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Should You Upgrade Your House Before Selling?

Hanna Kielar9-minute read

November 17, 2022

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One of the most persistent questions about selling your home is whether you should upgrade it before you sell. Ideally, you want to sell a home for more than you paid, but the answer can be complicated because certain renovations and home additions will never raise the value of your home enough for you to break even on the cost.

Here’s what you need to know when you’re asking what renovations and upgrades you need to complete before selling your home.

Fund your renovations with a cash-out refinance.

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Upgrading Before Selling: How To Decide

In addition to your personal situation, you’ll be contending with factors beyond your control when you list your home for sale. Some of these factors may influence whether it makes sense to upgrade your home before selling. Here are a few methods that may help you make an informed decision about upgrading.

Look At The Housing Market

Are you living in a red-hot seller’s market or a sleepy buyer’s market? If it’s the former, you probably don’t have to worry too much about renovations beyond the basics. If it’s the latter, you may need to make more significant improvements to incentivize buyers to choose your home.

You may want to check local real estate listings to see what comparable homes, or “comps,” have sold for in your area and how many days have they been on the market.

Finding comps, either on your own or with the help of a real estate professional, may help you determine how hot your local market really is. You can use this info to decide whether upgrades could be worth it to help you sell your home.

Ask A Listing Agent

A listing agent is a real estate agent who specializes in working with home sellers. They will be happy to tell you what you need to do to make your home sell quickly for a maximum price. They may perform a comparative market analysis to estimate the value of your property by looking at similar homes sold recently in the area.

From there, your listing agent can help you pinpoint which areas in your home will deliver the biggest renovation bang for your buck. For example, they’ll be able to tell you how much you can sell your home for if you redo the kitchen and whether it’s worth it.

They’ll consider costs beyond the neighborhood, too, such as the property’s age, condition, features, lot size and more. A listing agent will also know the conditions of the local and national markets and how that can affect your specific home as well.

Consider What Home Buyers Want

You’ll generally encounter two main types of buyers: people who want a move-in ready home and people who want to fix or flip the property.

Home buyers looking for a move-in ready house (who are buyers who like to see renovations) and home flippers are each looking for different things. Buyers are looking for a comfortable home for themselves and their family, and most buyers aren’t interested in undertaking major renovations before they move into the home.

House flippers are investors looking for deep discounts on home prices, often in the form of fixer-uppers. They have the skills to fix up and then resell the home to a buyer for a premium. For them, maximizing profit is the goal.

What Upgrading Before Selling Means For Sellers

Most home sellers want to sell their home as quickly as possible for the highest price with the least amount of work. But many homeowners know they won’t be moving soon and also want to enjoy expensive renovations like a kitchen or bathroom remodel.

When you’re selling your home, you should make renovation plans based on which type of buyer you’re looking to attract. A seller’s pre-inspection report might provide guidance to help you plan the needed work efficiently. You need to make plans based on the following considerations.

Timeline

How long do you plan to stay in the home? Few renovations return 100% of your investment, so you may as well undertake major renovations while you can still enjoy them. If your plan is to sell your home in 5 – 10 years, and your kitchen is already a bit shabby, go ahead and renovate. You’ll get to enjoy the renovation and still have a substantial portion of your investment returned at the time of sale.

Put another way, you may not want to launch a complete kitchen remodel if you plan to move in a month. Similarly, you shouldn't expect to list your fixer-upper home for the same amount as the pristine, move-in ready home next door.

Budget

How much do you have to spend on getting your home ready for sale? Have you figured in the costs of selling? Can you do the work yourself or do you need to hire a contractor? You don’t want to reduce your sale proceeds by overspending on renovations.

If your remodeling project would set you back more than you can make up on the sales end, consider pricing your home accordingly and selling it as-is.

Listing Price

How much can you sell your house for? If you live in a neighborhood with modestly priced homes, even the fanciest renovations won’t make your home worth more than comparable homes. Keep that in mind as you think about renovations.

Is It Worth Renovating A House Before Selling?

Do your best to calculate your return on investment (ROI) by using a simple addition problem:

After Repair Value = Property's Current Value + Value of Renovations

For example, let’s say your property’s current value is $150,000. You do $50,000 of repair work and the after-repair value equals $200,000.

Note that this is an ideal calculation. However, it’s important to keep in mind the cost versus value mindset when it comes to renovations whether you’re planning to sell or rent your house.

What does this mean? It means how a remodeling project is perceived depends on more than just the straight amount you spend on renovations. It also depends on a variety of factors, including the condition of the rest of the house, the value of similar homes nearby and even how much other homes in the area fluctuate in value. In addition, home renovations rarely generate profit in a seller’s market.

How Much Work To Do Before Selling A House

Some improvements will show your home to its best advantage and make it easier to sell. Staging your home for sale is an important part of maximizing your profits on the sale.

Buyers are reliably drawn to updated kitchens and updated bathrooms since these spaces can leave early first impressions on the whole home. However, keep in mind that renovations should be able to withstand market changes and a variety of tastes.

