms of the skill, it’s probably not what buyers are looking for. Keep it clean, don’t overdo it.
4) Clean, this one is free (kind of). Declutter, depersonalize and freshen things up. buyers open closet doors, pantries, garages. This one is huge, and it might even help showcase how big a space is that otherwise might look smaller than it is.
5) Kitchens, bathrooms… I’ll bet if you hop online and do a quick search, this is going to be the first thing that comes up. True, buyers love fancy kitchens and shiny new bathrooms – but it’s hard right now. Things will get back to normal, but even in “normal” times, getting work done in a rural/resort area like this is difficult and expensive. It always has been, and it always will be. On that note, it’s easy to blow the budget and not be able to recover all of, or as much of the cost that you had hoped. Also keep in mind that these projects are often like picking at a scab. It’s never as simple as, “let’s replace the countertops!” Further, I’ve heard buyers ask why a seller would put such nice countertops on top of old, out of date cabinets. That’s a loss in my book. If a customer is questioning an investment you’ve made, you may have been better served not doing it in the first place.
I’m sounding a little pessimistic, but it’s probably my mood after wrapping up my own project. To be clear, I would rather sell a house with a new kitchen and master bath, and you will probably net out positive. Just remember the timing aspect mentioned above. Note that in any market things are probably going to take longer than you had hoped, and cost more than you expected. The best thing you can do is ask for your real estate professional’s advice before pulling the trigger if it’s strictly to improve the value of your home before listing it for sale.