While many excellent articles exist detailing cost-versus-value of home renovations, the truth of the matter is… your home is only as valuable as the neighborhood it sits in. Period. Let me give an example. You buy a home for $200,000 in a neighborhood of $200,000 homes and dump $50,000 in a sun room, renovating the kitchen and bath, hardwood floors, and what do you have? If you’re lucky, a $220,000 home. If you’re lucky. Because the bottom line is, people who’re buying a $250,000 home don’t want to live in a $200,000 neighborhood. They want to live in a $300,000 neighborhood.
More importantly, if you did list it at $250k and happen to sell it to someone unfamiliar with the area, that buyer’s appraiser is going to backpedal their way right out of the deal. Because appraisers run their comps from the homes that sold in that same neighborhood. And while they may “ooh” and “aah” as they appraise your home, that won’t change the facts. Even though most of us buy a home based on emotion, lenders don’t loan money on the warm and fuzzy feeling they get when they see your home.
Think of the worst area in your city. Now think of the best. Take two identical homes; place one home in one area and the other home in the other. See what I mean? What you have is the same home, but two different values. The neighborhood sets the value. The exception to this rule, at least in terms of price flexibility, is the home that does not sit in a subdivision.
Having said all that, fear not. This article does have redemptive value! What it can offer you are tips on which renovations will attract more buyers and help sell your home more rapidly.
The first and foremost renovation is the kitchen. The kitchen is the ultimate hangout spot for most of us. I’m not even going to attempt to analyze what that says about our culture, because it doesn’t matter. We just like hanging out in our kitchens. It’s the social hub of the home. And because were a food-based society . . . er, kitchen gatherers, we want our kitchen to be attractive to our guests too.
Depending on how handy you are and how much money you’re willing to spend is going to dictate the extent of renovations. If you decide to knock out walls and start from scratch, keep in mind the kitchen “triangle” principle regarding placement of fridge, stove and sink. That means simply that a uniform triangle can be drawn between the three. My own kitchen is more of a K,” but that’s another story!
Depending on the mood you want your kitchen to convey is where to go with cabinetry. Cherry or dark-stained cabinetry exudes a more elegant ambiance, while maple, oak and lighter woods convey a warm and homey feel. The hardware you place on your cabinetry could have a significant impact, too. Shiny finishes on knobs and pulls are less desirable than matte-type finishes, such as brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze. A granite sink is gorgeous, if you can afford it!
If you’re just striving to bring your kitchen into the 21st century, even a fresh coat of paint on old, peeling cabinets can make a huge difference. While attractive cabinetry is important, countertops run a close second. Avoid ceramic tile countertops, because the thought of keeping the grout clean will put many people off. If you’ve got money to burn, Corian, granite or even marble is your best bet. If you’re working on a tighter budget and have a flair for routing, you can install laminate countertops yourself. The tip to countertops is to avoid bold colors. Unlike bold colors on walls, you can’t make it go away with a fresh coat of paint.
Although new linoleum or vinyl are a far cry better than old linoleum or vinyl for those on a budget, the most popular kitchen flooring would be some sort of hard tile or hardwood floors. Laminate wood flooring is great too, but only if you don’t have hardwood flooring anywhere close to the kitchen. It makes a scary contrast when laid side-by-side!
You can never have too much lighting in a kitchen, especially if its zoned, meaning you have a switch for this section of lighting and a switch for this one. Take your time in placing the lighting, keeping in mind the location of the work areas you’ll use the most. Recessed lighting is also a very nice touch. It’s effective without being intrusive, and it gives any space a more updated look. You might consider under-cabinet lighting as it adds more direct light to an area but also creates a warm ambiance when all other lights are turned off. Mini pendant chandeliers over a breakfast bar or island is a very nice touch and can be found in both a contemporary or classic look.
If room allows, a work island not only offers more storage and prep space, but also makes a great place for guests to rest their elbows while they’re chatting with the cook. The backsplash is always a nice touch to any kitchen, especially tile. The days of the hard plastic backsplash have long since past. Wallpaper as a backsplash is never a good idea, if only for the reason that people’s taste in wallpaper varies as radically as their taste in food.
Though the master bedroom and baths run about even in terms of what draws people, I’m going to address the master bedroom next. People want decadence. Not in terms of rich decor, but in terms of space. Bigger furniture means more space needed. Folks love the idea of a sitting area, even if they never use it. A walk-in closet is always a good bet. And though lots of windows are attractive, think about where you’re going to put your dressers.
Renovating a bathroom could be the most time-consuming. If you’re thinking about replacing the pink tile floors and tub surround with a more neutral color, you’ll need to remove it first. Again, ceramic tile or slate makes a bigger visual impact than vinyl.
As with the kitchen, consider your choice of cabinetry and hardware. A double-bowl vanity is a bonus over a single-bowl vanity. Enclosing the commode doesn’t just allow for privacy, but is more effective in terms of confining unpleasant odors. The nicest and most beneficial improvement in vanities has been the gentleman’s height vanity. Simply put, it’s a taller version of the standard-sized vanity. No more straining your back stooping to brush your teeth or retrieve toiletries. Again, matte faucets and hardware over shiny. Recessed lighting over flush-mount lighting.
When it comes to shower versus tub, more and more people are opting for . . . both! The allure of the separate shower and tub is this: shower is all function; tub is all luxury, especially whirlpool tubs. However, if your budget doesn’t allow for a full-scale bath remodel, consider smaller, more cost-effective updates, such as paint, flooring and fixtures.
So while a sun room, tiered deck or finished basement would be a wonderful bonus to any home, your time and money might be better spent enhancing what you’ve already got without pricing yourselves right out of your neighborhood!