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Should You Renovate Your House Before Selling?

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

In 2021, homeowners spent $433 billion improving and maintaining their homes. While it would be great if owners recouped this money when they sold their home, this isn’t always the case. So, should you renovate your house before selling?

“I’ve seen examples of both, where people have spent things on the right issues and gotten a pretty good return, and then spent money that, in my estimations, didn’t attract many buyers,” says Robert Ryczek, a top-selling agent in Gainesville, Florida, real estate agent with 44 years of experience.

If you decided to renovate your house before selling, how do you end up on the winning end?

You want to work with a good real estate agent that knows the neighborhood and knows the location. They know what’s worth doing and what’s not, because they’re taking clients in there and know what people are complaining about.
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Advantages of renovating your home before selling

Before we dive into what renovations make sense before listing your home, it’s helpful to know why you’d want to renovate your home in the first place. Making changes you can enjoy for years to come is one thing, but spending money on alterations right before you move out is another.

When you choose the right type of renovation project, your home value can increase and attract more potential buyers. According to a 2020 survey of over 2,000 people conducted by Coldwell Banker, 80% of Americans say they would prefer to buy a move-in ready home over one that requires renovations.

When more people fall in love with your home, you can expect more offers, leading to a potentially higher sale price. Before you jump in and get started with renovations, learn what buyers in your area are looking for. This is where the advice of a top real estate agent can come in.

“You want to work with a good real estate agent that knows the neighborhood and knows the location,” said Jerome Leyba, a top-selling agent in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who sells homes 33% faster than the average agent. “They know what’s worth doing and what’s not, because they’re taking clients in there and know what people are complaining about.”

Work With a Top Agent To Devise the Best Selling Strategy

To make sure you’re undertaking renovations that will make you money when you sell your home, work with a top local agent in your area and let their expertise be your guide.

Pre-sale renovations that help you get the most bang for your buck

Fix what’s broken

While you may be tempted to completely overhaul your bathroom or replace your vinyl flooring with hardwood, it’s often best to focus on fixing problems that will push potential buyers away.

“Sometimes better to go with the baseline things that are going to give you issues, like health and safety stuff,” said Leyba. “Buyers may say ‘my roofing and my water heater are in good shape, so I feel really good about it.’”

By completing a pre-listing home inspection, you’ll be able to become aware of issues that may slow down the sale of your home. Completing necessary repairs such as installing a stair handrail, replacing a damaged roof, upgrading outdated outlets will allow you to continue with the sale of your home.

New, renovated kitchen used to sell house.
Source: (Breadmaker/ shutterstock)

Kitchen

An outdated or unsightly kitchen can quickly ruin a home sale, so spending some money updating your kitchen is generally a good investment if you choose to renovate your house before selling.

When you choose to remodel your kitchen, be aware that the costs can drastically vary depending on the extent of changes as well as the quality of the materials. According to HomeLight research, a minor or DIY kitchen remodel can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 while a major remodel will bump those costs up to somewhere between $29,000 and $64,000.

Before you entirely gut your kitchen, take a look at the data. The 2021 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine shows that a midrange, minor kitchen remodel has an ROI of 72.2% — which is higher than the ROI for a major or upscale remodel.

Here are a few ways to give your kitchen a new look without sinking your ROI:

  • Paint or reface your cabinets. Instead of replacing your cabinets, opt for one of these lower-cost options.
  • Don’t go overboard on appliances. Replace energy-hogging and malfunctioning kitchen appliances, but opt for mid-range rather top-of-the-line options.
  • Replace countertops. Keep your existing layout, but swap dated Formica or plastic laminate countertops for granite, quartzite, or quartz options.

Bathroom

While your bathroom doesn’t need to resemble a 5-star spa, it should be a place where potential buyers can envision getting ready for the day and winding down at night. Cracked grout, blue porcelain sinks, and broken tiles can all scare potential buyers into walking away.

The cost to remodel a bathroom will naturally depend on the size of the bathroom, the extent of the remodel, and your location, but HomeAdvisor reports the nationwide average cost for a bathroom renovation is $10,981. Just like with kitchens, opting for affordable rather than upscale features will provide you with the greatest ROI. USA Bath reports a midrange bathroom remodel has an ROI of 70.1% while an upscale remodel has an ROI of 56.2%.

To help you receive the greatest ROI on your bathroom remodel, consider these tips:

  • Add a double vanity.  According to HomeLight’s Q4 2020 Top Agents Report, 65% of agents say buyers want a double vanity like this one.
  • Replace hardware. Switch out your harsh brass or chrome hardware for brushed gold or satin nickel options. For bonus points, install a rainfall showerhead.
  • Refresh countertops. Replace tiled vanity tops with a quartz or marble option.
  • Add a walk-in shower. This addition will help your house meet the increased popularity of aging in place. According to HomeAdvisor, a walk-in shower remodel will cost between $5,000 and $15,000.
  • Remove your sliding glass shower door. Remove this outdated feature and replace it with a modern rod and shower curtain.
  • Brighten grout. This grout renew colorant makes it easy.

