- Time of year
- Location of the home
- Market temperature
- Competing inventory
There is no hard and fast rule. But there are general guidelines that apply to most homes. For example, the National Association of Realtors publishes each year the Cost vs. Value Report with Remodeling Magazine, which features various home project costs and returns in four regions, including a national average.
In my neighborhood, most of the homes were built in the late 1940s, which means the floors are original, hardwood oak. Wood floors are a hot item today, but preferences over the years have changed. Carpeting became popular -- like with lots of consumer products -- after somebody figured out how to get the government to pay for it. When vets returned home from WWII, housing was at a shortage. Homes were sold with newly installed carpeting because the cost for the carpeting could be rolled into government-insured (VA) loans.
Then carpeting became vogue in the 1960s. Some homes today, sadly, still sport '60's shag carpeting. The final movement away from hardwood happened when installing hardwood floors became too expensive. Plywood was easier to obtain and faster to install. Plus choices in carpeting were plenty. It's still relatively inexpensive to install carpeting.
- Hardwood Floors
If your home has hardwood floors, that's what buyers want, and it would pay to have the carpeting removed and the floors refinished.
If your sub-floor is plywood, then replace the carpeting with light tan. Neutral carpeting is your best bet for resale.
Replace chipped or cracked tiles. Clean or replace the grout. But don't install ceramic (it's too expensive) unless it's for aesthetic reasons in an entry way.
Paint Ceilings & Walls
Buyers spend more time than you would think staring at ceilings. They are looking for signs of a leaky roof, but what you don't want them to see are stains from grease or smoke and ceiling cracks. Ditto for walls. Nothing says freshness like new paint, and it's the most cost effective improvement. Use fiberglass tape on large cracks, cover with joint compound and sand. Paint a neutral color such as light tan - think of coffee with cream.
It's not that all buyers hate wallpaper. They hate your wallpaper - because it's your personal choice, not theirs. And they hate all dated wallpaper. Get rid of it. The easiest way is to steam it off by using an inexpensive wallpaper remover steamer.
- Wood paneling
Even if your wood paneling is not real wood but composite, you can paint it. Dated paneling must go. Older wood paneling such as walnut, mahogany, cedar and pine, it's all gone out of style. Paint it a neutral and soft color after priming it.
- Textured ceilings
Older popcorn ceilings with the "sparkles" often contain asbestos and if disturbed are health hazards. Say goodbye to it. But even recently sprayed ceilings turn off buyers. It's not expensive but it is time consuming to remove. Lay down drop cloths and scrape it off. You will need to repaint.
Appliances and cabinets are typically the most expensive items to replace in a kitchen. If you don't have to replace them, you'll save a ton of money. However, if your cabinets are dated and beat-up, your house might not sell if the cabinets aren't replaced.
Kitchen remodels return nearly 100%. According to Remodeling Magazine, the high-end kitchens don't return as much as the mid-range or minor kitchen remodels. Most buyers won't pay extra for a built-in Sub Zero refrigerator, professional 8-burner stove, undermount sink or travertine floors. If you live in the Midwest, your return will be less than for those who live in other parts of the country.
Resurfacing is your best option. This involves attaching a thin veneer to the surface of the cabinets and replacing the doors and hardware . If your cabinets are painted, add a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.
- Counter tops, sinks & faucets
Granite counters are not necessary. Simple laminates, newer faucets and sparkling sinks sell. Buyers don't want leaky faucets or stained sinks.
The national average of recouped cost is more than 100% for bathrooms. New floors, fixtures and lights payoff.
Roofs & Exterior
If your home needs a new roof, bite the bullet and do it. Even though most roofing tear-off jobs take one to two days, buyers shy away from buying a home if the roof needs to be replaced.
- Patch cement cracks in sidewalks
- Resurface asphalt driveways
- Plant flowers
- Caulk windows and doors
- Replace doorknobs and locks
- Fix or paint fences
Overall, buyers want to buy a home that has no deferred maintenance, newer appliances, updated plumbing, electrical and heating (including a/c), modern conveniences and is ready to occupy.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.