Preparing Your Home: Repairs & Renovations

Whether to do work, or sell your home as-is, depends on its current condition and your own goals.

Renovating to Sell

The debate rages on…what will yield you better results at sale time, a renovated home, or one that the buyer still has to put their own stamp on?  If your home is more than five years overdue for a renovation, it may be a particularly difficult decision whether to invest the time and money into renovating it first, or selling it as a fixer-upper in this value-driven market.

Footballoon by Arne Hendriks
Footballoon by Arne Hendriks

No one is really anti-reno; renovating your house so that you can enjoy it for the next twenty years can be quite enjoyable. But renovating to sell it to a total stranger in a few weeks is not as enjoyable. It’s hard to know how much money you should spend because if you spend too little, the results might look cheap; spend too much and you may not realize that money back when you sell your home. There is also the inconvenience factor of living through a renovation, which can be exacerbated by your other commitments, pets, and children, and can definitely add to the stress of selling your home.

It’s important to note that renovating to sell is different from staging or ‘fluffing’ a house for sale; those terms refer to mainly cosmetic and aesthetic improvements, such as new cushions for the couch and perhaps a coat of paint. In terms of a more intense home renovation that may cost many thousands of dollars, is that really necessary for the successful sale of your home?  What are home buyers in Toronto looking for?  Here are some things to think about when considering renovating to help sell your home:

  • Pre-sale home renovations do not necessarily have to be things that you like. They should be things that the majority of potential homeowners like.  For instance, most home buyers prefer tiled bathroom floors, so don’t install carpeting in the bathrooms and call it a reno.
  • There is some correlation between the size of your home and the need to renovate.  The smaller your house or condo, the greater the chance that the buyer will be a first-timer or an empty nester.  These types of home buyers want the property to be move-in ready, with minimal, if any, touch-ups required.  In the 3- or 4-bedroom category, however, you’re most likely dealing with families who either have the budget to renovate to their tastes, or are willing to renovate slowly over time as they grow into the house.
  • Closely examine the specific competition in your condo building or the true comparables in your neighbourhood.  If your property has unique benefits and features, like a pond or a den, you may need to do less to get it to sell quickly. If, on the other hand, 3 competing condo units exist in your building at similar price-points but more updated, or if there are superior homes for sale on your street at the price you hope to achieve, then you are better off renovating.

Expert Renovation Tips

You’ve decided that you need to do some renovating to sell your home quickly for the price you want.  Here’s what the experts have to say about home renovating with the goal of making your home more saleable and appealing to buyers:

  1. Generally, wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house is a bad idea, because it can give the impression that you are trying to hide something underneath. Laminate flooring (not real wood, but a photograph of wood covered by a hard, transparent layer) is a better option for inexpensive re-flooring. Severely worn real wood floors should be sanded down.
  2. Areas that tend to have the least resale value (comparatively speaking) include media rooms, home theatres, offices, attic remodels, and outdoor construction like back decks, sheds and gazebos.
  3. Going to desperate lengths to increase the living space, like converting a garage into an artist’s studio, is generally not indicated.
  4. Never remove period details that may have some worth; ripping out the orange shag carpeting in the basement may be a good idea, but don’t get rid of the circa-1911 staircase because it needs some work.
  5. This probably goes without saying, but when removing fixtures (such as lighting) always replace them with a similar or better item.  There is no point removing them otherwise, even if they aren’t working, as holes and gaps are a turnoff for buyers.

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