As inventory begin to attract more buyers to the market, it may seem wise for your sellers to undertake renovation projects to boost their competitive edge. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades, for example, are among buyers’ most desired features and can fetch a handsome return on investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But even as remodeling demand rises—the NAHB predicts home improvement activity will jump 1.6% and 1.1% in 2019 and 2020, respectively—some real estate professionals aren’t sold on the idea that renovating always fast-tracks a home sale.
There are two types of homes that sell quickly in today’s market: fixer-uppers and completely renovated properties, says Blayne Pacelli, a sales associate with Rodeo Realty in Studio City, Calif. You’ll need to pay attention to local market dynamics to determine the salability of each type of home in your area. For example, if your market has an abundance of investors, who typically renovate anyway for flips or rental properties, you may not need to upgrade in order to sell. Traditional buyers, however, may want a move-in–ready property. “If a house is already fixed up except, say, one bathroom, I would suggest updating that bathroom to [appeal to a wide market],” he says. “If the bathrooms and kitchen need updating, I would leave them as is” and market the home to investors
Weighing Your Options
There’s no doubt that home improvement increases property values, but renovating can be expensive—and there’s no guarantee you will recoup all of the costs at resale. With that in mind, Is the expense of remodeling worth it? Small improvements rather than large-scale projects may suffice. “Timing matters as does the cost to renovate,” “It is a seller’s market in our area. In some cases, minor changes such as interior and exterior painting and updating the landscaping can add a lot of curb appeal and make the house more appealing to a buyer.”
Less Is More
Sometimes, some form of home improvement is necessary to elevate the profile of an otherwise undesirable property. In these cases, it may be best to choose simple projects with big impact, such as refreshing the paint or hardwood finish. James McGrath, co-founder of Yoreevo LLC in New York, says one of his buyers recently closed on a condo that had been extensively renovated. The seller, an interior designer, saved money by designing the remodeling projects herself, but she still spent $100,000 on the actual work, which included gutting the kitchen and bathroom among other changes, McGrath says. “If it’s not the highest price per square foot in the building’s history, it’ll be pretty close,” he says of the deal.
The renovated unit received a lot of foot traffic, with 60 to 70 showings. “That being said, the owner won’t make money on the renovation,” McGrath says. Though the renovation generated a higher price for the condo—which McGrath’s client bought for $690,000— it wasn’t enough to cover the seller’s remodeling costs, he adds. This is an example of why McGrath suggests that homeowners avoid big projects prior to selling.
Another renovation con: While the improvements may be a hit with some buyers, others may have different preferences and won’t pay a higher price for the work that was done. In fact, McGrath’s buyer brought in his own contractor because he wanted to replace the tile in the kitchen and backroom. Though the tiles were new and in pristine condition, the buyer had a different vision for the space, McGrath says. “Presumably, the seller would have gotten the same offer from [my buyer] had she not spent thousands of dollars on those tiles.”
“This means that the property will trade for less than the repairs would have netted in a sale.”