What has the Greatest Impact?

callie25December 20, 2013

We're in the process of doing a little work on our home in preparation of selling in the future. Overall our 1980's home has been well maintained, is traditional, but needs updating. We will not be making ALL the changes we would like; so what has the greatest impact? The Windows were replaced a couple of years ago. Our kitchen has the original cabinets (dated but in perfect condition as we refinished all the woodwork). My thoughts here was to reface & install shaker style doors? All the bedrooms are carpeted, (also dated colors; should we recarpet all the bedrooms or install hardwood?) If we carpet, other than going with a neutral carpet, any specific pile, etc.? Which of these are changes we definitely should make?

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

In my neck of the woods, the standard advice is to talk to three different realtors very experienced in your particular neighborhood, and get their opinion. Sometimes updates make ZERO difference, and you are spending money for nothing, however sometimes updates help a lot. It totally depends on what the market is like in your particular area. Go through several recent sales with agents and ask them why they sold and how easy or difficult it was, and why.

What always helps is cleanliness and light, neutral paint colors, because the house almost always shows better that way, even if buyers are planning to make significant changes.

Through cleaning and a few cans of paint applied correctly are inexpensive enough to make them a good investment; anything else, get advice.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 4:11PM
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Hoovb has summed this up perfectly. Clean, declutter, paint as needed. After that, ask local real estate agents what more needs to be done.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 6:43PM
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I wouldn't mind if the home was outdated but I would expect the home to be immaculately clean and the price to be somewhat lower reflecting the need to update.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 10:54PM
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When we bought our FL house 2 years ago, the owners had replaced the old carpet w/ new carpet and redid the kitchen.

I wish that they had not done either. We tore out the carpet immediately and put in hardwood and the kitchen is just eh, I don't really like it very much and if we were staying in the house, probably would have re-redone it to be better quality within the next 5 years.

We're now selling the FL House (buying a different one, don't like the neighborhood). I just tore out the old bathroom vanities (they were 1970s) and put in new ones (cheapies from home depot but w/ granite) and we also took down old wallpaper. I did this b/c I got the work done at a really low cost and the vanities on sale and this was the only thing that had not been redone in the house, so now it is move-in ready. If I had to spend a ton of cash to do it, or if the whole rest of the house hadn't been updated already, I would have left it alone and just priced the house lower to let new owners make the upgrades they wish to do.

So, long story short- if you aren't going to update everything so it is move-in ready, I'd leave everything as is b/c people who are going to be willing to buy a house that needs updating are going to want to do it to their own tastes.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:37PM
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Another idea is to add a carpet/flooring allowance so the new home owners can choose what they want to replace your dated carpets. A couple of years ago I ran into the young woman that bought our home and she said that, and our huge garage out back, were the two selling points that made our home more desirable than all the other homes they had. There are so many DIYers out there anymore that want to make their "new" home person so they don't want something that's been recently redone. They'd rather get a better deal and do it themselves to save on a hirer house payment.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 1:16AM
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You might have a home inspection done to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed that you may be unaware of. If there are none, it could be a selling point. If there is anything, you can decide whether to fix it or negotiate it later.

When we sold our last house, we knew the galvanized pipe used in it was junk (common in SoCal housing of a certain age). We chose to re-pipe the house before putting it on the market so it wouldn't be an issue. We would have had to disclose it anyhow during the sale.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 3:21AM
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Do you have any photos to share? That would be super helpful!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 6:25AM
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NONE of them ... You won't get back the cost of the work, and the new owner may find themselves tearing out new but unwanted things.

De-clutter, clean everything blindingly clean, fix all the small stuff so nothing leaks, wobbles or sticks, and paint all the walls and woodwork. Have any overdue maintenance done, like furnace or AC checkups.

Yes, your house may sell for a bit less, but you will not have paid several thousands of dollars and spent the last months in a construction zone.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:56AM
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hoovb's response is perfect. It's all about your local market and the condition of the competing houses in your price range. The only people that can truly answer this question are real estate agents from your market.

This post was edited by deee on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 9:28

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 9:08AM
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It depends on your area. Ours is quite transitional with a lot of younger, affluent buyers. Here, move-in ready condition pays back in a faster sale and top dollars because people are so busy that they don't want to deal with any kind of repairs or renovation. And, yes, the return is higher than the cost. I am baffled when I see houses so obviously staged (think Pottery Barn) and with the most predictable updates, i.e. grey/beige paint, granite/quartz/marble, kitchen cabinets painted white, subway tile, SS appliances, hardwood or light carpet, that sell quickly and frequently all cash and/or over asking price. However, nobody seems to care about the obvious big ticket items (windows, furnace, roof).

I would look at comparables and research for how much and how quickly they sold. If you have www.redfin.com in your area, this is very easy to do.

Also, look at www.houzz.com for their staging advice. Some of the improvements are very easy to achieve with relatively little cost.

This post was edited by nosoccermom on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 13:42

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 9:18AM
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How long of a time period before you sell? If its a couple years or so and you have the money to put into wood floors do that as inexpensively as you can and enjoy them while you live there. DO NOT put $ into ANYTHING else except for paint.
If you are a few years out from selling I would repaint just before you put house on the market.
Leave the cabinets alone unless you want them different now.
If you are putting the house on the market in Jan 2014, just start cleaning and painting. Leave everything else. See Beagles comment.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 9:26AM
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Clean, decluttered, and everything looking in tip top shape as in no deferred maintenance and then replace the different colored carpets with new cheapest pile. Only replace the carpets though if the colors of the carpet you have is not a neutral color. If neutral colors then just clean so they look new.

