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Home improvements you can skip when selling your home

Joan Fieldstone

June 7, 2016

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In:

The new construction home I bought five years ago has been well-maintained, and if you follow this blog, you know I've made a few improvements here and there during the years. Since buying the house, I've always had some home improvement projects in the works, and completion typically depends on when my BFF next door has had the time and inclination to work on them. I am not complaining. I'm grateful I have such a generous and talented friend.

When I decided recently it was time to take financial advantage of a hot real estate market in my area and sell my home, I had a lot of incomplete work that needed to get done. BFF was ready to help.

Some of the things she's been working on have included

  • Painting -- and, in particular, repainting the 20 foot-high living room walls in a more neutral color
  • Flooring -- replacing baseboard moldings that were removed to install flooring
  • Closet wall -- finishing or abandoning the hall closet expansion project where we left half a wall missing
  • Ceilings -- replacing the non-functional ceiling fan two stories above the living room
  • Yard -- finishing the fence gate and replacing the builder's poor quality back fence with the same redwood pickets

Scaffolding for painting

In addition, I had a long, unfulfilled wish list of improvements I wanted to make someday…which finances never seemed to allow:

  • Install new counters in the kitchen. Those that came with the house are dated ceramic tile.
  • Build a deck or paver patio and landscape the yard.
  • Replace the entire upstairs carpet that has suffered the effects of pet accidents and remodeling.
  • Replace the kitchen flooring to match the rest of the open-plan, main-level flooring.
  • Tile the downstairs powder room -- tile and grout already purchased -- to match the upstairs bathroom flooring, and maybe the laundry room, too.
  • Paint the bare drywall in the garage -- and the garage floor with epoxy paint.
  • Build the pantry in the space next to the hall closet to close the hole we left in the closet wall.

But now that the wheels are set in motion to sell the house and move, decisions have to be made about what, and to what extent, renovations should be done. The clock is ticking and as of this writing I have less than a month before I plan to put the house on the market and leave.

Call it good enough

Despite what I know from writing about home improvements and real estate, as soon as BFF completed the majority of the repainting, I tidied up and called a real estate agent to see the house. I wanted an expert's opinion of which improvements I should or should not make to please potential buyers, get the best price for my home and finish in four weeks with the least amount of wear and tear on my friend.

The agent and I went room by room and when we were done, here was the gist of her advice:

  1. Based on comparable sale prices in the area, there is only so much you can expect to get, even in a hot market. Making -- or not making -- a lot more home improvements won't change the selling price much, either way.
  2. While things like updated countertops and a deck are desirable and will probably pay for themselves, it's unlikely they will increase the value of the home above what the market will bear. You may get the monetary investment out of those improvements but it's not likely you will realize much more than breaking even. So, for example, instead of changing the carpet she recommended getting it professionally cleaned. If potential buyers balk, offer them a flooring allowance because, really, who knows whether they would prefer new carpet to laminate or hardwood anyway. If it needs replacing, let the buyer do it.
  3. Finish what's in progress. The house looks good enough. Call it done.

I breathed a sigh of relief and thought BFF would, also. It means less work for her to finish in a serious time crunch.

...whereupon, BFF headed straight to The Home Depot and loaded up on supplies not just to finish the fence, but to build a deck with only three weeks before the home goes on the market. She says after talking every summer about wanting to do something with my yard, we should at least enjoy a meal or two on a nice, new Trex deck before I leave.

I refuse to argue with that logic.

2 Comments

  • Dima says: 01 September 2016 at 12:54 am
    Building new decking has surely not been the best seller move for your friend there. There are one too many home improvements that the average home owner assumes might change the property price. I've seen people spend thousands on handyman services and handy man improvements, that really do not affect the market price at all.
  • Gerald Johnson says: 27 September 2016 at 5:05 pm
    We recommend putting at least a little work into the bathroom. Even simply freshening up your fixtures can help. http://www.amherstnyplumbing.com/
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