value of additional upgrades to sell

herusFebruary 25, 2009

We have a nice and fairly large home on a small lake. We may be in the position of selling it but having only been here two years we may be looking at selling for less than we paid (net net). While this is not financially a large issue for us it still stings... welcome to the club, right?

Anyway, the home is in need of some outside repairs and, according to a couple of realtors we have talked to, some interior upgrades as well.

The outside stuff will have to be done regardless so that's a fixed thing. On the inside, optional items include a full re-tile of the master bath (floor is already tiled but so-so), the rest (like tube and other areas) is not, granite countertops in the two other baths upstairs, the addition of crown molding to some rooms, and optional paint to some rooms. The most sticky about this is most of the basement, which we had repainted only last year in a light lime-green, the logic being it is a fun place (see SW's "Honeydew").

They are saying make it a warm color, etc. About $700-800 in paint just there. Perhaps $5-7K in tile and granite. And perhaps $1.5K in crown. About $1.5K in iron spindles on the stairs (currently a simple wood design).

(speaking of which, any recommendations for online shopping for iron balusters? Anyone tried the store in the link below?)

So... would it be worth it? The home is about 15 years old btw, has white faux marble on white cabinets in baths, and one of those composite shower and tub enclosures in the master. Somewhat dated. The competing homes vary, from the same stuff and updated at various levels including the full monty.

Perhaps $10-12K in discretionary upgrades (not counting what's required, about $7K, to push about $20K total plus about $4K in carpet, so $24). The home will price somewhere between $600-700K depending, and I know that's not a lot of optional expense as a proportion, but we already have some $35K in there now that we are basically kissing goodbye to. I should say that the likelihood we will move is maybe 50%, and if we don't move we could be here for anything from 2-5 years, perhaps even more.

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Hi, I wouldn't replace all the tile, especially as there is some there now. Whoever moves in is not going to 'not' buy the house just because of that and may well prefer to make their own choices about it, so as it is a lot of work and not inexpensive I wouldn't do it. I also wouldn't repaint unless there are e.g. odd graphics on the wall, or the green is really obnoxious (sounds nice actually) or old, which it isn't. A 'warm' color down there could so easily end up being some form of brown, but even a light, or reddish tone, or a version of 'gold' could end up looking like all the bsmt paint jobs we've ever seen over decades, and not be very bright, whereas your green sounds fresh and light.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 10:41PM
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I'm going through the same thing. I think I'm up to about $18K in upgrades. Some were problems caused by the upgrades (pipes breaking changing faucets, leak from a new toilet causing the ceiling below to be replaced) but I think the upgrades will help sell during a difficult market.

I left the kitchen alone except for new light fixtures and faucet. I decided not to install granite because the cabinets are dated as is the floor. Too expensive to gut the entire kitchen. I did buy new stainless appliances.

I did the most updates to the bathrooms. I replaced vanities, put cararra marble tops, new mirrors and light fixtures. Changed the faucets and tub/shower hardware. Took off the old shower doors and put shower curtains and a new framless shower door in the master.

New carpet in two large rooms (share your pain) and are having the wood floors refinished. I hired a painter to paint areas too difficult for us to do. But we will paint the smaller rooms.

I spent over a year looking at houses when my daughter was planning to move. What turned us off immediately was seeing a house which required too much updating. My daughter and her family did not want to move into a house which would require major work. She has small children and just wanted to move in and do updating over time. I felt the same way. I think doing 'select' updating will sell your house faster and give you more room to bargain - at least that is what I'm hoping for.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 11:14PM
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I'd like to add something to my post above. I discovered updating does not have to be as expensive as you think. Knowing I didn't have unlimited resources of money, I learned the art of bargaining. I would visit high end kichen/bath stores and ask if they had floor models or slightly damaged pieces they would sell (vanities). I bargained on the marble by finding remnants which they agreed to sell at a very reduced price - I paid less than Home Depot wanted for their granite and marble. I offered cash at many places and was able to get the prices down.

I could write a book about the prices I was able to get on high end upgrades. I would amaze myself because it never occurred to me before that it was possible. I even bargained with plumbers, painters and carpenters.

I would suggest you try it and save yourself a lot of money. Everyone has a price and the economy is affecting everyone. It is truly a buyers market.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 11:23PM
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Jane has many good points... do not redo the kitchen countertops unless you replace the outdated cabinets.
Also, she is right on with the idea of remnants. Bathrooms are pretty cheap to put granite in beacause the granite supply store have many little peices of leftover granite that they need to sell. We did this ourselves too.
herus... I show Buyers homes almost every day. 99% tell me that it is the last thing they want to do is spend a bunch of money on a home, and then spend a bunch of cash to fix it up... especially now, when cash is tight. If you really need to sell, do the upgrades. if you really could care lless if the home sells or not, then don't do them.
If you elect not to do them, and would really like to sell, then mark off at least twice the amount that a nice updating would cost when pricing the house...
And then your problem is trying to convince the buyer that your home is already priced considering the outdated rooms.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 6:55AM
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Is $600-700K considered high, low or mid range in your area? If considered mid-high I would definitely do the crown and the bathrooms. Carpet is a no-brainer.

