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To Remodel or Not to Remodel: Some ‘Upgrades’ May Detract from the Sale

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By Marilyn Kalfus

A gleaming new kitchen certainly can help sell a home, he said. “However, a kitchen remodel is also one of the most expensive remodels and … the resale market may not be willing to pay that much.”

“The layout of the house, though, matters greatly though, too, and has to be right,” he said. “Otherwise a (new) kitchen that comes with the rest of a house that does not work is really not all that desirable.”

It’s tough for homeowners to fully recapture what they spend on remodeling at the time of a sale, said Dean P. Zibas, an Orange County, Calif., real estate appraiser. And many homebuyers may not see the need — or the value — of certain pricey upgrades.

He and other appraisers cited among the latter:

—Anything that’s atypical to the local market. “For example, I love racquetball, but having an indoor racquetball or sports court does not appeal to most buyers,” Zibas said.

—Expanded rooms — removing a wall to make one large bedroom instead of two smaller ones.

—Panic rooms.

—Built-in aquariums.

—A six-plus car garage at an average house.

—Turning a garage into a separate living space. “Converting a garage is almost always a negative because home owners need a place to park their cars or store their stuff,” Lundquist said. “A garage conversion often still feels like a garage instead of a part of the house, so in many cases buyers aren’t willing to pay the same price per-square-foot for the conversion.”

—Some home offices. It depends on a few variables, appraisers say.

“In some market segments (where) many owners work at home, having a home office that is closed off or separated from the other living areas may more than pay back the cost of building it,” Smith said. “Having an office that is separate from the living areas is a good thing. Having one that is tandem to a bedroom is not.”

Making unnecessary re-dos before a sale can sabotage it in another way, Mackenzie said.

“While you’re in the middle of a remodel you probably shouldn’t be doing, you could lose the sale of your home to someone who comes and buys one around the corner,” he said. “In most cases, it’s not worth the risk.”

The Jameses recently finished restoring three-bedroom closets — and they did so at Mackenzie’s suggestion. The home was an exception to the advice he usually gives about remodeling right before a sale. But without enough bedrooms, the residence wouldn’t sell for the best price.

The restoration was among the latest remodeling changes that the couple, who have two grown children, made to the house through the years.

All along, said Nancy James, “We were upgrading for us — and for selling the home.” Her rule of thumb for those who want to make changes with an eye toward an eventual resale: “Don’t be afraid to go in and fix it up. Get a little unique. But don’t go crazy.”

©2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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