Fresh Threads: Is Carpet a Value Booster or Always Second Best to Hardwood?

Hardwood floors remain popular among homebuyers, which seems to leave little room for beige polyester plush. However, carpeting still gives consumers a warm, fuzzy feeling, accounting for 48% of the total flooring market in the United States.

It’s less expensive to install than hardwood (think about $1,300 to $1,800 for 300 square feet versus about $2,700 to $3,800 nationwide). It’s also more practical and cozier in certain rooms and climates, and it’s not as noisy.

“Lots of times you’ll see people put a throw rug down on hardwood. It helps with acoustics,” says Geoffrey Adams, a top-selling agent in Phoenix, Arizona who sells homes 62% faster than the average area agent. “We have a lot of homes with carpet here in Phoenix,” he said, including his own. “I like waking up in the morning and feeling carpet on my feet.”

But does new carpet increase home value? That depends on the style and condition of the carpeting you currently have—as well as when you’re planning to sell. Read on.

A hallway with new carpet that increased home value.
Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)

Clean, neutral carpet translates to perceived value

Agents like Adams don’t often advertise “new carpet throughout” because sometimes that makes buyers wonder: Is this a cheap flip? Was the carpet completely destroyed? “There’s some school of thought where you don’t want to say those things,” he said.

However, carpet that is clean and in good condition adds marketability, even if it’s not brand-new. Carpet has an insulating effect up to 10 times higher than a hard floor covering such as concrete or plywood, resulting in reduced heat and cooling costs, according to the Carpet Institute of Australia.

It also feels toasty in colder climates, and depending on the finish, it can be luxurious as well. Designers often use wall-to-wall carpeting in smaller spaces such as bedrooms for this reason, Architectural Digest notes.

HomeAdvisor.com notes that new carpet in general tends not to affect resale value either way (compared to hardwood, for which 54% of buyers in one study were willing to pay $2,080 more). But stained or outdated carpeting doesn’t do you any favors.

Appraisers are trained not to evaluate your home’s value based on your style of decor (or how neat your home is, for that matter). However, the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report does ask them to specify the materials and condition of the floors.

“There’s an expectation of some type of finished flooring,” says Mike Ford, a general certified real estate appraiser serving greater metropolitan Los Angeles and a member of the American Guild of Appraisers. If he can see the carpeting tack strips, for instance, “I’m certainly making some notes in regard to the flooring.”

Likewise, carpeting that is visibly worn or has a noticeable odor, such as from pets, mold, or smoking, “can be a real impediment to value,” Ford said. Market conditions and your price point will determine by how much.

Entry-level homes — those at the lowest end of the price spectrum — aren’t expected to have the same qualities and finishes as those in higher price brackets, Ford said.

There are buyers who will replace carpeting, even if it’s new, because they don’t like the color scheme or style. “If you walk into a multi-million-dollar home and that carpet is not perfect, it could be a big factor, or somebody could shrug their shoulders and say, ‘We’ll replace it anyway,’” said Ford.

Shag carpet that needs to be replaced to increase home value.
Source: (Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash)

Should you replace your carpet before selling your home?

If you’re planning to sell your home within 5 years, ask your real estate agent for an opinion on your carpet’s current condition, then discuss where to go from there. Generally speaking, unless it’s under warranty, carpet needs to be replaced about every 5 to 15 years, HomeAdvisor.com notes, whereas other types of flooring can last for decades.

Ask yourself:

Is it dirty?

Would you feel comfortable letting a baby play on the floor or walking on the carpet barefoot? If the carpet is dirty but salvageable, with no rips, snags, or set-in stains, Adams first recommends a professional cleaning. “Oftentimes, a good professional carpet cleaning company just needs to come in there, and you would think the carpet was new.” Carpet cleaners charge by room or by square footage, so expect to pay about $25 to $75 per room or from $200 to $330 for 1,000 to 1,500 square feet.

Is the color or style outdated?

Carpet with Bold colors from the 1960s (like orange and purple) or lots of texture, like sculpted carpet or shag, stand out for the wrong reasons. “You don’t want the carpet to be the focal point of the home … [as in] ‘Oh, yeah, remember the green shag carpet home?’” Adams said.

Is it installed in a room where people don’t expect carpet?

Kitchens and dining areas once had wall-to-wall carpeting throughout. This trend might strike millennial buyers as odd even if the carpet is 100% waterproof (a new option for 2020 interiors)

Likewise, although some homes have wall-to-wall carpeting in the bathroom, this can make buyers worry about mold trapped underneath. That’s why Adams redid the carpeted bathroom in his home. Hardwood also is susceptible to warping from moisture, by the way, making tile or vinyl flooring more attractive for the bathroom.

A ruler used to buy new carpet to increase home value.
Source: (William Warby / Unsplash)

Getting new carpet? Measure your rooms and choose a color

Synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester, and polypropylene (olefin) comprise more than 90% of carpeting nowadays, according to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) of Dalton, Georgia, a professional association of flooring manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors. Although you’ll have to decide between materials and styles when choosing new carpet (more on that below), it’s also smart to bear in mind these considerations:

