Reaping maximum return on your reno
When a fixer-upper on a tiny lot sells for more than a million dollars, it’s easy to dismiss the idea that you need to spend money to make money on your home. But investments, big or small, can produce big returns, even when it’s already a seller’s market.
“We had clients purchase a fixer-upper last November for $675,000,” says Lindsay Strom, a leading Royal LePage realtor based in the Aurora and Newmarket area. “They freshly painted the entire house, put down new flooring, updated the bathrooms with flooring and new vanities and added new stainless-teel appliances. They sold it in January for $850,000 … A house that shows beautifully and is nicely updated always demands top dollar, and even gets more than it deserves.”
But even small upgrades can have an impact. Ella Zetser is the founder of the Last Detail, a Toronto-area home staging company. She says something as simple as swapping out outdated light fixtures can be effective. “You can go to Costco and buy a $42 light and that’s a big upgrade,” Zetser says.
Not sure where to spend and where to save your money when it comes to upgrades that will get you the biggest return on your investment? Strom and Zetser have some advice.
If you can only do one thing, paint
That could mean simply freshening up marked or yellowed walls, or giving rooms a makeover with a new colour entirely. “Painting can give a 200-per-cent return on investment,” Strom says. “If someone has a pink or green or other dated colour in their rooms, a fresh coat of light grey or beige paint goes a long way.”
If you’re not sure what colour to go with, Zetser says grey is still “super hot” and has widespread appeal amongst prospective buyers.
“You want to appeal to the masses. That’s how you get top dollar.”
Don’t forget the hardware
It might not be the sexiest cosmetic upgrade, but Zetser says that changing up small features such as cabinetry hardware is a smart move with a small price tag.
“Cabinets with round knobs have a more traditional motif to them,” she says. “Just by taking the knob off and adding a slim, more oval-shaped pull, it changes the whole look of the kitchen.”
What you can skip
While a beautifully finished basement offers additional living space, it might not be worth creating one from scratch before you list your home. Framing, drywall, insulation, flooring and paint can add up to thousands, and then there’s the cost of furnishing the space.
“Finishing basements are not worth doing,” Strom says. “Typically, what a homeowner spends and the return on investment realized is about the same.”
Be mindful of what’s hot and what’s not
A fresh coat of paint is never a bad idea, but any upgrade decisions, especially more expensive projects, should be informed by current design appetites.
“Current trends include painted ceilings, pallet walls, free-standing tubs instead of corner tubs, and oversized showers,” Strom says.
“In kitchens, people are doing ‘beverage niches,’ like dedicated coffee stations or wine bars.”
As for what’s out, Strom says glass tile backsplashes have seen their day and that white kitchens are waning in popularity. “People are starting to do more like funky things, like royal blue islands and grey cabinets.”
Curb appeal is essential to attract potential buyers. Landscaping can make a huge difference, but like the interior, a few coats of paint often deliver the biggest bang.
“There’s a house I staged a couple years ago and everything outside was blue – the garage door was blue, the front door was blue, the windows were blue. The house wasn’t selling,” Zetser recalls. She advised her clients that they paint all those exterior elements black. “The house sold in one day. It completely changed the look of the house. It brought it from the ’80s to current.”
Bring in the professionals
All the DIY skills in the world won’t matter if you choose the wrong project or wrong esthetic. A professional home stager with a proven track record knows what sells and what doesn’t and, Zetser says, they’re hired to make you money, “not be your friend.”
“There’s a big difference between doing something yourself for you to enjoy and doing something to help your house sell,” she explains. “Sometimes people spend a lot of money because they think that’s what buyers want, but it’s completely not true. Sometimes they do something and they kill the room.”
Zetser, who has a 95-per-cent rating on home improvement service review site HomeStars, says that her clients tend to see a return of 10 times every dollar they spend.
“If the average house in Toronto goes for $1 million, spending $3,500 on staging will bring between 6 to 14 per cent more – so between $60,000 and $140,000 more. I would say it’s a very good investment.”
Edited on 25 October 2017