Selling Your Home? Resist These Costly Renovations

If you’re reading this, we assume that maybe you have a home in central Virginia that you’re thinking of selling. If so, you want to do everything in your power to make your house look attractive, and it’s hard to compete with some of the other homes in the Charlottesville area. But go overboard on your pre-sale renovations and you run the risk of alienating potential buyers and losing thousands of dollars in the process. The key ideas expressed in this article relate to a) making modest but effectual improvements while maintaining the spirit of the house and b) depersonalizing the space as best as possible without compromising its attractive features. Let’s begin.

Leave the garage alone
A garage is more than just a place for high school bands to sound terrible. It’s a valuable reservoir for seasonal storage, a place to keep stuff dry, and oftentimes the place where your cars and lawnmowers live. If you’re considering a garage overhaul, you may want to think again, and carefully. Is the resultant space going to be more attractive to buyers than a huge space devoted to junk storage and safe, dry parking? Consider the volatile rainy season that could land in Charlottesville at any point…it’s nice to have a place where you can toss wet stuff in a hurry. There are, of course, some instances in which a family would prefer the garage to be a living space, but that option will still exist if they decide to move in, and you will have spent zero dollars on costly garage renovations. You may be contemplating a home office or TV den in the space where your garage is now, but what if your prospective buyers are neurosurgeons (can’t work from home) who hate television and drive convertibles? You get the idea…let the garage be what it is, and if people want to change it, they can. Chances are if the house has a garage, it probably has a sufficient amount of bedrooms. At the very least, leave the garage doors on…that way buyers have the option to change it back.

Keep the outside in check
Some people believe that potential buyers make up their minds as soon as they see the outside of a house. Whether or not that’s true, it’s pretty crucial that the outside of your home maintains a certain standard. You want your grass cut and hedges trimmed and all that, but you want to avoid anything too showy or flamboyant. We’re talking about that army of garden gnomes and flamingos, or that expensive fountain; anything that may come across as excessive, you know? The lawn could come across as high-maintenance, which isn’t what you want. You want the house to stand out, but you don’t want it to look markedly more expensive than other places in the neighborhood; this affects the resale value, as the biggest, most elaborate looking house on the block is often the most difficult to sell.

Avoid excessive bedroom conversions

People like bedrooms…after all, they are great places to sleep, and they provide storage for beds.
Thinking about knocking down that wall and making those two small rooms into one big one? Generally speaking, quantity is more important than quality, plus for some, a bigger bedroom isn’t necessarily better than a smaller one. People tend to react favorably to big master bedrooms, but not as much as they used to. And buyers generally want separate rooms for all their kids and a guest room if possible. But there are no hard and fast rules here. If the house has a substantial number of bedrooms already (over five or six) then it may be wise to break some walls down, but always be thinking, “Does the amount of money I could potentially add to the asking price outweigh the cost of these renovations?” And if you can’t give a definitive “Yes,” then keep thinking. This also speaks to the idea of depersonalizing the home. If you’ve converted your college-aged kid’s old room into a home gym or music studio, emphasize that it was a bedroom first and if possible, convert it back. This is the same logic we employed when advising against eccentric wallpaper choices in an earlier article…prospective buyers are looking to buy their house from you; present a blank canvas where possible, and allow their own ideas and aspirations to inhabit the space.

High-end renovations are not always great
It’s been said before (even in this very blog) that when you’re selling a house, you’re really selling a kitchen (insofar as the kitchen is often the most memorable room and the one that makes or breaks a potential buyer’s relationship to your place). Even so, think carefully about springing for those expensive upgrades right before selling. These have the potential to show a house’s age, especially if the new improvements clash with the existing feel or vibe of the house. Consider your dad wearing backwards hats and picking up on some of the youthful colloquialisms…more often than not, this will only serve to reinforce his quintessential “dad” characteristics. This applies to everywhere in the house but especially the kitchen and bathrooms, often the areas of the house that need a facelift. The $3,000 built-in coffee/espresso system is probably pretty cool, but if it’s next to a dishwasher and sink from the 90s, it may do more to make the house look dated than to make it look fresh. This goes double if your potential buyers prefer tea. Stainless steel looks good with granite and marble but maybe not with all shades of porcelain? Hard to say…choose wisely. It’s always a good call to update cabinets, countertops, and sinks by the way.

If you are thinking about selling your home and want suggestions, feel free to give us a call!