The rest I would check with a realtor, but it might be better to price it slightly less and not deal worth the chaos of updates and the potential for unforseen issues and having to grow the budget.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 9:39AM
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We recently purchased a 1980's house in a great location. It was built and maintained well by the original owners but had paint/wallpaper everywhere we didn't like, carpet was wrong color and older, original cabinets with new appliances and counters, and full of furniture on all floors. We were able to buy it at a great price considering the updates needed. I can't imagine the sellers would have picked cabinets, paint, flooring, etc. we would have liked. Their style was clearly more traditional than ours. The sellers priced it well and kept it spotless. The house felt loved and like a place we could call home. They could have removed furniture and decluttered more. I'd recommend pricing it correctly, cleaning it very well, decluttering, make it smell fresh/neutral, and fix anything broken. Otherwise, you're likely throwing money away unless you happen to find a buyer with similar taste.

Just sharing my personal experience of buying a similar home with several updates needed. Where do you start and where do you stop with the updates?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 10:30AM
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As stated ask a few realtors, donâÂÂt just trust one opinion. ItâÂÂs all down to the neighborhood and who the target buyers are. In my old neighborhood people wanted move-in ready as in visual updates, the house had to have curb appeal as well. That market lacked time and imagination so I did things with the higher-end thirties age bracket in mind. Some of the other neighborhoods near had older clientele and they were more interested in how old the roof and central air and heat were or if there was hurricane glass in the windows or if the windows/doors had pull-down protection for storms. As I have been on a house hunt for over five months past my sale I can tell you that a lot of people do not get it right (target market) when they put their houses up for sale. I am in the older bracket where I want to remodel to my taste but want the house maintained with a newer roof, windows and such. I didnâÂÂt find maintained but ended up getting a house where the price was low so I could do it all (roof ect) and still come out with equity. For me it was a huge turn off to look at a house where cheap updates were put in at a big premium price on my end. However, this is not the case for all markets.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Sun, Dec 22, 13 at 11:18

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 11:15AM
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" For me it was a huge turn off to look at a house where cheap updates were put in at a big premium price on my end. However, this is not the case for all markets."

I agree. Only your local real estate people can advise you what the market is like in your area.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 11:32AM
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A vote for hardwood floors in the bedrooms.

Also -- updating any HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) and insulation ....

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 11:43AM
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Actually updating HVAC etc has very low return. I would not do this unless it was a safety issue. Appraisers don't even look at the furnace, hot water heater etc.

Make it clean and leave it, if anything update kitchens and baths. Those are the only areas that you can hope to recoup anything from.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 6:37PM
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I agree with the posters that noted that this is dependent upon the standards of the neighborhood and part of the country one lives in. Two working professionals usually don't want to spend time updating a home. Homes in the Midwest, for example, will generally be less concerned with what is trendy than homes in other parts of the country. Buyers with families generally want yards. Older home owners may prefer ranch homes as opposed to two story. Homes in higher price ranges will be competing with new builds and the ability to customize a new home with more updated features can, often times, have more appeal than buying a home that is only 10 years old. Clean appeals to everyone, however. I remember taking toothpicks to clean out the crevices in our light switches (among other deep cleaning tricks) because I knew that the same home buyers looking at our 15 year old home were looking at brand new homes that looked pristine. It's key, IMHO, to take the time to personally go to open houses of competitors and to those that are priced both slightly lower and substantially higher. It gives you the best idea of what is trending in YOUR area as far as updates are concerned.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 8:04PM
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It is very difficult to know what people want: I have been in very large sf houses in good neighborhoods with the cheapest finishes--Home Depot cabinets and very inexpensive faucets, for example. The houses are priced in the high 6 figures, so one assumes people with some money can buy them and one assumes that the previous owners were happy with that level of quality. But all I could think of is ripping out all the cabinetry and starting over. Ideally, the finishes should match the house--they don't have to be over the top, but good hardwood floors, good tile, good cabinets. And clean.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 12:15AM
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I agree about talking to several realtors, you should also try to attend a few open houses. Let the realtors know you are willing to make some changes if it results in a greater ROI for you.

In my last home the realtor saw the house a few months prior to selling, and made minor suggestions. She told us a target list price. We painted the entry/living room/dining room, decluttered, did staging, painted the vanity in the main floor bath and added a granite top/vessel sink (which was trendy at the time) as well as a mirror. We put furniture in storage. We probably spent $800. When the realtor returned she revised the price by 20K. It sold in a little over a month and we sided to a busy street.

That said, provide pictures. I agree with nosoccermom, people want no hassle. Most people do not go on garden web, they want a house that is done, and/or have NO imagination. Used carpet, even if well-maintained will be a turnoff, they would rather have inexpensive tan carpet and walls than $100/yard used carpet or custom painted walls. If your carpet is not neutral and close to new replace it. Ask the realtor, but I don't think you can get money back on hardwoods unless you have them already and refinish.

Watch an episode or two of House Hunters. The majority of the buyers believe granite counters and SS appliances = nice home. Some get hung up on paint colors.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 2:00PM
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Also, if possible, try to figure out who your target buyer is. As gmp3 says, at the entry and mid-level, people will think Frigidaire SS appliances are preferable to, say, Gaggenau white appliances.
Another thing for you to realize is that many/most (?) realtors are more interested in a quicker than a higher sale. If you think about it, it makes more sense for them to sell NOW for 10K less than wait another month because the difference is 300.00 in commission if they split it with the other agent.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 5:33PM
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