By Ken Wilson –
You’re downsizing and ready to sell your family home, or you’re looking at larger houses to accommodate your soon-to-be-larger family. Maybe you hope to move next year, or maybe you’re just thinking five to ten years down the line, but either way you’re dreaming and mulling things over. What can you do to upgrade your current home to attract buyers? If you put in those new kitchen counters and that walk-in shower you’ve been wanting for yourself, would you recoup their cost on resale, or at least break even? What are the most cost-effective ways to improve your home for resale value?
“Kitchens, master bedrooms, and master bathrooms bring the greatest return,” says Byrd Abbott of Roy Wheeler Realty Co. who’s been selling homes for 35 years. “They are usually the most important rooms in the house for women. If they walk into a place that is really outdated, all they’re seeing is so much work to be done, and for most people the expense proportion is usually much greater than in fact it’s going to be. If someone is making an offer on a house and they see the kitchen or the bathroom need to be redone, in their mind they’re discounting the house two to three times what the cost is of doing those things. They’re also thinking of their time being spent to coordinate and pick out things and oversee what needs to be done.”
“We are seeing huge interest in kitchen and bathroom remodeling,” Nicole Sithithavorn of Remodel USA agrees. “That seems to be the hot ticket right now. Also basements, because adding livable square footage is always a plus.” Along with that extra space, open floor plans are especially appealing these days, Abbott adds: “That seems to be really important to most generations now.”
Remodeling Magazine rated projects in the Richmond area, pitting their construction costs against the cost recouped upon resale to find the percentage of cost recouped. Here are some of the specifics they found for average and larger sized projects.
Midrange (average-sized) projects: Major kitchen remodel, 44.7 percent; minor kitchen remodel, 55.1 percent; master suite addition, 51.5 percent; bathroom addition, 44.1 percent; bathroom remodel, 44.6 percent; basement remodel, 55 percent; roof replacement, 55.6 percent; siding replacement, 48.4 percent; garage door replacement, 51 percent; manufactured stone veneer, 102 percent; steel entry door replacement, 81.5 percent.
Upscale (larger-sized) projects: major kitchen remodel, 45.9 percent; master suite addition, 47.7 percent; wooden deck addition, 62.7 percent; window replacement (wood), 59.6 percent; window replacement (vinyl), 54.7 percent; garage door replacement, 45.1 percent; grand entrance (fiberglass), 35.6 percent.
On average, the projects Remodeling rated in 2017 paid back 64.3 cents on the dollar in resale value. Real estate agents were most likely to recommend replacement rather than addition projects. Projects with “curb appeal”—siding, doors, and windows—typically generated the highest returns on investment.
Clearly, remodeling can be a smart move. But what does a homeowner need to know before they say the word “go”? Home improvement “takes longer than what they see on TV,” says James Robertson of Robertson Renovations. “A lot gets done in those commercial breaks apparently!”
Also bear in mind, as Remodeling points out, that the value of a home remodeling project or addition is ultimately subjective, and will thus vary from buyer to buyer. A couple with grown children may love the grand master bath you’re considering. An expanding family might prefer the original extra bedroom it would be converted from. Extra space also means extra maintenance, and extra maintenance (and energy) costs.
Flooring and lighting are two other issues to consider carefully, Abbott says. “One of the things you’re typically seeing when you remodel is a lot more lighting. I think a lot of people don’t realize that outlets need to be repositioned, or maybe you need a little more electricity than you thought you did.” Blending new and old types of flooring, or matching the new to what it’s abutting may require extra thought and time as well.
“In remodeling and additions it is hugely important to have a well thought out design,” says Todd Buck of Weston Construction. “By the time that we start building you should have a really good understanding of the products that are in the project, and what the cost of that project should be. Depending on the age of the house there are always possible unknowns, but you can minimize those if you take the time to invest in some design work. The term that architects like to use is ‘What is the program of this room?’ Things like spatial relationships of a couch and a table—most of the time my friends who are architects will draw those in, and help people understand traffic flow and what they’re trying to do in the space.”
“I will only work if there is a set of plans that is done by an architect or a draftsperson,“ Buck says. “If we have plans, we can price what’s there and give you a pretty good hard price.” Calling a halt to the work and trying to alter the design once the project is begun is a nightmare for all concerned. “It’s a whole lot cheaper to start with a new piece of paper. I can build it, but I want you to be happy with what I’ve built.”
Even when a particular remodeling job likely won’t pay off financially upon resale, Abbott says, “the house will be appealing to more buyers,” and that, she wisely notes, is the most important factor. “Until you get people talking to you you’re not going to sell the house.”