Remodeling - Not A Great Idea If You're Ready To Sell

A question that I get all the time from would-be sellers concerns what or how much remodeling they should do before putting their home on the market. My advice is consistent – now is not the time to put major money into remodeling projects, if you are going to sell right away.

Don’t get me wrong. Homeowners should always be looking for remodeling opportunities or other projects to keep the house in good condition; but, they should be doing that with the thought in mind that they will be enjoying those improvements for a while. Redoing the kitchen (which the wife has probably wanted forever) is not something that you should do right before you sell. Painting the kitchen? Yes; but, not putting in granite countertops in hopes of getting more for the house. New, granite countertops may well increase the value of the house some, but not by enough to even recover the costs involved.


There are very few, if any, home improvement projects that break even, much less actually increase the value of the house enough to offset the costs. You can go to the site and their Cost vs. Value report for 2013 by clicking here. There are also all sorts of remodeling project cost estimators available on line. If you Google home remodeling cost estimators you’ll get a bunch to look at. Take all of these estimators with a large grain of salt. At best, any of these algorithm-based estimators may get you in the right ball park, but certainly not as close as calling in a local remodeler to give you a quote.


 So, what are you to do? You have suddenly awakened to the fact that your house is sadly out of date or in need of lots of remodeling. My advice – don’t do any big, last-minute remodeling projects. Certain smaller projects, like painting and perhaps replacing some dingy old carpeting might still make sense. Just taking up wall to wall carpeting to expose hardwood floors beneath is a dramatic improvement (refinish the hardwood if it is in good shape and needs a finish refresh).  Hardwood floors are now “in”. Adding a few new area rugs can provide some needed color focal points in the room.


Updating your home in ways that will help it pass an FHA/VA mortgage appraisal would also make sense. Installing handrails and GFCI plugs where needed will prevent the sale from being stalled when you have to do those items after the appraisal. Small things like changing out a few light fixtures in baths or the kitchen or painting and adding new knobs to the kitchen cabinets, can make a big difference for a relatively small cost. If you paint rooms buy new plug covers and light switch covers, too. Replace old, rusty heating vent covers with new ones, perhaps wood ones. Sometimes, just cleaning tile floors and either cleaning or re-grouting then can make then look new.


Replacing moldings around windows or doors (especially of the cat has used the molding as a scratching post) can improve the looks of any room. Adding crown molding in rooms and on the tops of kitchen cabinets (if appropriate) adds class and value at a low cost. Putting under cabinet lighting in the kitchen is a nice, inexpensive touch. Most of these ideas are not major remodeling projects and likely all of them could be done for less than the cost of those granite counter tops. Proceed with caution however if you plan to do these things yourself. 



My advice is to call in a local Realtor® and have them walk through your house with you and suggest the things that could be updated at little cost. I’m sure that the Realtor will be more concerned about things like clutter or deferred maintenance items than about doing big remodeling projects. The idea is to get the house in as good of condition as possible so that it will sell quickly and at a fair price. If you do costly last-minute remodeling projects and then jack the price up, hoping to recoup your costs; you will likely just sit on the market until you finally give up and eat most of those costs anyway.


Potential buyers will make lists (mental or otherwise) of all of the things that they see that need updating and that will influence their offer price decision. Your Realtor should be able to advise you on how to properly price your home, based upon the fact that needs those updates. The buyers might even appreciate the chance to do the updates themselves, so that they can pick out the granite color and new cabinets. You might discuss with your Realtor offering a “remodeling concession” to the listing price as an incentive to take the house “as is.”


And, when you get to wherever you are living next, just remember to plan to do a major remodeling project every few years, so that you can enjoy the changes and so that the house will always be ready for a sale, if needed.

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Leigh Young

Leigh Young

Realtor - Veteran Specialist
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