When you’re sprucing up your house to sell, some renovations positively increase a home’s marketability and selling price while others never come close to recouping the expense. According to Remodeling Magazine’s “2016 Cost vs. Value Report” figures for the Richmond area—the closest market for comparison—the highest value item is the installation of attic insulation which can pay back close to 300 percent. Next in line is installation of a back-up generator at about 60 percent. Bear in mind that all these figures are averages for many properties.
While other improvements generally repay closer to 50-60 percent of their cost, it’s important to consider the difference they can make in the appeal of a dwelling. Remember, your place will be in competition with similarly priced properties on the market.
While returning an average of around 60 percent, an up-dated bathroom certainly increases marketability. For example, those glass-doored pre-formed fiberglass tubs and showers now look dated. Removing the glass doors makes the bathroom appear larger, and all-tile facilities with no-step entry and attractive grab bars definitely improve buyer appeal and expand the potential market to include older folks and persons with disabilities.
Remember, too, some locales including Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville provide a substantial rebate toward the installation of low-flow toilets which buyers like.
Color makes a strong impact in a small room like a bathroom. Paint, coordinated with tile and countertops, can make a modestly priced, but positive statement. Lighter colors make rooms seem larger, of course, while darker colors can lend coziness.
Update the Kitchen
Modernizing your kitchen (without necessarily changing the floor plan) recoups around 56 percent of the cost, but definitely gives your house an edge over un-updated listings because most buyers know remodeling can be both inconvenient and expensive and don’t want to do it themselves.
If your budget is small, you can still make a big difference with fresh paint, new lighting, and updated window treatments. If you can’t afford new cabinetry, opt for refinished cabinet fronts and adding new hardware. Even something as simple as replacing an old kitchen faucet—maybe one of those magic new ones you just touch to turn on the water—can make a difference.
If you have more to invest, new countertops make the biggest impact. While granite is popular these days, it can cost up to $100 per square foot installed. Less expensive options include composites, laminates, poured concrete, or butcher block. Laminate, for example, generally runs from $10 to $20 per square foot installed and comes in a remarkable range of colors.
Often as major appliances are replaced they end up not matching, but having them blend well creates a very positive impact. A fridge, stove, dishwasher, and microwave can easily be replaced for under $3000. You can sell the used appliances to cover part of the cost and remember you can often negotiate a lower total purchase price and delivery charges when buying several appliances at the same time.
Finally, a new floor covering ties everything together at a relatively modest cost. There are many materials that withstand the traffic in a kitchen. Ceramic tile resists wear, spills, and stains while today’s vinyl floors come in a wide range of styles and colors. Some even mimic wood or tile floors, but with much easier maintenance.
Shape up the exterior
An important aspect of good curb appeal—that quality that invites potential buyers inside—is to have the dwelling look like new. For example, unless the exterior looks really great, repaint or consider installing new siding. Some homeowner associations have restrictions on the type of siding and the range of colors to be used so check covenants.
Be sure the front entry is inviting. Replace rusty or tarnished house numbers, porch lighting, and other hardware. If there is wrought iron, repaint it. Replacing the front door recoups an average of about 90 percent (depending on whether it’s wood, fiberglass or steel) and garage door replacement will repay about 97 percent. Since these are both first-see aspects for potential home buyers, be sure your doors punctuate the welcome your house offers.
Spiff up the yard
While not strictly a remodeling project, freshening the landscaping can recoup a large part of its cost and is often something you can do yourself with a bit of planning. For example, if shrubbery is overgrown—especially around the front entry—trim it back at least a month before putting the house on the market so plants have a chance to put out fresh growth. Faded flowerbeds? Tuck in brightly colored fresh plants and apply new mulch. No flowerbeds? Invest in some attractive containers and plant seasonal flowers or small evergreens for the front walk and porch.
A nice green lawn is also inviting. Consult with your nursery about quick-acting fertilizer, reseeding, or replacing bald spots with sod. In some cases, re-sodding a small lawn makes economic sense. Keep it mowed and edged along the driveway, sidewalk, and gardens.
Speaking of sidewalks, if yours has cracked cement or uneven flagstones, invest in repairs. That walk is an important first impression to potential homebuyers and you want it to be impeccable.
Even if you’re not selling soon, any of these updates will be positive for you to enjoy. All four? Definitely a winning hand.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. Not long ago they updated the kitchen and she is now casting a beady eye on the glass-doored tub enclosure.