Are you looking to sell your house? If so, you’re probably asking the question, “Should you renovate before selling your home?” The answer to this question depends on many things — the current economic environment, the ROI (return on investment) of the project, and whether or not the renovation appeals to many people or just a select few.
If you want to sell your home, you’re going to want a bazillion people to fall in love with it. So ideally, your updates should be inexpensive, but should cause many more people to want your home. (Because after all, as demand goes up, so does the price!!)
What Should You Not Do Before Selling Your House?
Thinking about selling your house? Many people think about what they should do to add value to their house, but have you ever thought about the things that you shouldn’t do before selling your house?
It’s an important question to ask. After all, you don’t want to sock money into your house, and then get absolutely no extra money out of it! That would be such a waste of money!
If you remember nothing else about this article, remember this. Pools do not add value to houses. In fact, they can actually cause a house to be worth less.
Why is this?
Why should you not put a pool in before selling your house?
First off, pools are expensive to install. They can easily run you upwards of $50,000 when it’s all said and done. That’s no small chunk of change if you’re installing a pool simply to add value to your home.
Second, quite a number of buyers have small kids, which makes the home more of a safety hazard than a tranquil blessing.
Finally, many buyers see a pool as a hassle – something they need to treat and care for, something that will likely cost them money when it breaks, and there’s the cost and hassle factor of opening and closing the pool in the off-season.
If you’re going to install a pool, do it for you, and not for the resale value of your home.
Bad DIY Projects
DIY projects are great…IF they look good when you’re done.
However, if the paint is sloppy, if the shelves aren’t square, or if your newly renovated basement looks like you contracted a 7-year-old…then your DIY projects might actually be hurting you when it comes to the value of your home.
If you’re going to DIY, make it look good. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to call a professional and have them do it right. It could means thousands of dollars when it’s time to sell your home.
Big Ticket Appliances
Should you renovate before selling your home? What about the kitchen? What about those appliances?
People really like top of the line appliances, right?
Well…yes and no.
Most buyers like new appliances, but only a select few really care if your stove is the $8,000 model vs. the $1,500 model. And, with so many people not caring, buying the super high-quality appliances might actually be a bad move.
Buyers won’t pay up for a house because of the name-brand appliances. Therefore, it’s just money wasted if you’re buying those appliances specifically for the sale of your home.
Tech is changing so fast. Please don’t build your home around it.
The classic example is the entertainment center from years ago — built around the monster tube TV in the living room. Since then, TVs have become thinner and entertainment centers (with their storage) have become obsolete because no one owns DVDs anymore.
It’s okay to have technology. Just don’t build your house around the technology of today. There’s no doubt it will change tomorrow and make your house look ancient and quite frankly, ridiculous.
You love the woods. So, you’ve had an artist literally build trees and vines in your family room so you can always feel like you’re in the woods, even when you’re in your home.
This was great while you lived there…but now it’s time to sell…and no one wants tree sculptures built into their home. Not only will this take away from the value of your home, it will greatly reduce the number of offers you’ll receive when it’s time to sell.
Hunters often do this with their homes as well. They make it look like Cabela’s inside and it’s hard to get the buyer to imagine the room as anything else!
Don’t do this! Don’t personalize your home so much that it makes it tough to sell. You’ll almost certainly regret it.
Should you renovate before selling your home? What if it needs repairs?
Should you fix the needed repairs before putting the house on the market? Or should you just offer some money to the future buyer so they can fix it?
Or perhaps you should just do nothing at all! What’s the right approach?
When Is a House Not Worth Fixing?
Before starting to renovate your house before a sale, you really want to ask yourself if it’s worth fixing.
When the Housing Market Is Hot
At the time of writing this article, the housing market is still white hot. Sellers are listing their homes at top-dollar and buyers are still offering above-list to ensure a purchase.
In this type of market, it’s probably not worth it to make your home look top-notch. Make it look presentable, but pouring thousands of dollars into it probably isn’t necessary, and might actually be a waste of money.
Your Home Value vs. The Neighborhood
What does your house look like when compared to the other houses in your neighborhood? Do they all have the same issues? Are they all about the same value as yours?
Then you might not want to fix it too much or you’ll be creating the most expensive house in the area…which is actually a bad thing. People don’t want to buy a pricey house in a bad neighborhood. They’d rather buy a mediocre home in a great neighborhood.
When the House Isn’t of Interest
Do you live in a super old house that’s quite a bit run-down? Is pretty much the entire value of your home in the land it sits on? (This is often the case for beach-front properties or old homes that reside in the industrial/retail area of town.)
