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For years now, we’ve been preaching about the importance of getting your home ready for sale. Showcasing your home at its best increases the interest in it, which almost always results in a higher sold price. 

But Seller beware…it’s easy to focus your time and money on the wrong home improvements. 

We understand the temptation to do all the renovations you’ve been planning for years but never got around to doing. We know HGTV makes it seem easy to get double the return on your renos. But as REALTORS, we’ve seen too many Sellers invest in home improvements that cost more to complete than they add in value to the home. And worse? We’ve seen Sellers spend so much time renovating their home before listing it for sale that they miss a hot real estate market. 

While every home, neighbourhood and real estate market is different and you should talk to your REALTOR about how renovations might affect the value of your particular home – there are some improvements that are rarely worth it. 

  1. Finishing the Basement – Underpinning and finishing a basement is more expensive than you think. Of course, Buyers will love it and will see value in it – but usually, that won’t be enough to offset the cost of doing it. 
  2. Wallpaper We love wallpaper…but….despite being trendy right now, wall-papering every wall in your home before listing it for sale is risky. Buyers see wallpaper and worry about the work involved in removing it. If you want to do a highlight wallpaper wall – make sure it’s something neutral, that will appeal to most Buyers. 
  3. New Countertops – Unless your countertops are the only unrenovated part of your kitchen or are stained or damaged, it’s usually best to save your money and let the new owner replace them. We usually only recommend countertops be changed out prior to sale if we anticipate it will be a frequent objection. 
  4. New Kitchen Appliances – Buying new appliances is expensive and you may not see the ROI on your pre-sale investment…but if your appliances don’t work or are an eyesore in an otherwise great kitchen, it might be worth replacing them. 
  5. Any Renovation that is Personal – intricate water fountains, urinals, quirky tiles, a red kitchen, bright paint colours, etc. Remember the goal of preparing your home for sale is to appeal to the most number of Buyers in order to get the highest price – it’s not to find that one person who might appreciate a Beyonce-themed bedroom. 
  6. Hot tubs and Pools – If you already have a hot tub or pool…awesome. But you’ll never recoup the cost of buying a new hot tub in a sale. (Note: if your current hot tub isn’t working, talk to your agent about the benefits of removing it vs. replacing it).  
  7. Crown moulding – If you don’t already have crown moulding, now is not the time to get it. Sure, it looks great – but the cost to install it won’t likely be recouped in the sold price. 
  8. Solar Panels While many Buyers are attracted to environmentally-friendly renovations, solar panels are a big commitment (for you and them). Best to invest in these when you first buy a home so you can personally benefit from that initial investment. 
  9. High-Maintenance Landscaping– Buyers like ‘easy’, so if updating your landscaping is part of your pre-sale home prep plan, focus on easy-maintenance grasses and trees. 
  10. Unpermitted Renos and Upgrades Smart Buyers will ask about permits, so if you’re undertaking a significant reno, do it with permits. This is not the time to learn DIY electrical. Click here to learn the types of renos that require a permit in the City of Toronto
  11. Major Renovations – If you’re looking to sell your home to take advantage of great market conditions, save the time and money you’d spend on a new kitchen or bathroom and get your home on the market asap. It’s easy to spend $50K++ and many months renovating a kitchen – only to miss the market opportunity. 
  12. Built-in Closets or Shelving – Buyers love modern built-ins that add storage space, but a new bookcase or IKEA closet isn’t likely to increase the sale price of your home enough to justify the cost (unless you don’t have any closet space…in which case it might be a good investment). 
  13. Anything Trendy – It’s better to use design trends in your staging vs. your renovations. Great staging can make your home feel more modern without forcing short-term trends on your Buyer. 
  14. Metal Roof – We love a metal roof, but the payback won’t be realized if you’re selling your home. If your roof needs to be replaced prior to the sale, err on the side of traditional roofing materials. 
  15. Additions – Additions – done the right way and with permits – are expensive. Best to let the new Buyer figure out if they want that sunroom or not. 
  16. New Carpets – Today’s Buyers don’t generally gravitate to carpet, so avoid replacing floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. If you have an existing carpet that needs to be replaced before you list your home, consider vinyl flooring or engineered hardwood – you can always incorporate area rugs into the staging to help a room feel warmer. 
  17. Built-in Electronics – Buyers do see value in built-in speakers and electronic blinds, but not likely as much as it will cost to install them. 
  18. Converting a Bedroom into Something Else – This is one of the biggest mistakes we see Sellers make…for example, converting a third bedroom into a walk-closet or additional bathroom. Always talk to your REALTOR before reducing the number of bedrooms in your home (even if you aren’t thinking of selling!)
  19. Furnace, Air conditioning, Windows, Insulation  – Buyers don’t like to pay for upgrades they can’t see, so unless your furnace isn’t working or a window is broken, save these renovations for the new owner to do. 
  20. Replacing an Older, Owned Hot Water Tank with a New Rented Tank – Sure, Buyers may appreciate a new hot water tank…but rental contracts get expensive and your Buyer may not want to be locked into it. Explore all your options before committing them to multi-year rental contracts. 

Our best home prep advice: Talk to your REALTOR before embarking on any home prep renovations and repairs. They’ll be able to help you balance the time and cost of the home improvements vs. what you’re likely to get back.

What Repairs Should I Make Before Putting My House on the Market?

The 30-Day Guide to Preparing Your Home for Sale

5 Questions to Ask Before Spending Any Money

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