Upgrades That Raise Value

Here are the projects that add the most value, how much you recoup the costs of remodeling and how long you can expect it to take to renovate these parts of the home. Cost estimates come from Home Advisor’s True Cost guide:

  • Kitchen renovation: The average cost for a kitchen remodel ranges between $13,476 – $38,203, and homeowners recoup 77.6% of the cost. (Timeline: 6 weeks).
  • Bathroom renovation: The average cost for a mid-range bath remodel is $21,377 and homeowners recoup 64% of the cost (Timeline: 4 weeks).
  • Add new flooring: It costs $6 – $10 per square foot and homeowners recoup between 70% – 80% for new hardwood floors for an on average total of $1,510 – $4,650, professionally installed (Timeline: varies by size of project).
  • Repaint: Hiring a pro to paint the interior of a room costs $950 on average and can result in a 107% ROI. Painting the entire interior of a home costs on average $2909. Painting the exterior of your home costs $1,770 – $4,344 on average and can yield a 55% ROI. DIYers can save big on this task (Timeline: varies by size of project).
  • Garage door upgrades: Garage door upgrades cost $754 – $1,588 installed, and you can recoup 106.3% of the cost (Timeline: 4 – 7 hours).
  • Manufactured stone veneer siding replacement: Stone veneer siding costs $6 – $9 per square foot and recoups 89.8% of the cost. To apply veneer siding to your entire home’s exterior can cost between $87,500 – $125,000 (Timeline: 2 weeks).
  • Fiber cement siding replacements: Fiber cement siding costs anywhere from $8.50 to $14.50 per square foot to install and recoups 85.5% of the cost. Expect to pay $6,555 – $21,894 on average to replace the siding on home (Timeline: 2 weeks).
  • Finish the basement: Finishing a basement will run you $12,222 – $33,239 on average, but can cost up to $34,000, depending on your square footage and your future plans for the space. Compare quotes from local contractors to find your best basement finishing deal. You can potentially recoup up to 70% of the cost (Timeline: 9 weeks).

DIY Projects To Increase Profit

Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can help save on labor costs and increase your ability to spread your DIY wings. You can choose from many small- to mid-scale projects without professional help:

  • Repaint your home’s interior: Paint makes a home look larger and well-maintained. Choose neutral colors such as gray and greige, the current best colors for selling a house.
  • Make your home lighter, brighter and more inviting: Try to cover every 50 square feet with at least 100 watts of electricity. Try to include ambient (overhead) lighting, task-specific lighting (such as under-cabinet and reading lights) and accent light fixtures for tables or walls.
  • Update your cabinets: Especially if they’re mild-toned or honey oak color or feature dated hardware, cabinets can make your house look out of style. You can paint the cabinets for a less expensive option.
  • Add cellular blinds: Get rid of curtains or dated heavy drapery that block light and make your space look smaller.

Enhance The Exterior

Does your home have curb appeal? Get (literally) into the dirt and fix up a few things before you sell:

  • Paint the front door: Think of your front door as the cheery welcome every buyer sees – after the landscaping. It’s worth it to make sure it’s adorned with a cheerful, neat fresh coat of paint before you sell.
  • Replace exterior lighting: Make sure you add new exterior fixtures and add uplights where you’d like to draw attention to particular areas, such as a gorgeous Japanese maple near the porch. Use lighting to your advantage.
  • Wash the siding: It’s easy to accumulate dirt, cobwebs and other debris on siding. Wash with a pressure sprayer and investigate where you need to touch up the paint, fix a loose piece of siding or two and more.
  • Fix the walkway: Is there a broken brick or loose flagstone in a few pieces along your walkway? If there are lots of weeds in your sidewalk, spray them or pull them regularly. You don’t want to plant seeds of doubt with potential buyers by revealing unsightly weeds or cracks before they even make it inside.
  • Add pops of color with flowers and plants: Flowers and plants like brightly colored annuals make such a difference when you’re showing your home. Don’t forget to place a few potted plants on the porch and deck for added appeal.

Repairs And Deep Cleaning

Even if you’re considering renovating your home, you still need to make obvious repairs and updates, plus deep clean the property – doing these things alone can increase home value. You can:

  • Wash your interior walls and exterior siding.
  • Clean your gutters.
  • Mow the lawn, remove weeds and prune bushes.
  • Repair the fence (if it’s missing pickets) and repaint if necessary.
  • Make sure you remove leaves and sticks from the pool.
  • Pressure wash your driveway, sidewalk and other walkways.

FAQs About Upgrading Your House Before Selling

What upgrades bring the most value to a home?

The most high-return home value additions you can make include a deep cleaning, a fresh coat of interior paint, a landscaping spruce-up and energy efficiency improvements.

How much does a move-in ready home cost vs. an as-is home?

The average price of an existing home is $392,000. The average fixer-upper should cost less, though with housing inventories so low and the demand for housing currently so high, you may not get a significant discount, though that depends on how much renovation is needed and where in the country you’re located.

How can I pay for home renovations?

Your house isn’t just a place to live. It’s also a savings vehicle. You can take advantage of the home equity you’ve built when you’re ready to undertake renovations or a major remodel by applying for a cash-out refinance.

You could also consider a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit.

The Bottom Line

The decision to renovate should be based on your timeline, market, budget and price intent. Don’t forget to take into consideration your enjoyment of the home while you’re still there – there’s no reason to renovate for someone else. If the home is in disrepair, you may save more by selling it at a discounted price to an investor.

If you’re ready to get started, learn more about how to refinance for major home improvements.

Need cash to fund your renovation project?

Apply for a refinance and see how much you can get.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto, RocketHQ, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.