If there’s a chance that your house gets bull-dozed by the buyers, then it’s certainly not worth fixing up before putting it on the market.
What Not to Fix When Selling a House
What specifically should you not fix when selling a home? What is totally not worth the money that you’ll put into it?
The Truly Minor Issues
When you live in your home for a while, you know every little issue, and you may be tempted to try to fix every little thing before you put your home on the market.
Most people won’t see half the things you see as issues. And, the small percentage that see them probably won’t care because the market is hot and they’re more interested in the house as a whole than the wobbly outlet in the hallway or the slightly cracked tile in the bathroom.
Were you thinking about renovating that spare bedroom and making it look more like an office before putting your house on the market?
Sounds like a nice idea, but renovations often take longer than you think. And, a half-done renovation is worse than one that you never start. It makes the room look messy and might confuse the buyer as to what the room is actually supposed to be.
If you’re concerned with getting everything done on time, then don’t start some of those larger home renovations.
Items That May Not Be Up to Code
Let’s say you’ve lived in your home for a couple decades. When your home was built, it was fully up to code. Now, over the years, the code has changed and your home may not comply with current building standards.
Should you bust your hump and try to update your house to pass every code of today? Well…you could, but you likely don’t have to.
Your home inspector will note the items so the buyer is aware, but you likely won’t be forced to make all the updates. This is pretty common, so don’t get too amped up about getting your house up to code. It may just be grandfathered in and be a non-issue for both parties.
Is It Worth Doing Renovations Before Selling?
So…should you renovate before selling your home? It seems like there are quite a few scenarios where you maybe don’t need to (or shouldn’t) renovate your house before selling!
When is it worth it to renovate your home before selling?
The answer to this question is actually quite simple. Just ask yourself this:
“Will the value of my house increase by more than the amount I’m investing in the renovation?”
If no, then don’t do it. Save yourself the time, the hassle, and the money.
If yes, then you likely want to do it. After all, if you can invest $10,000 into the kitchen and get $20,000 more on the offer, then that investment is totally worth it!
How to know if it’s worth doing renovations before selling
But…how can you know how much value will be added to your home with each renovation?
Simple. Ask the opinion of a few realtors. They sell houses for a living and they see what kind of premium people will pay for a brand new kitchen, for an updated bathroom, or for added square footage in the basement.
They’ll tell you if that new kitchen will get you $20,000 more or not. Take their advice. They know far more than you in this arena.
How Much to Invest in a House Before Selling
Alright. Now that we got a little taste of if you should renovate before selling your home, now we have to ask ourselves “how much?”.
Here’s the easy answer. Don’t renovate so much that your houses becomes the nicest one on the block. That means you over-renovated.
Do your house up nice, but still do your best to keep it in the mid-range vs. the nearby houses.
Back to this generic statement a second. Should you remodel before selling?
The question is, “how much?”
My advice — keep the renovations light, but make the house look clean and appealing, both inside and out. That’s what I go for each time I sell one of our properties.
Is It Better to Update a House Before Selling?
If your house is stuck in the 1990s or earlier, you probably want to make some updates.
- Paint over some of that wood-grain trim
- Replace those gold colored drawer pulls
- And maybe even replace some of that discolored carpeting in the den
Again, my aim wouldn’t be to spend big dollars, but instead to put your money into the areas where people might second guess if your home is really right for them.
More on what exactly you should renovate coming up later in this post!
What to Remodel Before Selling
Let’s get specific here. What should you remodel before selling your home? What areas will people most be looking at? And what home improvements add the most value?
What Home Improvements Add the Most Value?
Want to add some quick value to your home before selling? There are many minor upgrades that can really pay dividends when it comes to selling your house for top dollars!
They won’t take long and they won’t cost much money, but they could really be the difference maker for your potential buyers!
If I were to put my house on the market tomorrow, here are the things I’d tackle!
This is simple, and it’s one that people often forget, but it’s HUGE!
Before you renovate anything in your house, just work on decluttering! The more stuff you can get out of your house, the bigger it’s going to feel!
And, once you declutter, you can stage your home to look more elegant and purposeful. It should be clear what each room is used for in your house. If your buyers are guessing, then you’re losing money on the sale. Guaranteed.
This one is pretty basic as well.
You’re asking yourself if you should renovate before selling your home, and you’re probably thinking about big stuff like redoing your entire kitchen or knocking down a wall to open up the floorplan.
Before you go there, just consider putting in some rather inexpensive new carpet – either into a space with beat-up floors or areas with dirty carpet. It’s amazing how cheap carpet can be, and how much it actually freshens up your space!