As far as the basement... we bought a house with a finished basement three years ago. The sellers had eclectic taste and installed (high-end) zebra patterned carpet throughout the basement. Yeah, it was a turn-off. Did it stop us from buying the house? Nope. It has since been ripped out though. If your green isn't obnoxious, I would leave it. I probably would not do the spindles either unless your house looks "eh" with the current wood spindles.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 8:43AM
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POD Xamsx. I wouldn't do the spindles or paint the basement.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 4:47PM
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Thanks. I do believe I'll stay put on the green and the spindles. The current prob with the green is the present (and old) carpet - it is medium brown and totally clashes with the green, both in color and concept (dull v bright). When we put in the carpet we'll revisit the green walls.

Had the tile guy in today - perhaps $4.5K - about 1/3 of the total quote is necessary while the rest will add a lot of 'spiff' to the master bath so may go ahead with that. Still thinking on it.

The kitchen is already updated - courtesy of prior owner. Nice cabs and decent granite.

Home in this subdiv go from 550-680 or so. In the area, well it's diverse so hard to pin that down, but looks like 300K would be a low (smaller and older but with land) and about 1M would be the high (was a bit more but not any more). So I guess we're pretty much in the middle.

I took note of your post, ncrealestateguy- that payback, although not necessarily a positive number, is actually paid back more than 100% by avoiding the penalty that would otherwise ensue. That is what you meant, right?

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:16PM
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Pretty much...
There are improvements that provide marketablility and those that provide profitability. Most updates and improvements only provide marketabilty. In other words, it will add value, and marketability, but you will not break even. The areas that tend to add profitability are the kitchen and baths. But even there, you are not going to see a huge profit, because those areas tend to cost quite a bit to update. That is why one should update and remodel as you are living in the home. This way, you "recoup" some of the costs by being able to "enjoy" the improvement, by using and living with them.
Finishing off a basement that was not heated and cooled before, can also be an area that can return both profitability and marketability, because you are adding, not ony updated features, but also sq. ftg. that can now be added to the asking price for usually about 2/3 more than you could ask for it if it was not finished.
And, as you stated, the penalty for not presenting an updated home is that the buyers will value your home low in general, and THEN they will subtract out the cost to update themselves, and they always overestimate this part. So, you get penalized twice. It's just the way 99% of Buyers react. There are always exceptions, but in this market you need to do all you are able to do to be the home that leaves the buyers thinking that you are offering the most value.
If you need to redo the pickets, there are some online companies that I have used that are very competitive.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 8:30AM
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I think that I would probably do the paint, but then I'm a DIYer and could do it for less than $100. Color can have a huge emotional impact on a prospective buyer.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 1:45PM
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Can you repaint the basement yourself? I think a lot of people wouldn't like lime green paint.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 4:15PM
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Rcguy, you make good points. I am making 'partial' updates. Changing vanities, sink and hardware but leaving floor and wall tile because they are neutral. I had 3 1/2 baths to work on and found changing the sinks, vanities and hardware make the bathrooms look fresh and updated.

I pulled up bedroom carpeting and refinished the oak floors plus the hallway and stairs. Painting all the rooms and trying to decorate the rooms to appeal to younger buyers. I painted all the stained oak trim in those rooms.

I am wondering your thoughts on refinishing the wood floors in living/dining areas. The floors are okay, and I could put a coat of wax on them to shine them up. They were last done approx 18 yrs ago. Refinishing would cost $2,000 which I would prefer not to pay. There is some damaged boards and wear but I think I could work on that without having to refinish the entire area. I refinished the bedrooms because they were covered with carpet and needed sanding.

What are you thoughts on refinishing wood floors?


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:32PM
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I'd refinish the floors. New-looking floors have a HUGE impact on buyers. We saw an open house when the market was still strong a couple of years ago - had been nicely updated, good bones, but for some reason the seller had left the floors undone. That house sat on the market four times longer than it should have, because the dull, nicked hardwood took down the value of everything that had been done.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 11:50AM
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Jane can you rescreen them yourself? I have always refinished floors and it is easy to do. What do you mean by "damaged boards"?