Affordable and mid-range improvements (less than $5,000)

To give your home a fresh look without spending much, consider these options.

Add a small backyard deck

Buyers are looking for ways to enjoy the great outdoors from home…and they’re willing to pay. According to a 2021 HomeLight report, buyers value decks 65% more than they did before the pandemic.

Average cost: $2,160 – $5,040 for a 12’x12’ deck according to HomeGuide
ROI: approximately 97% according to HomeLight

Replace your garage door

Get rid of your faded white garage door and replace it with a better insulated, modern door.

Average cost: $3,907
ROI: 93.8% according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2021 Cost vs Value Report

Deep clean

While adding new appliances and replacing floors can be exciting, don’t underestimate the power for a deep clean. You can complete the job yourself or hire out to professionals.

Average cost: $200 – $400 according to HomeAdvisor
ROI: 935% according to HomeLight

fresh mulch outside of a home in the process of selling.
Source: (Ozgur Coskun/ shutterstock)

Exterior improvements

Even if the interior of your home is stunning, a patchy lawn or chipping porch paint may dissuade potential buyers from walking through the door. By spending some money on improving your home’s curb appeal, you’ll not only attract more buyers, but you’ll also increase the value of your home. HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights report shows that buyers will pay on average 7% more for a home with stunning curb appeal versus a home with an unsightly exterior.

Fresh mulch

Fresh mulch will allow your plants to shine and create a well-manured look on a small budget.

Average cost: $275 for 3 cubic yards of bark mulch delivered and spread
ROI: 536%

Basic yard care

Make potential buyers envision the yard as something to enjoy rather than something to maintain. Hiring a landscaping company to spruce up your lawn can have a drastic impact on your home’s appearance.

Average cost: $340 to cut grass, fertilize the lawn, and remove weeds
ROI: 539%

Exterior paint

A new coat of paint can take years off your home’s appearance. When considering costs, be aware that painting brick and stucco will cost $1 to $2 more per square foot than vinyl or wood.

Average cost: $3,000
ROI: 152% according to HomeLight’s recent Top Agent’s Report

DIY projects

If you’re not afraid to complete some work yourself, consider making your home more appealing with these quick DIY renovations to your home before selling.

Swap basic lights for ceiling fans

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, ceiling fans are must-have items for 49% of homebuyers and desirable items for 34%. Therefore, adding them to your home can make your home more appealing to a larger pool of buyers.

Cost: between $65 and $800 depending on the type of ceiling fan you choose

Replace outdated hardware

If you want to bring a fresh look to your kitchen without spending much money, look at replacing outdated cupboard handles and drawer pulls with simple, sleek options.

Cost: $5 to $30 per piece of hardware

Repaint bold rooms

While a fuchsia bedroom or lime green accent wall may have fit your family’s needs, these bright colors may scare aware potential buyers. In a 2020 survey, 79% of HomeLight’s top agents recommended a gray hue like Agreeable Gray by Sherwin-Williams. Leyba also says that you can coat walls with primer, so buyers can come in and immediately paint it their color of choice.

Cost: $400 to $950 for a 12’x12’ room, according to HomeGuide

House selling as-is without renovation.
Source: (V J Matthew/ Shutterstock)

Points to consider about renovating your home before selling

While some pre-listing renovations can improve your home sale process, it doesn’t always make sense to change your home before selling. Before you begin your project, consider the following points.

How much will the project cost? Aim to obtain multiple project quotes before you go ahead with a renovation. Knowing what you’ll pay will help you determine if the renovation makes sense.

How will you finance this project? If you need to take out a loan to pay for the renovations, take note of the interest rate and how this will add to total costs.

When do you hope to list your home? Larger projects like renovating a kitchen or finishing a basement will likely require the help of a professional. That means you’ll need to consider the availability of workers in your area before you decide if this project can be completed before you list.

What is the housing market like around you? Consider both how long it takes homes to sell as well as the sales price and features. Will people want a $75,000 kitchen in a neighborhood where homes sell for around $200,000?

What is the cost and availability of materials? Supply chain issues can lead to higher materials costs and lower ROI. If you’re not in a rush to sell, consider delaying a project until costs are lower.

Explore renovation options with a top real estate agent

If you want more information about if you should renovate your home before selling it, connect with a top real estate agent in your area. These professionals will know what buyers in your area are looking for, so they can help you make decisions that benefit your bottom line.

Header Image Source: (Jo Ann Snover/ Shutterstock)