What Home Renovations to Avoid When Trying to Increase Your Home’s Value

You want to achieve top dollar when selling your home – it’s only natural – so sprucing up the place before putting a For Sale sign on your lawn, definitely makes sense.

However, there is a lot of conflicting information as to what lengths you need to go to. Should you put an apple pie in the oven so the homey scent of baking will waft over potential buyers during showings…or do you need to take your home down to the studs before loading it with the finest new construction and design features? Or something in between?

The extent to which you renovate before selling depends on more than your desired asking price: many factors will come into play, including your budget, tolerance for disruption, and of course, what has already been done to your home (or not) in terms of upkeep, renovations and refreshes.

The goal is to get your house in top shape without overdoing it; you want to recoup your investment, not end up with a pearl of a house you won’t be living in and buyers won’t appreciate.

Navigating these waters can be tricky; unlike increasing the value of your home with kitchen and bathroom renovation upgrades, which are pretty much a safe bet for home sellers, some renovations are practically guaranteed to lose money or, worse, render your home virtually unsaleable.

If you plan to sell your home, read on to find out what home renovations to avoid when trying to increase a home’s resale value.

  1. Over-renovating: While this isn’t a hard and fast rule (meaning that, in today’s overheated real estate market, things are more flexible) generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to have the best house on a bad street. If you make extensive improvements that cause a house to look waaaaay better than its neighbours, you might think buyers will naturally gravitate to your showstopper home, right? Unfortunately, anyone who is able to afford to buy a gorgeously renovated home like yours, will not want to live among downtrodden neighbours. Pricing your home out of the neighbourhood, so to speak, is only good if you’re playing a very long endgame. In a decade or two, as gentrification creeps in, others on your block will have the same idea. As the street gets better and better, your home won’t stand out so much – and all the houses in your neighbourhood will gradually be able to command higher asking prices. But if you hope to sell fairly soon, doing an expensive remodel only makes sense if it puts your home reasonably in line with the surrounding properties.
  2. Landscaping: The Globe and Mail advises caution when it comes to extensive property landscaping, a crime many homeowners can blame on the lure of ‘curb appeal’. Yes, potential buyers love looking at a gorgeous yard, but that doesn’t mean they will have the green thumbs, desire, or money to maintain it; they may already be eyeing your fragrant night jasmine and planning to pave it over, instead of being willing to pay a premium for all those perennials. This type of improvement is the kind that may attract a unique buyer who embraces your horticultural vision, but is unlikely to attract the majority. If you are determined to put in landscaping as a resale improvement, opt for things that most buyers will appreciate, such as full fencing (important for pets and families with young children), a lush, low-maintenance lawn free of weeds (i.e. re-sodding), and some hardy hostas.
  3. Pools. While a huge swimming pool may scream wealth to you, it screams hazard to many families with young children and pets – and expense to everyone else. Pools can be gorgeous, fun and luxurious, but for some, they are simply more trouble than they’re worth. By all means put in a pool if you plan to enjoy it for many years, but don’t expect to recoup the cost when selling – especially in winter, when, like landscaping, it won’t really add curb appeal. If you love water and wish to add a water feature to your property, opt for something natural, less expensive and more manageable, such as a fountain or koi pond.
  4. Building envelope. Did you just have the basement professionally waterproofed? Added soundproofing throughout the entire house? Voluntarily ripped out and upgraded all the copper pipes or knob and tube wiring? Installed a new top of line tankless hot water heater or central air conditioning? How about solar panels or (gasp) geothermal heating? All of these things make you a wonderful and very considerate person, but because they are either invisible, beyond the norm, or simply expected (or some combination of all three) most buyers won’t appreciate them, which means they will not reward such improvements with a higher purchase price. Value has to be perceived, so focus your improvement dollars on things that buyers can actually see – like kitchen and bathroom renovations, which are recognized immediately as adding resale value to a home. If you have already spent top dollar on invisible upgrades, at least make sure to highlight this fact to buyers by obtaining a professional home inspection and displaying the magnificent results during showings, explaining what you have done anywhere you can – on the MLS listing, in your Realtor’s promotional materials, on handwritten signs throughout the house.
  5. Room conversions. HGTV reports that converting a room into another kind of room is typically a mistake. For example, a wine cellar, library, home office, gym, media room or games room may make perfect sense for your lifestyle, but that family who is eyeing your home with the hopes of having another baby is just thinking about what it will take to turn that room back into a suitable nursery. Keep things simple and let buyers personalize your home the way that works best for them.

The Bottom Line When Renovating to Increase Resale Value

Some renovation projects are tried-and-true when it comes to increasing the value of your home for resale; smart sellers put personal preference aside and try to put themselves in the position of buyers instead.

Buyers may later study your home scrupulously, but what matters most to them is apparent in the first few seconds of a showing: that overall impression is what will dictate whether they can envision themselves living there or not.

That’s why more obvious renovations, such as a shining new kitchen or sparkling modern bathrooms, make such a strong impression and help your home command top dollar.

The bottom line is to stay away from the uber-personal touches that made the house yours in the first place – that shocking purple feature wall, the ornate statue of Zeus in the backyard, the smoking room with built-in shelves for your collection of 2,000 esoteric books.

Instead, keep your home and its major systems in good repair, de-clutter, paint in appealing neutrals, and focus on upgrading and updating the rooms everyone spends a lot of time in, such as kitchens and baths.

For expert advice that will help you avoid costly projects that don’t really add value to a home, contact us today for a no-obligation evaluation and custom cabinetry quote.

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