Renovation for Resale Tips That’ll Boost Your Home’s Value

by Carol Wang

Focus your attention (and money) on these home upgrades for resale value 

family roomMany Sweeten homeowners have either just moved into their new space or are renovating to stay put. Increasingly, we are seeing renovation projects aimed at resale. Whether you’re planning to put your space on the market soon or further on down the road, it’s smart to keep in mind the potential for resale, especially if you know that your current home is one you may outgrow.  This is a clever way to approach your renovation—making it comfortable and customized to your needs while increasing your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers. Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, offers an overview of the best home upgrades for resale value.

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Should You Remodel for Resale?

If you’re moving sooner rather than later, your renovation should be strategic and targeted in the areas that will create the biggest difference to buyers with minimal cost to you. Walk around your home with your real estate agent and discuss whether there are any basic home improvement projects that might facilitate a quick sale for top dollar. While decluttering and staging should be the first steps, some homes do need a little extra. If yours falls into this category, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I willing to accept a lower price per square foot to compensate for the condition of the apartment?
  • Am I scared off by the hassle of a renovation project?

If your answer to both questions is no, it sounds like a renovation might be in your future!

Renovating for resale: Apartments

If you live in an apartment, most likely there is another entity—a co-op or condo board—in conjunction with a management company, who is responsible for the upkeep of the building systems and its exterior, as well as any peripheral landscaping. Neither you nor the buyer of your apartment will need to deal with these issues personally (unless you’re on the board, but that’s a whole different story.) As an owner, you’re responsible for “walls-in,” so it makes sense to focus on cosmetic improvements that will help your apartment show better.

Renovating for resale: Houses

The priorities are different when renovating a house for resale. Since homeowners are responsible for the whole building and the lot on which the house sits, there will likely be more pressing concerns beyond the color of the bedroom walls. (Also, buyers of townhouses generally expect to do some work on their new homes after closing.) This means that your money shouldn’t go to renovations but to repairs: ensuring that all systems are in good working order, that there are no structural issues, and that nothing on the exterior needs immediate attention.

You’ll generally have to dig deeper into your pockets to fund these types of projects, but it’s likely that your house will sit on the market if you don’t address them. If you don’t deal with pressing repairs, and they come up during inspection, expect the buyer to ask for credits at closing in order to compensate for them.

The best interior home upgrades for resale value

Focusing your time and money on remodeling the most visible parts of your home tends to bring the best value (we’ll get into exterior updates further down). These are the interior, whole-room projects that recoup the most value according to Remodeling’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report:

  • A mid-range, minor kitchen remodel that costs $23,452 has a resale value of $18,206 and recoups 77%
  • A mid-range, major kitchen remodel that costs $68,490 has a resale value of $40,127 and recoups 58%
  • A mid-range bathroom remodel that costs $21,377 has a resale value of $13,688 and recoups 64%
  • An upscale bathroom remodel that costs $67,106 has a resale value of $37,995 and recoups 56%
  • A mid-range bathroom addition that costs $49,598 has a resale value of $26,807 and recoups 54%

Small-scale home upgrades

  • Add a fresh coat of paint. Especially if the current colors are very bright or unusual. You might love lime green, but it’s safe to say that many buyers won’t. Many homeowners can repaint themselves, but sometimes, it’s worth calling in the pros.
  • Change out kitchen cabinet fronts. You can do this a number of ways—simply sanding and repainting the existing surface is the most budget-friendly, or you can choose to replace the doors and hardware while leaving the interior boxes in place.
  • Swap out your fixtures.  If your lighting and plumbing fixtures look like they are from the ’80s, and not in a good way, consider switching them out. You don’t need to go high-end; there are plenty of good-looking options at big box stores. Our suggestion? Pick something with clean lines and classic finishes.
  • Refinish your floors. If they are scratched, peeling, or look damaged, this is a must. Any sign of water damage, for example, is not only an aesthetic problem but is also an indicator to buyers that there may be a history of leaks in the building. And if you have carpets…this is a huge turnoff for many buyers, so consider replacing them.
  • Rip out outdated trends that serve no function. This applies to vinyl faux-wood paneling, weird glass block walls, and “decorative” room dividers that are now just eyesores.

Single-space home upgrades

  • Kitchen updates. This is an important space for buyers and is often immediately visible upon entering the apartment, so you’ll want to focus your attention here. In addition to refurbishing the cabinet doors, replace the hardware and fixtures. You can also go further, and replace the countertops and backsplash. Visually, these make the biggest impact. If you have a very dark kitchen, going lighter will appeal to buyers.
  • Bathroom updates. After the kitchen, this is the most important space in an apartment. Particularly if there is just one—it’s important to make it look functional and clean. The easiest and most affordable ways to update the bath are to paint and change out the medicine cabinet-mirror for an updated model. Updating the tile, vanity, and reglazing the tub will also be good ways to freshen up the space.
  • “Flex space” addition. While it’s impossible to add actual square footage to an apartment (unless you’re combining apartments!), it’s often helpful to add the idea of one. This can be done by putting up pressurized walls to carve out an office nook, or by adding sliding doors across a large living room to create a den space. While this type of renovation won’t change the legal designation of the number of bedrooms in your unit, it helps buyers envision more uses for the space.

The best exterior home upgrades for resale value

  • An upscale garage door replacement that costs $3,695 has a resale value of $3,491 and recoups 94%
  • Replacing vinyl siding with mid-range manufactured stone veneer costs on average $9,357 has a resale value of $8,943 and recoups 95%
  • A mid-range wooden deck addition that costs $14,360 has a resale value of $10,355 and recoups 72%
  • Mid-range fiber-cement siding replacement that costs $17,008 has a resale value of $13,195 and recoups 77%
  • Replacing a mid-range steel entry door for a cost of $1,881 has a resale value of $1,294 and recoups 68%

Curb appeal project ideas

Here are other ideas to consider to improve your home’s curb appeal.

  • Repair the driveway $1,000-$5,000
  • Spruce up the house number $10-$100
  • Invest in landscaping $200-$2,000
  • Repaint the exterior $5,000-$15,000

Remember: In a highly-localized market like metropolitan cities, it’s important to make these decisions in consultation with your real estate agent. What works in one neighborhood might not work in another. He or she will be the best person to guide you on where it makes sense to invest in a renovation.

Keep in mind you don’t need to spend a lot of money to upgrade your home. Weigh the financial and time costs, and consider whether you’d take a lower purchase price to save yourself the trouble. And remember, it’s not about recouping the exact value of the renovation in the sale price, but getting buyers to make offers in the first place!

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Sweeten founder and CEO weighs in on what to know before renovating a brownstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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