HOMEFINDER: Think twice about pre-sale renovations

They may not be the solid investment you hope they’ll be

Painting the interior of a home is one of the least expensive ways to freshen things up before putting it on the market. It’s also something most homeowners can do themselves.

Not everyone relishes the idea of tackling major renovations in their home, even if you plan on staying for a while.

For people who are getting itchy feet or are perhaps quickly outgrowing their current home, are renovations something they should consider before selling?

It can depend on the type of home, and the volatility of the marketplace.

Realtor Kent Deans with Pemberton Holmes Realty West Shore has seen a lot of market cycles in his 38 years in the business.

There were the years when it was fairly common for homeowners to undertake a major renovation, turn around and sell the home for a profit  and move on to the next one. It was a good way for some people to step up in home quality or location.

Today’s balanced market on the West Shore and elsewhere in  Greater Victoria, is seeing home prices stay relatively stable across the board. Spending thousands of dollars on a major kitchen remake, or on creating an open floor plan most likely won’t pay off in additional selling price, Deans says.

“Renovating is good if you can do a lot of the work yourself. If you need to hire professionals, that can become very costly,” he says.

“If it were a very special home, that is, waterfront or water view or architecturally designed where you would get the money back out when you sold, it’s OK to hire professionals. But the average home might not be worth it.”

One thing many people don’t take into account is the fact the costs for renos or even home building often go way over budget, due to unforeseen work required or a desire to include that little bit extra, Deans says.

And there’s nothing more unsightly than a half-done renovation project that may not be quite what the next buyer would have had in mind to start.

It’s common knowledge that an appealing kitchen and bathroom can clinch a house deal for a seller, all other things being equal.

But undertaking a renovation project on either room as a way to make your home more saleable, may not be the way to go.

“Newly renovated kitchens and bathrooms are what sell homes, but they’re also the most expensive rooms to renovate,” Deans says.

While many more buyers these days are looking for the upscale granite kitchen countertops and contemporary sink-and-tub combinations, he adds, the amount spent on upgrading those rooms will seldom be recouped.

Newer developments on the West Shore have such features and appeal to buyers who would rather not have to do the work themselves or hire someone to do it for them.

Rather than taking on a major project to improve an area of your home you feel is lacking, or is not quite what you want, there are other options, Deans says.

“Paint is cheap in the grand scheme of things. If you can freshen up the home with paint, that is the best investment you can make to sell your home, especially the front of the home, as that is where people get their first impression.”

Rather than sink money into a renovation to try and impress the next potential buyer, homeowners looking to upgrade are better off in this market saving that money and perhaps spending a little more on a new one that better suits their needs.

It can be better to leave the renovation job to someone else’s energy and tastes, Deans says.

Q: TO RENOVATE OR NOT TO RENOVATE BEFORE SELLING? WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER FIRST?

Deciding whether or not to renovate your home before you decide to sell can be one of the biggest questions you face. Here are a few things to consider before you make your decision.

• If profiting from your home sale is an important element, you may want to survey the market to compare what you have, compared against other similar homes in your area. If your home is the least attractive from a buyers perspective, you may want to even the playing field.

• if you don’t have the time or energy for a big renovation, consider bringing in beautiful new furniture to accent or modernize the look and feel of your home during the selling period instead.

• Have a frank conversation with your real estate agent if you have one and get advice specific to your home on what you want to do if anything.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF SEP. 22/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 362 / 487— NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, SEPT. 2013

» 810 / 1,106 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, SEPT. 2013

» 4,280 / 4,547 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL, SEPT. 2013