The fixer-upper dilemma: should sellers renovate before going to market?

The fixer-upper dilemma: should sellers renovate before going to market?

Home makeover programmes are compelling TV. Whether it’s Property Ladder with Sarah Beeny or Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It, people love seeing drab dives metamorphose before their eyes. But what happens if you’ve already decided to change places on the ladder and list your current home? Is it worth investing big money in the hope of securing a faster sale at a better price? 

Sadly, the answer isn’t straightforward. It very much depends on what you’re renovating and where you live. So always think things through before splashing the cash. That’s exactly what we’ll help you with in this post. Pouring funds into the wrong kind of renovations is money down the drain. 

A risky business

Because well-presented homes sell like hotcakes and usually attract multiple nibbles, you might think that renovating is a no-brainer. However, the reality is very different. In fact, it can be a tad risky.  

The problem is calculating which renovations provide the best return on investment. Should you opt for simple redecorations or an expansive, not to mention expensive, extension? The latter could be a big punt that doesn’t pay off. Meanwhile, potential buyers might not even notice the former.

The truth is that many buyers put Location, Location, Location before anything cosmetic. And they’ll put up with wear and tear, or a kitchen that’s seen better days, because they’ll want to put their own stamp on a property anyway. 

What’s more, if your home is located in a prime location – near schools, public transport, green spaces, and leisure facilities – then it will probably sell quickly whatever its condition. So why invest extra? 

Stuck in the middle with… erm

A compromise might be to do some renovating, e.g. fixing up the kitchen, but leaving the bathrooms. However, this can be a gamble too. Those looking for an immaculate property will cross you off their list. Meanwhile, fixer-uppers often like to change everything in time. And they’ll be looking to pay fixer-upper prices, too.

Consequently, there’s a danger that you might leave yourself with no target market and it might take longer to find a buyer. An alternative, therefore, might be to make some cosmetic improvements without getting your wallet out. Simple things like cleaning and decluttering can make an enormous difference. There’s no risk whatsoever, either.

On the other hand…

You shouldn’t ignore that freshly remodelled and updated homes come with a premium. They offer comfort, convenience, and buyers don’t need to squint or use their imagination to see your home at its very best.  

What’s more, we live in a busy world and most people are time-poor, especially if they have a full time job or a family. Do they really want the disruption of doing renovations after they’ve moved in? Not everyone wants, or has time, to leave their mark on a property.

Furthermore, adding things like extra storage space, or even an extra bedroom, can make your home so much more appealing. A loft conversion, for example, can add a whopping 15% to the value of your home. It might also make your home appealing to a whole new type of buyer.  

Mind games

Remember that psychology is also important in the home-buying business. A rundown home might make potential buyers wonder what else has been neglected? What’s more, it can be extremely difficult to estimate how much renovations will cost. 

Because there’s this crucial element of doubt, buyers will often make lowball offers for homes that need renovating. They won’t want to break their budget or get caught out in the long run, so they tend to bid cautiously.

Finally, buyers won’t just discount for necessary renovations; they’ll also expect a reduction for the inconvenience of carrying out the work – especially if they need to move into rented accommodation for a while. Sellers looking for the very best possible price should therefore do any work themselves to strengthen their negotiating position.

Which renovations pay off?

Always consider which particular renovations provide the best return on investment. Loft conversions, especially if they add another bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, are big investments with big rewards. Kitchens are also a major focus for buyers as this is where families spend much of their time. According to Propertymark, a third of agents believe a new kitchen can make all the difference in a sale.

Bathroom improvements, such as re-grouting, eliminating limescale, and replacing taps are also worthwhile. Fresh and hygienic is the order of the day. Swimming pools, however, are best avoided. They’re expensive to maintain and won’t see much use in the British climate. You’d be better off including free anoraks with your property. 

Use your noggin

The key, of course, is to use common sense. Don’t add a conservatory if it’s going to take up valuable garden space. A good-sized garden is worth a great deal, especially in the post-pandemic world. And don’t do a loft conversion if it uses up all your storage space. Always consider what you’re losing as well as what you’ll gain. 

Needless to say, renovations also need to be done sensitively to fit the character of your property. Modern aluminium windows cost a bomb and won’t look particularly fetching on a Victorian villa. You’d be better off showcasing the home’s existing period features.

What’s more, truly dilapidated properties might not be worth renovating at all. If the costs are astronomical, then you’ll be better off marketing the house to builders and developers for a realistic price. Older properties can be money pits. 

Put your business hat on

Never forget that renovating is a business decision. So put sentiment aside, calculate the costs versus benefits, and always stick to a budget. You might find there are cost-effective ways to prepare your property for sale without breaking the bank…

Start with the small changes that won’t cost a fortune: clean, declutter, redecorate in neutral colours, replace old furnishings, fix sticking doors and windows, replace old door knobs and handles, and update dripping taps. It’s also worth replacing old carpets if you can do it affordably. You could also buy new furniture and take it with you when you go.

Finally, don’t throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater. You might think you need a new kitchen but it’s often possible to lift the room by simply repainting units and / or replacing the cupboard handles with something more contemporary. 

Above all, however, always do your research. Consider what buyers in your area want, how much the renovations will cost, and how much value they’ll add. And if in doubt, speak to your estate agent. That’s what they’re there for. Well, that and talking up your property’s best bits to beguiled buyers. 

If you’re moving home soon and want to hand over your arduous home move admin, claim your free Home Setup Service by going here:

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