Flooring is one of those things sellers overlook when bogged down with the intricacies of a home sale. But let’s just be clear from the get go — flooring matters. Buyers will walk away from homes with bad flooring the same way they’ll walk away from homes that smell bad, or have little to no curb appeal.
And while there are kinds of flooring that increase home value more than others (like hardwood versus carpeting), the real challenge in selling an imperfect home is knowing which remodeling projects will increase value, and which will decrease value.
We read all the top flooring reports, and spoke to expert real estate agents to find out how to make the most informed decision about flooring. Here’s exactly what to make of your home’s floors, and what flooring investments are worth the effort.
What Floors Do Buyers Look For?
It’s no surprise— hardwood flooring has long been the top choice for buyers, and remains so in today’s market. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, 99% of real estate agents say homes with hardwood are easier to sell, with 90% saying they sell for more money.
A recent study conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 54% of buyers were willing to pay more for homes decked out in hardwood. And although many buyers would be relieved to find hardwood over carpeting, not all hardwood floors are equal, with the current trend gearing towards wood floors in rustic-chic applications.
Collin County, TX real estate agent Ryan Cave who ranks in the top 3% of agents (with over $35M in sold homes) agrees, adding, “Hardwoods are especially popular with buyers when they’re hand-scraped finished, old, or have an engineered look.”
Hardwoods absolutely reign supreme, with a few styles making it to the top of everyone’s list; but you can still make a great sale on your home even if it isn’t fully decked out in the materials of the moment.
Where Floors Matter Most in Value
Contrary to what all those home renovations on HGTV made you think, not every room needs to have the ideal flooring. In fact, there are definitely rooms where it matters more than others.
Cave explains that, while sellers can get away with carpeting in the bedrooms, buyers like to see hardwoods in the main areas of the house, like the living rooms and the hallways. Consistency throughout the house is what really matters.
“The number one thing a seller can do to kill the resale value of their home is to put multiple types of flooring in a house,” says Petrocco, a prominent member of Cave’s real estate team. She sees a lot of buyers walk away when they notice a home with a rainbow menagerie of flooring and argues for having the same type of flooring, irrespective of what it is.
“Wood flooring or even laminate,” she says, “and anything hard surface over carpet.”
Cave takes the idea of consistency a step further, claiming that the absolute worst thing a seller can do is to have two different types of flooring that meet in a highly-visible area, such as a main hallway or leisure space.
“Two different hardwoods touching?” says Cave, “That’s the worst.”
To sum up the top tips on flooring:
1. Keep it consistent – no matter what it is.
2. Hard surfaces are better than carpeting.
3. If carpet must stay, keep it in the bedroom.
4. Don’t let different floor types meet in high-traffic areas.
How To Get Floors Ready For Sale
Excessive wear and tear on flooring will drive buyers away. Cave even cites the condition of the floor as the number two reason (with regards to flooring aesthetics) that buyers walk away from a sale.
“If your floors are showing a lot of wear, in places where you walk a lot, like the entry to bedroom, they’ll never recover.” And in these cases, some work will be required to get the full value your home deserves.
Here’s how to get floors ready for an open house:
Evaluate The Carpets with a Critical Eye
Carpets aren’t really en vogue today but whether or not the carpeting works in the home comes down to where it’s located. “If carpet is in the bedroom, and in good condition, then that’s ok. Buyers are okay with carpet when it’s clean” explains Petrocco.
So, don’t rip up carpets and replace them with hardwood floors just yet — at least not as long as they’re in good condition.
That’s the key phrase with carpets: good condition.
When looking at carpets, think of how buyer’s would feel and try to see the floors with fresh eyes. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your carpets are in good shape, and be honest.
1. Would you be grossed out if you saw this for the first time?
2. Would you walk barefoot through the house?
3. Would you let a baby play on the floor?
4. Are you comfortable eating off of this floor?
If the answers to these questions leave you shaking your head, then it’s time for a replacement. Petrocco summarizes her rule on carpeting as follows, “If you’re going to keep the carpet, make sure it’s fresh.”
Repair Hardwood Floors
Proper hardwood floor maintenance may considerably increase a home’s value. But, completely redoing hardwood floors is an expensive undertaking if you don’t plan on staying in a home. Rather than making that kind of investment right away, work with a real estate agent to see what can be done to treat the floors first.
A combination of quick fixes and conditioning might be all it takes to get antique floors looking like they just came from the sawmill.
“Depending on the condition,” she says, “Murphy’s Oil Soap or any other floor conditioning can go a long way, you’d be surprised.”
At a bare minimum, here are ways to bring hardwood floors up to code:
1. Make sure floors are even, not creaking, and individually damaged pieces are repaired or replaced. Here’s a quick video tutorial on repairing wood floors.
2. Clean and treat worn floors to give them a new sheen. Even a little bit of effort can go a long way in making old floors look brand new. Check out this video tutorial on how to get that done.
Consider Flooring Alternatives
Synthetic home applications are getting better all the time, and flooring is no exception. According to a 2017 Annual Report from Floor Daily, last year roughly every category of flooring ceded its percentages of buyers to luxury vinyl— which means more people are buying vinyl over wood or carpet every single year.
“Some of the laminate floors that mimic hardwoods are really pretty, and those pop out to buyers,” says Cave. Faux-wood vinyl flooring is cost-effective, easy to install, offers a huge variety to choose from, and has even more perks besides. Not all vinyl is soft, and some offer extreme scratch-resistant and pet proofing qualities that will go a long way with buyers.
The Bottom Line: Flooring and Home Value
While it’s hard to say exactly what flooring (other than hardwood) will add the most value to a home, it’s clear that buyers prefer hard surfaces over carpeting. So, if you’re in the market for a budget-friendly carpet replacement, vinyl is a great choice.
First Steps Towards Better Floors
Just like walls and surfaces, floors should be at their best during home showings. And just like staging and sprucing up curb appeal, no one knows how to do it better than a real estate agent. Ultimately, bring in a real estate professional to determine whether or not floors need help and what should be done to revive them.
“Refinishing a floor, whether it’s hardwood or carpet,” says Cave, “well that’s why you hire a great real estate agent. An agent is going to tell you if your home is past its expiration date.”
While hardwood floors add the most value to a home, that’s not to say all buyers will lose interest if they aren’t in your home. As long as there is a consistent flow of hard surfaces (not too much mixing, and no nasty carpeting), there’s still a great chance at getting the most value out of your sale.
When it comes to flooring, the real value of an agent is their ability to identify what the next move should be, so you can make the most money in your sale, and spend the least amount in renovations.
Set aside time with an agent during initial meetings to determine what the floors in your home need. Whether it’s a quick clean or a full replacement, it’ll pay off when the buyers arrive.