Repairs Before Home Selling Return Rewards
Which Home Repair Jobs are Most Important?
Quick fixes before selling a home always pay off, but which home repairs bring the biggest return? Many sellers, trying to do the right thing, often make repairs that are not required. They tend to make the repairs they would want, which are not necessarily what a buyer expects. Specific answers to this often-asked question largely depend on a variety of factors such as:
- Time of year
- Location of the home
- Market temperature
- Competing inventory
There is no hard-and-fast rule. But we can examine general guidelines that apply to most homes. For example, the National Association of Realtors publishes each year the Cost vs. Value Report with Remodeling Magazine, which features various home project costs and returns in four regions, including a national average.
In general, there is no improvement you can make that returns 100% of your investment except for maybe insulation, and I have my doubts about that claim. But you can improve the value of your home with updates, not maintenance issues. Do not confuse the two as they are very different. For example, if you replaced your furnace, that does not add more value to your home. However, if you installed dual pane windows to increase efficiency over those old crank out aluminum windows, you've added value.
In my neighborhood, most of the homes were built in the late 1940s, which means the floors are original, hardwood oak. Wood floors are a hot item today, but preferences over the years have changed. Carpeting became popular -- like with lots of consumer products -- after somebody figured out how to get the government to pay for it. When vets returned home from WWII, housing was at a shortage. Homes were sold with newly installed carpeting because the cost for the carpeting could be rolled into government-insured (VA) loans.
Then carpeting became vogue in the 1960s. Some homes today, sadly, still sport that era of shag carpeting. The final movement away from hardwood happened when installing hardwood floors became too expensive. Plywood was easier to obtain and faster to install. Plus choices in carpeting were plenty. It's still relatively inexpensive to install carpeting.
- Hardwood Floors
If your home has hardwood floors, that's what buyers want, and it would pay to have the carpeting removed and the floors refinished.
If your sub-floor is plywood, then replace the carpeting with light tan. Neutral carpeting is your best bet for resale. You also have the option to install hardwood, which will bring you more upon resale.
Replace chipped or cracked tiles. Clean or replace the grout. But don't install ceramic (it's too expensive) unless it's for aesthetic reasons in an entry way or you need to get rid of carpeting in the bath.
I recommend that sellers remove carpeting from entertainment areas: the living room, dining room and family room. Buyers today prefer alternate flooring in those areas, and there are plenty of styles to choose from. The most popular are engineered wood floors, which can be installed very inexpensively and, in some cases, you can do it yourself.
Paint Ceilings & Walls
Buyers spend more time than you would think staring at ceilings. They are looking for signs of a leaky roof, but what you don't want them to see are stains from grease or smoke and ceiling cracks. Ditto for walls. Nothing says freshness like new paint, and it's the most cost effective improvement. Use fiberglass tape on large cracks, cover with joint compound and sand. Paint a neutral color such as light tan - think of coffee with cream. Gray is popular as well. Compare Prices
It's not that all buyers hate wallpaper. They hate your wallpaper - because it's your personal choice, not theirs. And they hate all dated wallpaper. Get rid of it. The easiest way is to steam it off by using an inexpensive wallpaper remover steamer. Compare Prices
- Wood paneling
Even if your wood paneling is not real wood but composite, you can paint it. Dated paneling must go. If you have the right amount of window trim to accommodate new walls, you might just Sheetrock over it with 1/4 inch drywall. Older wood paneling such as walnut, mahogany, cedar and pine, it's all gone out of style. Paint it a neutral and soft color after priming.
- Textured ceilings
Older popcorn ceilings with the "sparkles" often contain asbestos and if disturbed are health hazards. Say goodbye to it. But even recently sprayed ceilings turn off buyers. It's not expensive but it is time consuming to remove. Lay down drop cloths and scrape it off. You may need to repaint.
Appliances and cabinets are typically the most expensive items to replace in a kitchen. If you don't have to replace them, you'll save a ton of money. However, if your cabinets are dated and beat-up, your house might not sell if the cabinets aren't replaced.
Kitchen remodels return nearly 100%. According to Remodeling Magazine, the high-end kitchens don't return as much as the mid-range or minor kitchen remodels. Most buyers won't pay extra for a built-in Sub Zero refrigerator, professional 8-burner stove, under-mount sink or Travertine floors. If you live in the Midwest, your return will be less than for those who live in other parts of the country.
- Cabinets: Resurfacing is an inexpensive option. This involves attaching a thin veneer to the surface of the cabinets and replacing the doors and hardware Compare Prices. If your cabinets are simply dated, like oak, consider painting the wood a trendier color and adding new hardware.
- Counter tops, sinks & faucets
Granite or quartz counters are not always necessary, but ask your agent. Simple laminates, newer faucets, especially pre-rinse faucets are popular, and sparkling sinks will also sell. Buyers don't want to spot leaky faucets or stained sinks. Be sure to caulk to make it look even more inviting.
The national average of recouped cost is generally near 100% for bathrooms. New floors, fixtures and lights payoff. Carpeting is a huge turnoff in the bath.
If you cannot get the shower doors or glass fixtures clean, consider replacing the door. Lime deposits can etch glass and cannot always be easily removed. If the tub is stained, consider refinishing the tub.
Paint a light color if the space is small. Lighter colors will make it seem bigger than it is. The wall color in the bath does not need to match other rooms in the house.
Roofs and Exterior
If your home needs a new roof, bite the bullet and do it. Even though most roofing tear-off jobs take one to two days, buyers shy away from buying a home if the roof needs to be replaced. A new roof probably won't increase your sales price because it is a maintenance issue, but it will open up the pool of buyers who will buy your home.
- Patch cement cracks in sidewalks
- Resurface asphalt driveways
- Plant flowers
- Caulk windows and doors
- Replace doorknobs and locks
- Fix or paint fences (replacing is generally not necessary)
Overall, buyers want to buy a home that has no visible deferred maintenance, newer appliances, updated plumbing, electrical and heating (including a/c), modern conveniences and is ready to occupy.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.