When it comes to revving up a home’s curb appeal, house flippers, remodelers and stagers have the inside track. Rather than spend a fortune to make a home a standout in the current real estate market, go for the tricks professionals use that give the most bang for the renovation buck.
“Most houses have been lived in by families for years,” says Raymond Derrien, a house flipper in Sea Cliff, N.Y. “When they go to sell, it’s very dated.” The solution is to remove elements of what’s outmoded. It could be as simple as a fresh, neutral-toned paint job, changing the knobs on the kitchen cabinets, replacing a vanity top or getting rid of the curtains.
“People make a mistake when selling a house and they have all these heavy drapes,” Derrien offers as an example. “That is not in the vernacular of today.”
Remodeling Magazine’s “2011-12 Cost Vs. Value Report,” a nationwide survey conducted with Realtor Magazine and HouseLogic.com, compared the estimated cost and the amount that can be recouped on 35 different remodeling jobs. The results showed that it's not necessarily the most extensive remodeling projects that provide many happy returns.
A new front entry door, minor kitchen and bathroom remodels, creating an attic bedroom and replacing the garage door are among the low-budget yet high-yielding home improvement projects that may even make you want to stay put for a while.
David Peterson, operations manager and project coordinator for Synergystaging.com in Portland, Ore., said that buyers are attracted to homes that are blemish-free, “Q-Tip clean” and move-in ready. “Busy, dated wallpaper can feel distracting and overwhelming to potential buyers,” he says, an immediate turn-off. “Removing wallpaper, painting walls, changing light fixtures, adding hardware to cabinets, and de-cluttering” help update a house and make it “more appealing to potential buyers,” he adds.
For a kitchen remodel, replacing “that 1970s look” of laminate countertops by switching to quartz or granite may do the trick without the larger expense of changing kitchen cabinets. New stainless steel appliances also help. “You will collect that back in the end. It will make the price higher,” says Vita Burdi, a kitchen and bath designer and an owner of DJ’s Home Improvements in Valley Stream, N.Y.
“Redo it enough that they’ll say they can live with it for 10 years and then do it,” Burdi says. “You won’t have to cut your price and you haven’t done a tremendously costly renovation.” Otherwise, she says, buyers will complain that the kitchen needs a redo, and “shave $50,000 off their offer.”
There really is gold – and living space – in the attic. Instead of using it as a storage catch-all for luggage, old clothes or a discarded crib, converting attic space under the eaves into a stylish – and private – bedroom is one of the top and easiest ways to maximize living space. “If you want a cozy private space, that is a good place to get it,” says Stewart Davis, the principal architect and design director of CG&S Design Build in Austin, Texas. “You are infilling space that is already there.”
Here’s a look at remodeling projects with a great payback.
Project: New Front Door
Typical cost: Under $1,300
Secret: Bright colors impress
Knock, knock. What’s more inviting than what buyers see first? A welcoming new front door, preferably steel and in sassy hues like red, tangerine or indigo blue can make a snazzy first impression. A well-insulated low-cost steel entry door that seals like a refrigerator “is the threshold to the kingdom,” says Carl DiPresso, a project design specialist for the Major Homes Corp., renovation specialists in Williston Park and Bayside, N.Y.
DiPresso adds, “The front door is the most important thing in selling a home that people overlook.”