What’s It Worth?
Before embarking on any large home improvement project, calculate what the payoff is — now and in the future
This story is found in the Summer 2019 edition of Park City Home.
The mind of a homebuyer is an elusive thing. Which is why it’s so difficult to figure out what home renovations might convince them to sign a contract, and how much those renovations can impact your selling price. Here is the projected value of five of the most popular choices. Keep in mind that the real merit of any upgrade should be the satisfaction it brings to the homeowner.
When thinking about a renovation that can increase the value of a home, or the day-to-day pleasure of living there, the first space most people turn to is the kitchen. A major kitchen renovation requires a substantial commitment of time and money. But to bring yourself a little joy, or catch the eye of a potential buyer, keep it simple and update the cabinets. You can have them custom designed for tens of thousands of dollars. Or for far less, and almost the same effect, get them resurfaced with a permanent veneer of wood or laminate; according to houselogic.com it’s about half the cost of replacing them outright. (Refacing cabinets in a small 10’ X 12’ kitchen with wood veneer should cost under $5,000.) More cost effective yet, especially if your house is about to go on the market, is a coat of paint in a universally popular color and an update of hardware to whatever’s trending.
Bathrooms rank just behind kitchens as the most popular and worthwhile area for home renovations. Yet while a down-to-the-studs bathroom remodel can be a big ticket item costing substantially more than you’ll get back from it (somewhere around 55 percent return on investment is a number commonly used), tackling something less ambitious, such as replacing the old shower-bathtub combo with a zero-threshold walk-in shower, makes a lot of sense. Zero-threshold showers not only give the bathroom a contemporary look but also eliminate worries about accessibility for older homeowners and potential buyers. Removing the old tub and shower and getting the new shower pan to slope into the drain isn’t a do-it-yourself job, so expect to pay up to $5,000 for the work. The cost is substantially offset by the value you’ll add to the house and the length of time you’ll be able to comfortably live in it.
Among home improvement projects, replacing windows with modern, more energy-efficient models is always popular. You get an updated look, a reduction in your utility bill, and environmental cred. However, windows can be expensive to replace: Top-end models can cost as much as $1,500 or more apiece. And since it could take decades to see a return on investment in terms of energy cost savings, most experts agree that it usually makes more sense to repair old windows rather than replace them, especially if their style contributes to a home’s character. There are good arguments to the contrary, such as if an old window frame is rotted beyond hope of saving, or your overriding concern is to be as green as possible. But often, a bit of caulking, a little sanding, and a coat of paint will allow an old window to look nearly as good and function nearly as well as if it were new.
Hardwood floors have been eye-pleasers for centuries and remain hugely popular. Their initial cost is high, about three times the cost of carpeting. So if you’re about to put your house on the market, installing hardwood floors (or somewhat less expensive engineered wood) to boost the selling price might not be your best investment. If the original flooring is a liability and needs to be upgraded, a better solution is probably carpeting or even laminate flooring, a manufactured product that can do a good job of mimicking hardwood, but that has nowhere near its lifespan.
However, if you’re not planning to go anywhere for a while, the initial cost of hardwood flooring should be less of a concern. Not only because of the pleasure its natural beauty can bring, but also because it’s easier to keep clean than carpeting, and if refinished every 7-10 years, can outlast the life of the house.
A fresh coast of paint
You can add stainless appliances, quartz counter tops, and gold-tone bathroom fixtures, but almost nothing will increase the appeal of any room in your home more than a fresh coat of paint. Zillow, the online real estate database company, even says that the shade you choose can make thousands of dollars of difference in what a house goes for. Popular choices tend to be light, soft hues such as pale beige and taupe. According to homeadvisor.com, the cost to paint an average 10 X 12 room will be between $380 and $790, not including ceilings, trim, or the paint itself. And keep in mind that while a competent homeowner can often do the job themselves, usually about half way through the significant prep work required, almost everyone decides it’s a task for professionals, after all.
When thinking of putting a house on the market, the biggest home improvement mistake people make is to get too trendy or too personal, says Ann MacQuoid, who has been a realtor in Park City for 30 years.
“You should never really make major changes to sell a house,” says MacQuoid, a senior partner at Chin MacQuoid Flemming Harris. “But if you do, it should be with the advice of a trusted expert who tells you something like ‘your kitchen is horrible.’ ”
The smarter approach, she says, is to make cosmetic home improvements that will appeal to a majority of people: updating window coverings, replacing dated light fixtures and hardware, painting with modern, neutral colors.
“You are not necessarily looking for a return on your update investment,” she says. “You are just trying to get a faster sale, for the highest dollar you can.”
Even just de-cluttering can make a big difference, says MacQuoid. “You don’t want old, not-very-clean furnishings and other clutter so distracting that buyers couldn’t possibly see themselves in the home.”
For more stories from this edition, visit the Park City Home special section.
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