Dympna Fay-Hart
Serving Chicago Area Sellers & Buyers

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Should You Remodel Before Selling?

There is a lot to do when getting your home ready to sell.  Other than the usual cleaning, de-cluttering, and de-personalizing, remodeling may be the way to go, depending on the local real estate market, the condition of your home, and its location.

You may be hesitant to upgrade when it's time to sell because of the fact that most remodeling efforts only increase the value of the home by approximately 60-80% of the actual cost of the project.  See Remodeling Magazine's 2016 Cost vs Value Report.  However, for many sellers the cost of inaction can be far greater than the small loss incurred on a home-improvement project. It can mean the difference between getting multiple bids and driving up the selling price, or getting no offers at all.  Getting no offers can mean your home stays on the market longer than the average market time, buyers start to look at your home as if there is something 'wrong' with it, and you end up selling for much less.  You also have ongoing expenses to pay for your mortgage, taxes, and maintenance costs that add up over time.

To make the most of your remodeling budget, you should focus on features that at least 80% of today's home buyers really want.  Here is summary list:

Laundry Room -- A separate laundry room topped the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features for buyers of all ages.  Buyers want a separate room where they can wash, fold and iron clothes that keeps the mess out of their living space.  If you don't have an existing laundry room and want to add one, the basement is usually the easiest (and cheapest) place to put it.  Adding a laundry room will be more costly on the first or second floor as you may need to run the utility lines and also repurpose an existing space in your home. 

Exterior Lighting -- Illuminating well-manicured landscaping with spotlights, walkway lights and pendant lights will grab potential buyers' attention and is a great way to make that all-important first impression.  Exterior lighting is the most-wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB. Exterior lighting also serves as an added safety feature for your home.  Motion-sensor lights, for example, turn on automatically whenever there is movement outside your house.

Energy Efficient Appliances and Windows -- Buyers are impressed with smart, energy-efficient home technology that will save them money and be gentler on the environment without sacrificing their personal comfort. Energy Star-qualified windows have an invisible glass coating, vacuum-sealed spaces filled with inert gas between panes, sturdier weather stripping than regular windows and improved framing materials.  They reduce undesirable heat gain and loss in your home, and can trim heating and cooling costs by approximately 12%.  Energy Star certified appliances -- washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators -- can save you considerable money on your energy bills that really add up each year.

Hardwood Floors -- Seems like every buyer these days wants hardwood floors. Hardwood flooring offers a cleaner look, and it can be refinished periodically and will last a lifetime.  If you already have hardwood floors, then uncover them and have them refinished so they look their best.  If you have older carpeting or tile floors that are outdated, then hardwood is the perfect choice for new floor covering.  It is more expensive than many other flooring options, but it's worth it.  

Eat-In Kitchen -- Eat-in kitchens are a must-have for many buyers, especially families with children. It's a space where they often congregate in the morning for breakfast before the kids head off to school and parents to work, or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.  If you watch the home improvement shows on HGTV, you are familiar with most buyers wanting the 'open concept' kitchen.  You can create this, and create extra informal dining and gathering space, by removing a wall or partial wall and restructuring the space.  This could be relatively inexpensive if you are removing a non-load-bearing wall that doesn't have heating ducts or the main plumbing running through it, or if you can just partially remove a wall to gain the extra space.  This could turn out to be very expensive though, so you need an expert to check it out first.

Walk-In Kitchen Pantry -- Additional storage space in the kitchen is a big plus for potential home buyers. Walk-in pantries that have built-in organization systems to stash food and food-prep items out of sight help make a tight space feel less cluttered.  You will want to use strong adjustable shelving that allows people to change things around as their needs change.

Garage Storage Space -- A well-organized garage with lots of storage is a real plus for buyers.  If your garage is an unorganized mess, then it's well worth the expense to install cabinetry, a peg wallboard for tools, hanging racks, and overhead bin storage.  The best garage spaces also have good lighting and adequate electrical circuits.

Outdoor Patio -- Outdoor living spaces are very important to most buyers, so you should not overlook your back yard area when preparing to sell. Your outdoor space should be appropriately furnished so buyers can picture themselves entertaining their friends and family, having cookouts, and being a place for the children and pets to play.

Before doing anything to your home, you should meet with your real estate agent.  Your agent will have clear ideas of what needs to be done to get your home sold for the best price, and within your time frame.