To get a prime payoff, renovate strategically
Before shovels hit the ground, consider property as a whole: the structure, livable space
When it comes time to sell a home, be smart about which fixer-upper projects you undertake.
Some updates will add extra value to a property come listing day, but others might fail to offer a return on investment.
“When you’re doing renovations, a lot of the time they’re for yourself and your own enjoyment, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into something that’s good for resale,” says Brendan Powell, a Toronto realtor with the Brel Team.
“Yes, bathrooms and kitchens are always where you get the biggest bang for your buck, but you don’t always get more than you spend. Ask yourself, is it just an ugly kitchen or is it a complete disaster? You have to look at the house as a totality. If you’re going to put in a brand new kitchen but the rest of the house looks like a disaster, you can’t just do the kitchen. It’s a slippery slope. Sometimes it’s best to leave ugly things be. There’s no point doing a lipstick makeover.”
Mississauga homeowner Sharon Giraud, 49, recently began prepping her property for resale, to be listed this month. Giraud and her husband will be experiencing what it’s like to live in other parts of the world, beginning with Malaysia.
“Our home-reno plans started a couple of years ago because we knew our exit date from Canada,” she says. “We did things with that in mind.”
The couple hopes to fetch top dollar for the house they’ve lived in for 16 years to help fund the next chapter of their lives as semi-retired, globaltrotting renters.
“In doing the bathroom I raised the height of the cabinets,” Giraud says. “We upgraded the cabinet and counter for better resale and are attacking the garden next for better curb appeal. We’re doing daily fixes, even little things that I could live with like switch plates are being fixed or changed for a better look. It’s like getting all cleaned up for a hot date.”
The touch-ups are minor, with the goal of accenting a unique property tailored to professionals instead of families, as it features home offices, low-maintenance gardens, modern bathroom fixtures, and plenty of space for entertaining friends, including a pool.
“Over time living in a place you get comfortable and just stop seeing things,” Giraud says.
“But when you are ready to sell they now become important and you are looking at things with a more critical eye. You can either just put lipstick on a pig or go for the long haul. For us, because of the uniqueness of the house, the long-haul thinking and architectural awareness was always necessary. From materials to style, we felt we were preserving something significant and renovated based on that.” Small improvements can work wonders toward making a good first impression, says professional Toronto-based stager and interior decorator Red Barrinuevo, of Redesign4more.
“Fix the scratches and leaky faucets, the cracked tiles and the grout issues,” Barrinuevo says.
“Those things make a big difference. You don’t want to be handing your to-do list to the new owners. They can always go somewhere else with nothing to do.”
Sometimes the biggest payoffs are fast and cheap.
“Painting is almost always worth it,” says Powell. “Paint is cheap, easy and quick.”
For yards in need of a makeover, bring in inexpensive mulch for a clean look.
“Make it as easy as possible for people to see what the space is,” says Powell.
“De-clutter so that the rooms look big and they can see past the stuff.”
Powell recently worked with a client who’d inherited a big, old Parkdale house that would have taken six months to overhaul at a cost of $200,000. Renovating for resale didn’t make any financial sense, plus, leaving it untouched would give the buyer the chance to style it their own way.
“Doing part of a house doesn’t make any sense,” says Powell. “If there’s old knob and tube and the basement’s leaking, it doesn’t matter that you put in a nice new bathroom if the rest of the house needs to be torn out.”
He also warns renovators to consider the area and demographic before embarking on a project. “Think about what’s appropriate for the house and the neighbourhood,” he says.
“If you over-renovate, there’s a diminishing return. Nobody wants to be the most expensive house on the street. If you did a Rosedale reno in Corso Italia, there’s diminishing re- turn. To flip it around, if you’re in Rosedale and you do an Ikea renovation, it’s going to backfire. Somebody who’s moving to Rosedale and buying a $2-million house, you have to keep in the style and price bracket to your target buyer. Renovate appropriately.”
“You don’t want to be handing your to-do list to the new owners.”
RED BARRINUEVO INTERIOR DECORATOR
Before knocking down walls and ripping up hardwood, make sure the renovation is worth the expense.