When remodeling to sell, start small and pick projects wisely
By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- If your New Year's resolution is to sell a home in
2008, it's probably time to start thinking about how to make that home stand out
from the rest.
But before planning a single project, beware: Homeowners aren't able to
recoup as many improvement costs as they did in recent years, according to a
recent study by Remodeling magazine. In fact, real-estate agents advise clients
not to overdo it regardless of what the local market conditions are like.
"It's more important that it's neat, it's clean and it looks spacious, rather
than making sure it's the top of the line," said Cheri Kuhn, broker/owner of
Waters Realty in Minnetonka, Minn. She cautions her clients to bypass projects
that aren't necessary.
"The thing I find with sellers -- if they do a lot of remodeling -- they will
take the cost of the remodeling and add it to the cost of the home and ask the
buyer to pay for it," she said. But often they're not going to get that higher
That's because asking prices are based largely on comparisons with similar
homes in the area, she added. And in the many markets that aren't exactly
booming right now, buyers have more negotiation power over the price of the
To keep costs down and spend remodeling dollars wisely, consider the
following five tips:
1. Ask for advice
Prior to making any
remodeling plans, declutter your home and rent a storage unit if necessary to
hold extra stuff while the home is on the market, said Shannon Aldrich, a
Realtor licensed in Maine and New Hampshire with Keller Williams Coastal Realty.
Then, get some advice from a local real-estate agent on how the home stacks up
against the competition, she said. "I see more houses in a month than most
people see in their lifetimes," said Aldrich, who has written a series about
getting rooms ready to sell on her blog. Sellers can use that experience to
their advantage when deciding what projects to do. Visit
When Kuhn first meets with clients -- sometimes six months before listing the
home -- she'll make a prioritized list of improvements that will make a
difference. Cleaning the carpets, painting the walls and removing wallpaper are
common fixes -- if they're needed. It's wise to budget for these tasks before
putting money aside for more expensive projects.
2. Dig deeper
also could pay to look below the surface by getting a home inspection before
listing the property. That way, problems that could hold up a sale are addressed
in advance, said Dan Steward, president of Pillar to Post, a Tampa, Fla.-based
home-inspection company. Some estimate...