  • Seams: The WFCA says most carpeting comes in widths of 12 feet and 15 feet, so depending on your room’s dimensions, your carpet—even wall-to-wall—will have seams. The visibility depends on the color and texture.
  • Color: Carpet tends to look lighter once it’s installed. Lighter carpet also makes a room look larger, one reason why neutrals are a good pick for sellers (or frequent redecorators). Emily Morrow, former director of color, style, and design for Shaw Floors, a Georgia carpet manufacturer since the 1960s, recommends beiges and taupes (brownish grays, with no pink and minimal yellow undertones), as well as an off-white color for low-traffic areas such as bedrooms.
  • Cushion: To help overall wear, carpeting should have padding underneath, such as bonded foam or flat rubber, to act as “a shock and a spring,” the WFCA says. Padding costs an average of $1.50 per square foot, so when pricing your carpeting and installation, ask whether delivery and padding are included.
  • Matching: Depending on your budget, you may not be willing or able to redo all the carpeting in your home, which is fine. But beware of piecemeal cleaning and replacing within the same field of vision; buyers will notice differences in color and texture. Adams said on one listing, a homeowner replaced worn carpeting in one room and on the stairs, but only cleaned the carpeting in an adjoining room. The overall effect was a mismatch.
Dollars that were gained after buying new carpet.
Source: (Alexander Schimmeck / Unsplash)

How to select a carpet with the greatest resale value

Buying carpeting is a matter of mixing and matching materials and carpet styles for the traffic level, durability, or other features you’d want in a particular room (such as stain resistance).

All carpeting, even those varieties with natural fibers such as sisal and wool, is manufactured the same way. The fibers are bundled together, twisted into a yarn, and then sewn into backing. Generally, the denser the fibers are, the better the carpeting will perform under daily use, the WFCA says. The longer the height of the pile, the more likely the carpeting will show foot traffic or furniture marks.

Carpet materials to choose from include:

  • Polyester: About 25 cents to $4.50 per square foot; stain-resistant; good for low-traffic areas and bedrooms.
  • Nylon: About $1 to $6.50 per square foot; durable but not typically stain-resistant; good general carpeting.
  • Olefin (polypropylene): About $1.50 to $2.25 per square foot; stain- and moisture-resistant; good for low-traffic areas and basements.
  • Wool: About $4.50 to $10 per square foot; stain-resistant; easy to clean; good for medium-traffic areas.

A carpet’s style specifies how the fibers are cut (or not), otherwise known as pile. You’ll see names such as:

  • Cut pile saxony: hides imprints easily; good for medium-traffic areas.
  • Cut pile (textured): soft; resists soiling.
  • Cut and loop: often patterned; incorporates both loop and cut pile; hides dirt; good for high-traffic areas.
  • Multilevel loop: hides dirt; good for high-traffic areas but could snag pet paws.
  • Level loop: hides dirt; good for high-traffic areas but could snag pet paws.
A person shopping for new carpet to increase home value.
Source: (Robert Przybysz / Shutterstock)

Different carpets for different rooms

Certain carpet materials and styles are better for some rooms than others. For instance:

For your bedrooms…

Any plush or texture works well as long as it provides softness and comfort. Soft nylon or stain-resistant polyester is a good option for a child’s room.

Interior design firm Studio McGee of Salt Lake City, Utah, which has designed projects across 33 states, likes a low-pile berber (a level loop style) or low-pile shag for bedrooms, noting that “they’re styles that span the test of time and they go with different styles of furniture.”

Low-pile neutral carpets also look good with a smaller rug layered on top to add color, the firm says.

Example of what to buy: STAINMASTER Essentials, with a 10-year limited warranty on wear and texture retention, in Dreamweaver, $2.49 per square foot

For your living rooms or family rooms…

Unless you have a formal living room, both of these withstand a lot of traffic. Try a textured looped carpet such as nylon or a berber made from wool. Both are more forgiving of daily messes and footfalls.

Example of what to buy: LifeProof Lower Treasure, which includes a 25-year warranty and a limited pet and stain warranty, in Dreamland, $3.25 per square foot.

For your stairs and hallways…

Choose a resilient carpet like nylon in a texture or level loop, and make sure during installation that the pile’s direction runs from the top of the stairs to the bottom, not sideways.

Example of what to buy: TrafficMASTER Tidewater Carpet, which includes a five-year limited warranty for stains, soil, and wear and tear, in Mesa Tan, $1.49 per square foot.)

For your basement…

Polyester and olefin are better in a basement’s moist conditions because they dry quickly; opt for a level-loop construction that has a low pile. Carpet tiles or carpet squares also are a feasible option here because in case of flooding, you can easily replace pieces versus redoing the whole floor.

Example of what to buy: Shaw Floorigami Plume Perfect in Feather Grey.

3 carpet options that defy the ‘shaggy’ stereotype

If it’s been a while since you’ve browsed carpet samples, you might not realize how advanced carpeting has become, says FlooringInc.com, an online flooring superstore founded in 2014 in Mesa, Arizona.

Here are some trends that defy the “shaggy” stereotype:

  1. Waterproof carpet:
    The technology of outdoor carpeting comes indoors with these designs, which feel plush but don’t soak up liquids or stains. Try Shaw Have Fun Waterproof Carpet in Sand, $4.98 per square foot.
  2. Sustainable carpet:
    From plant-based fibers such as jute to sustainably sourced fibers like sisal and even carpet tiles made from recycled soda bottles, carpeting has become more environmentally responsible. Try Mohawk Final Word carpet tiles in Taupe Haze, which are anti-static and resistant to staining and pet urine, $1.17 per square foot.
  3. Frieze carpet:
    Also called “twist” carpet, this pile looks tousled, making it a good choice for rooms where you’d like to hide dirt and scuffs. Try Air.o New Beginnings, which is free of latex and VOCs and won’t absorb moisture, in Kashmir, $3.62 per square foot.

As much as we roll out the red carpet for guests, we can feel self-conscious about our carpeting once we’re ready to sell. Maybe years of wear and tear have turned the carpet dingy or a strategically placed side table hides a stubborn stain or two.

Although “hardwood” is a house-selling buzzword, installing hardwood floors isn’t always affordable or practical with your home-selling timeline. While clean or new carpeting doesn’t pack the same high return on investment, it does stop you from turning off buyers and provides value that buyers will welcome.

Header Image Source: (ccraig / Shutterstock)

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