When I sold my last house, I repainted the downstairs and refinished those floors. The "wow" factor walking into that small house was immediate. The place looked like a dance hall. I didn't touch the upstairs at all, and the place sold in under a week.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 5:04PM
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The fact that your bedroom floors are refinished is really going to exaggerate the bad condition of the other floors.
Having an entire house full of newlt refinished floors does really make a "wow" impact on buyers, and you may be able to get most of the cost back.
I tell my Sellers that your home better have at least two "WOW" factors that byers are not expecting. maybe brand new floors is one of yours. Of course, price has to be one of the "WOW" factors too.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 6:25PM
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xanax,what does screening mean? I had two spots in the living room where my old dog had an accident. It was under an oriental rug and I didn't know it was there until I pulled up the rug. The floor man said the boards would have to be replaced and he did. There were 5 boards. Another spot by a sliding door was damaged from going in and out that door and he replaced that board. Now I have these new boards which are raw oak but my floors are stained walnut. Except for that the floors look fine and if I put some wax on them they will look beautiful.

Trouble is matching the stain on the new wood. I tried some of the stain they used in the bedrooms and it made the wood too dark. I sanded it by hand today and wonder if putting a natural stain would blend in.

I would love to be able to touch up those spots and get away without having to refinish the whole area. Big area, as this is a large great room - living/dinning approx 800sq ft. He wanted 2 grand to do it.

What is screening - I'm game for anything at this point.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 10:57PM
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For the rescreening you can just lightly sand the floor and then polyurethane.

Since you have said you replaced boards and plan to wax, I am guessing your original floors are really, really old (either that or someone liked the look). And, since it is wax and not poly, that is probably why the price was quoted at $2K (that and you are in metro-NYC area). Matching the stain will take a bit of experimenting on your part. You'll need to either get a color brochure from the local hardware store, or get an old board and bring it with you. Your stain may end up being a blend of several colors.

Do you have a floor refinishing DIY store in your area? They will be a wealth of good advice to show you exactly how to match the new stain to the old, and how to possibly age the wax finish so you can't tell the new spot. You should absolutely be able to do this yourself without a $2K expense.

Here's a few tips on wax floors. They are not the same animal as sealed poly floors.

Link one

Link two

link three

If all else fails, ask in the flooring forum the best way to match an old wax finish to a new wax finish

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 8:02AM
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Thanks for all the info. My floors were polyed 18 yrs ago. The finish is worn off in high traffic areas. They were never waxed. The reason I mentioned waxing the worn areas was to give it some shine. I tried touching up with poly but it didn't look good. There was a distinct line where the old poly met the new. I sanded it off by hand.

I have some stuff called Rejuvenate Floor Restorer. Its a sort of wax finish which I've used before and it shines up the floor and hides scratches. You put it on with a mop. I was going to use that instead of trying to poly myself.

I'm having trouble matching the stain, plus the new boards soak up the stain more than the old boards. I'll keep trying and if it doesn't work I'll have it done.

The price is high because this guy charges more for Latex stain/poly. He said its more labor than using oil based. Don't know if that's true, but the bedroom floors are beautiful and we didn't have the fumes and odor. Plus they were dry in 2 hrs.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 4:17PM
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Don't wax!

The guy is handing you a line about the latex vs oil based and more work... is he going to remove all the poly and stain you currently have down? In that case what he is doing is completely refinishing your floors. He's sanding them down completely to remove all the stain and poly, as well as many of the embedded stains. He will then restain, and add three coats of polyurethane. If your floors are tongue and grove, make certain you have enough wood left on them to completely refinish the floors if they have been previously refinished (not just rescreened). Many times one refinishing will take off enough wood that a second refinishing will leave the floors very thin. I'd definitely get a few more bids.

As far as rescreening your own floors...

Match the stain. The fresh part should be polyurethaned three times total if it is a large area (you will need to let it dry and sand and tack cloth in between coats). You are going to feel a difference between one coat of poly and a floor that has four (the old floor, old 3 corats + 1 new coat). If you can match the stain, rescreening is easy. If you don't want to rent and fight with a buffer, you can hand sand with 220 grit paper. Make sure the floor is clean, clean, CLEAN before you apply anything to it. Vacuum and then tack cloth everything. The floors, the door frames, the windowsills, the lights, etc. Everything. Then, tack cloth again. Your job will only be as good as the cleanliness of the surface. Any piece of dirt will show once you have polyed and it has dried. Get a lambswool applicator and stick like this . Use a new paint tray to pour the polyurethane into. Make sure you allow to dry for 24 before you walk on it (2 hours is a bit of an illusion, they probably aren't hard dried), and wait a week before you move furniture back in.

To avoid refinishing your floors, rescreen them every 3 -6 years depending on floor traffic. If the floors are covered with a rug and seldom used, you can certainly go longer than six years. If the floors are used daily and have high traffic as well as kids and pets, three years recommended.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 6:18PM
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Have you visited the other homes that are for sale in your price range? If not, get out, look and decide for yourself what you want to do. Realtors are giving you their wish list, but do you really need to do all of it? Look at the other houses you will be competing with and see what you can do to make your house stand out for as little money as possible.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 12:23PM
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