When Paul and Leslie Kaplan decided to put their water view Northport home of 17 years on the market this winter, their agent, Doris Kason, told them today’s buyer is looking for a house that is move-in ready with neutral features.
So, they updated their kitchen, replacing linoleum countertops with beige granite, refacing their cabinets to white with new hardware, and adding a neutral subway tile backsplash. In a first-floor bathroom, they removed wallpaper, painted and upgraded the vanity. They also traded a red carpet in their den for beige.
Two weeks and $15,000 later, Leslie Kaplan said, "I wish we’d made these changes sooner so we could enjoy them longer." Their house goes on the market for $899,999 in early March.
Why make that kind of financial investment when you plan to sell?
Buyers in this market are willing to pay more for a renovated home because they don’t have the time, know-how, money or desire to do it themselves, said Kason, a real estate associate with Douglas Elliman based in Plainview. "By cleaning up and doing some minor renovations and manageable projects to your home before selling, you may be able to net a significant return on your investment and stand out from your local competition."
That doesn’t mean the value of your home will increase by the exact amount you put in, according to Linda Bell, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. A recent report by the personal finance company indicates homeowners will make back 66.5% of their original investment for remodeling projects completed in 2020. But the upside is you’ll most likely sell your home quicker and could even have a bidding war, driving the price well beyond asking, said Maddy Camay, broker associate for Compass USA in Syosset.
Just freshening up a few rooms with paint appears to have paid off for a house on Lone Oak Court in Centerport, according to the broker, Kim Schultze with Coldwell Banker Realty in Huntington. She said that there were 16 offers and all but one were well over the asking price. The house went to contract on Feb. 12, 12 days after the offer was accepted.
If you’re not sure about the condition of your home, Priscilla Holloway, a licensed real estate salesperson with Douglas Elliman in Westhampton Beach, recommends getting an inspection — or at least doing an evaluation yourself — and then prioritizing what needs repairs. While it may be tempting to skip structural issues like a new roof, Camay said that would work against you when it’s picked up by the buyer’s engineer and you have to renegotiate with the buyer for less money.
With cosmetic changes like those the Kaplans undertook, Andrew Smith, vice president of project services at Power Home Remodeling in Melville, suggested prioritizing the trouble areas and determining an overall timeline and budget. What’s on the outside also counts.
Curb appeal — the initial reaction from potential buyers when they see your home from the street — has a real impact; brokers believe it takes less than a half-minute for them to make up their mind about going forward.
Here are seven projects — inside and out — that local experts said are important to buyers and can yield you returns during resale.
1. Paint for a fresh look
Painting your home’s interior and exterior gives the immediate perception it’s being well-maintained, said John Paulik, owner of CertaPro Painters of Huntington, and it’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to get a fresh look. That’s particularly true of surface problems like peeling tape seams and poor spackling.
"Sometimes people do their own patchwork fixes over the years, but those stand out and should be addressed either by doing it yourself or hiring a professional," Paulik said. "Caulking also makes a difference, as well as trim and windows. It all gives a clean look."
For colors, he recommends neutrals like bone white, alabaster and light grays.
"Exterior painting can also make a house pop and should always be addressed when there are issues like rotting shingles, fascia boards and soffits, which need to be replaced or will draw an inspector’s eye," Paulik said.
Cost: Average $300 a room and $3,000 for the exterior up to $10,000 for the entire interior or exterior
Time: 2 days to a week
2. Kitchen: Minor updates
Even if it’s not their dream kitchen, buyers prefer that minor updates are done, said Golie Oheb, associate real estate broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenvale.
She recommends repainting or refinishing the cabinet doors in white and getting modern hardware, like brushed nickel. Also, replace any outdated countertop materials with granite.
Cost: Hardware, $5 to $10 per pull; refinishing or repainting cabinets, $6,000-plus; granite countertop, $40 to $60 per square foot
Time: About two weeks
3. Bathroom: Reglaze the tiles
This is another area that buyers would rather not have to renovate, Oheb said. That can be as simple as replacing the vanity. "If your bathroom has outdated tile colors, rather than replacing them, get them professionally glazed. So many houses have those 1950s tiles in pinks and blues, but they can easily be made white, bone or almond as can the tub."
Cost: Reglazing, $300 to $1,000; a new vanity, $200-plus
Time: 1-2 days for reglazing; a few hours for the vanity
4. Flooring: Refinish hardwood
Old carpeting should be the first to go, said Camay. "If the floor underneath is in bad condition, replace it with an inexpensive, neutral carpet."
It’s best if you refinish hardwood floors, said Holloway. "If you have an older, weathered floor it never shows well. Refinishing the floors can change the look of a room immediately."
Cost: Carpeting, $300-plus per room; refinishing hardwood floors, $7/square foot
Time: Carpeting, one day; refinishing floors, 3-5 days
5. Front door: A good impression
Smith recommends a front-door makeover. You can just apply a fresh coat of paint and modernize the hardware. If you’re interested in replacing the door entirely, materials vary from wood, steel and fiberglass, as well as design options.
Cost: Entry door replacements, $300 to $1,000-plus; hardware, about $50 per handle; paint, under $200.
Time: A few hours to a day
6. Landscaping: In good trim
Oheb said that landscaping doesn’t have to mean extensive and expensive plans. Instead, focus on trimming overgrown trees and shrubs — especially those that block windows — and removing dead plants and trees.
Cost: Free with appropriate tools or hire a service
Time: Hours to days
7. Repair pavers and patios
The pandemic has made outdoor living spaces a valuable draw for homebuyers who want to expand their entertaining and work areas, said Adam Gipe, the local regional sales manager for New Jersey-based Belgard/Sakrete, which manufactures and distributes paving stones. "That has led to outdoor renovations and repairs of retaining walls, patio spaces and even the addition of firepits," he said.
First clean and seal any existing patio area pavers, Gipe said. Repair any cracks in the retaining walls. If you’re going to build a patio area, look for earth tones. Upgrade your backyard look with a fire pit. Adding a woodburning firepit can be as easy as getting a portable kit for about $150 or having one built. If the latter, Gipe said to check with your town codes. Gas firepits require hiring a plumber.
Cost: Cleaning and sealing pavers, about $2/square foot; wood-burning firepit, around $700; gas, about $2,000; paver patios, about $400 to $500 per square foot with a contractor
Time: Projects can be DIY; for contractors there’s at least a two-month lead time for three to four days of work.
Decluttering: The easiest fix
Real estate agents recommend the No. 1 — and least costly step — is to declutter. According to Golie Oheb of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, that means packing away anything that will be a distraction to buyers.
- Clear all countertops and other surfaces.
- If you paint, don’t put pictures back on the walls.
- Store away as much furniture as you can so rooms seem airy.
“Even if you have to get a storage unit, it’s worth it to present an open feel,” she said.