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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

‘Love It or Leave It’ — Should You Remodel Your Home or Buy a New One?

[Published Aug. 21, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

This is a question I have faced myself, and I encounter it quite often among my clients.  Do you renovate or remodel your home, or should you buy a new one?

Above all, this is a personal question, so don’t look to me for hard and fast answers.  What I can do, however, is give you a Realtor’s perspective on the value implications of your choices.

By now, you probably are aware that you are unlikely to recover 100% of your investment in improvements when you sell a home.

If you do decide to sell your home instead of improve it, I suggest that you not make any improvements just to sell your home, especially in our seller’s market.  The only money you should invest to dress up your home for sale is to remove eyesores — negatives that catch a visitor’s attention.

For example, don’t replace perfectly fine Formica countertops with slab granite.  Let the buyer do that.  But if the Formica is damaged, yes, consider replacing it.  Don’t install new hardwood flooring.  But if the wall-to-wall carpeting is irreparably stained or damaged, do consider replacing it (with carpet).

I’ll give you an example of what you can “get away with” in today’s market.  Back in the spring, I met a homeowner who had moved out of his 150-year-old home in downtown Golden and had begun a gut-rehab of it.  His aim was to replace the bathrooms and kitchen and create a master suite that would help him sell the home.  I suggested he stop work and sell on the market as is — with no working plumbing!  He said he had received a tempting offer to buy it as-is, but we listed it for $25,000 more and got six offers in less than a week and sold it as-is for $51,000 more than that original as-is offer.

I look at renovation this way: why wait to sell the house to make improvements that you yourself would like?  Make those improvements now and enjoy them!  Then, when you sell your home a few years from now, it won’t matter that you don’t get back what you spent on those improvements, because you made them for your own enjoyment.

Of course, it could be the case that you can’t improve your home in ways that you need or want.  If that’s the case, be a lookyloo. If you find homes that suit you better, then call me or one of my broker associates about finding a way to sell your current home for top dollar — without improving it — and buy one that makes you happier.

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