3) Neutral Paint Colors (Inside and Out)
You might like the color pink or orange or purple…but most people don’t. If you’re going to sell your house, please make your paint colors appealing to everyone.
The most popular colors right now? Different varieties of gray. Stick with those (for both inside your house and outside) and you’ll likely get many more offers on your house.
Sure, it might take some time, but all in all paint is pretty cheap and pretty easy for anyone to do. Take your time, do it right, and you won’t regret it!
4) Freshen Up The Landscaping
They say that the first impression of your potential buyers is one of the most important things of the walk-through.
So where do buyers have their first impression?
On your front porch when they’re waiting to get into your front door.
This means that your landscaping is actually uber-important if you’re wanting to sell your house for top-dollar.
- Trim the trees
- Cut back the bushes
- Get fresh bark down
- Make sure the grass is green and lush
- And, knock all those cobwebs down from the front porch!
Make your potential buyers say “wow” before they even step foot in your house!
5) Brighter Lighting
Another easy fix if you’re thinking about renovating before selling your home…is lighting.
It’s super simple, it’s not that expensive, and it can truly make all the difference.
- Are some bulbs burnt out? Replace them.
- Do you have some dim lighting in a few rooms? Increase the wattage.
- Install some LED lights to brighten up your house and take it into this current century! 🙂
If, even with the above upgrades, you’re still thinking about renovating before selling your home, one of the best ways to add value to your home is by adding square footage in your basement!
We currently have about 900 square feet of unfinished space in our basement. At roughly $100 of value per square foot, we could add about $90,000 to the overall value of our home by refinishing the basement!
And how much would it cost to finish the basement myself (solely DIY)? Roughly $25,000.
What if I had someone do it all for me? Probably $50,000. Still totally worth it!
If you have a similar situation where your basement is unfinished, consider…
- creating a few rooms,
- putting up some drywall,
- and painting the space!
You’ll be shocked how much space this adds to your home. And, the interest in your 2,800 square foot home vs. the “tiny” 1,900 square foot home you have today will skyrocket.
Should You Renovate the Kitchen Before Selling?
All the above remodel options make sense, but what about that infamous space…the kitchen? Should you renovate the kitchen before selling?
If you’re thinking about spending $100,000 to renovate the kitchen…then NO! You shouldn’t renovate the kitchen before selling your house. That’s just ludicrous! No one is going to pay you an extra $100k for your house because you have nice cabinets and a fancy stove in your kitchen.
But, if your kitchen is straight out of the 70s and you’re thinking about painting the kitchen fronts and getting new appliances (that are moderately priced), then that renovation most likely makes sense. The kitchen needs to be fixed up enough so that the buyers don’t scoff at how ugly it is, but it shouldn’t be so nice that it costs you 6-figures to do it.
In other words, if you figure you can fix up your kitchen for $10,000 and you think it might add $20,000 of value, then do it! But, if the value is less than the cost, then it’s simply not worth it.
What about the bathroom? Should you remodel a bathroom before selling?
The same premise can be used from the kitchen conversation above.
Sure, bathrooms are great and everyone wants a nice one, but you shouldn’t spend an arm and a leg to get it.
I remodeled a bathroom by myself a few years back (don’t be too impressed, I had at ton of support from my father-in-law and watched plenty of YouTube videos). To remodel a small half-bath, it only cost me $600. Today, it might cost $1,000, but the point is, it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money!
Maybe you can demo the bathroom yourself and find a deal with a contractor friend of yours. If you can redo your severely outdated bathroom for less than $5,000 dollars, it’s probably worth it. Heck, even if it costs you $10,000, it might be worth it.
So should you remodel a bathroom before selling your house? For the right price, yup! At the very least, paint that bathroom and make it more appealing than what it looks like today.
What Should I Renovate First?
From the entire list above, where should you start? What should you renovate first?
First things first…the first impression. Start with the landscaping, the front walk, and the entry into the home. This is what people are going to remember. .
Beyond this, renovate the areas that are the biggest problem areas for your house. Maybe it’s an outdated bathroom, a water-stained ceiling, or a literal hole in the wall. Fix the stuff that’s obvious and that people will point out.
As for the little stuff, get to it if you have time, but don’t make it your first thing!
Should You Renovate Before Selling Your Home? In Summary
So should you renovate before selling your home?
It doesn’t have to be a major gut-job. It could be as simple as painting a couple rooms in your house. Or, maybe you decide to redo your entire basement because it’s going to add a ton of value to your house.
No matter what condition your house is in, there likely is some sort of renovation that makes sense before you put it on the market.
So where will you start? What will you renovate in your house before listing it for sale? Tell us in the comments below!
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.