With the Central New Jersey housing market as it is, many potential sellers are asking me three questions:
1. Should we consider renovating prior to going on the market?
2. Should we renovate our home and stay here for a while so we can make more money when the market comes back?
3. What modifications should we undertake that would allow us to stay in our current home?
In order to help them get the answer that is right for them, I ask them to consider these five questions before they make any critical decisions:
1. How long after finishing the renovations do they plan on being in the home? In general the rule of thumb is that if you plan on selling in the next five years, you should consider potential buyers in any renovation or upgrade. If you plan on being in the home for six or more years, hot pink walls and stripes with polka dots in the bedroom are personal tastes and since the average home needs paint about every six years anyway by all means make it personal to your tastes. For the best bang for the buck on return on investment go with neutral colors such as beige or off white so potential buyers do not see a lot of work and expense for themselves when they look at your home down the road. The same logic applies to cabinets in the kitchen. Go with a basic maple finish. Some people dislike cherry, others hate oak, but the most people are willing to live with maple.
2. Are the modifications you are considering simple cosmetic things or are you considering an all-out remodel of some rooms? Logistics play a big part in the decision here. Small things can be done quickly and do not need a lot of planning. Bigger things should be part of a list that encompasses the whole project. For example, try not to replace countertops prior to replacing cabinets. Once granite countertops are installed it is very difficult to remove the counters without cracking them or scarring them and in many cases they cannot be used at all since the footprint is different from the cabinets.
3. Are you prepared to live with the renovation while it is happening? Some renovations take months to complete. You need to be prepared to live without a bathroom, kitchen or bedroom for quite some time. Weeks can become months since many renovations uncover unforeseen issues after the project starts. Issues include plumbing that has leaks after you open a wall, electrical that needs to be upgraded to handle the additional wiring for the renovations, etc. Before you hire a contractor get references from their past clients and do not forget to ask if they were on time finishing the projects and if they acquired proper permits before they started work.
4. Will the modifications you are considering fool a potential buyer? If your home looks like a Colonial from the street will a potential buyer be fooled when they come inside and find a modern/contemporary home? Any extensive changes you make to the inside of a home should reflect what potential buyers will expect from the outside. The same applies to a modern/contemporary home where future buyers may not be thinking the home should have details such as antique crown molding.
5. Are you a Do It Yourself Wiz? You may consider yourself handy around the house, but many DIY jobs require your time more than money. If you have a full-time job, can you take on a second full time job even though it is your own home? Almost any home improvement takes longer than you think it will take. If you begin a job yourself, try to do the smallest project from start to finish so you can gain momentum and not lose faith in the project and your ability to finish it.
If you would like a list of renovations and what you should expect as a return on investment just send us an email to email@example.com with the expression “renovation ROI list” in the subject line and we will email you a list of things people do to improve a home and the expected return on investment. The list is based on the Somerset and Middlesex County areas of New Jersey but the guidelines will help you no matter where you live.