Is It Worth Renovating Your House Before Listing For Sale?

My phone rang the other day and the strangest thing happened, I answered it. I’m not sure why I did because the majority of the time it’s calls from duct cleaning services based out of country, “digital” marketers who will show me how to rank number one on Google, or, the worst, agents looking for feedback on their overpriced turkey.

I’ve had this phone number since startac phones were cool, well before the indestructible Nokia 3310 came out. Man, I wanted that phone so bad. My Brother had it and I loved it because it didn’t have an antenna and was sleek and nicely compact.

I can still hear the ring tone and it was the precursor for my spiraling obsession with phones over the next 20 years.

But I’m veering off the rails of this story.

Back on track.

Expecting to be made a fool, I answered the phone with a dry and flat hello.

“Is this Mike Lind?” and I knew it! A sales call.

Which was it going to be, a pitch for a digital sales monitor in a busy downtown condo elevator where hundreds of people a day would see my ad, or how to invest in overseas money markets?

“It is.” That was my short response.

“OK, great. I got your number from a friend of mine because she says you’re an agent in her neighbourhood and that I should call you for help selling my uncle’s home.”

Crap! It was a legit call and now I had to back peddle, remove the grumpy, monotone voice, and see if I could help this guy.

I apologized for my rudeness and explained why I was speaking that way. He laughed it off and said he understood.

What I found out is his wife’s uncle has a house close by that he and his wife were thinking about renovating to sell and would like an accurate value of the home.

He went on to tell me that they’d already gutted the kitchen and are now having second thoughts about doing the renovation.

I felt like saying it was a little late for that…

This brings me to the point of this blog because it happens time and time again – is it worth renovating your house to sell?

To answer like a lawyer, it depends.

It depends on what condition the house is in.

It depends on the current values of houses in the area.

It depends on the location.

It depends on your budget and willingness to live through a renovation or to manage one.

Renovating is not easy. I’ve renovated 5 homes. It can be a long, drawn-out affair. It’s dirty and expensive and depending on what renovations you’re doing, may not be worth the hassle and aggravation.

You’ve probably heard that kitchens and bathrooms are your best return on investment.

I say bullshit to that.

The point of renovating is to enjoy the finished project, not to pass it on to someone else to enjoy.

The exception to that is if you’re a developer and that’s your livelihood.

For the most part, though, I see people who get all caught up in blog posts about how much money they’ll get back from doing renovations.

I’ll tell you a story about someone who is going through this scenario right now.

This couple, with their 3 kids, have outgrown their home. They’ve lived in the house for about ten years and aside from painting and installing vinyl flooring in the kitchen, have done no improvements.

We’ve had talks about knocking out walls to expand and build a new kitchen, finishing the basement, and including a 3 piece washroom down there and busting up the old tiles to have a more modern look.

Everything they’re talking about doing is great if they’re going to stay in the house.

They have lots of equity in the house and based on the price they paid for the home and what renovated houses sell for in the area, it would seem to make sense for them to renovate IF they were going to stay in the house.

But all of the work they were describing wouldn’t solve their issue; lack of space. The bedrooms and living areas are too small for them.

I explained to them that it may be better to do a simple refresh and necessary repairs and move to a bigger house.

Of course you’d say that, Mike. You’re a real estate agent.

I am not interested in selling their house. Well, I am, but it’s too far away from where I’d be able to properly service it and I think it’s a huge disservice for out-of-town agents to take on listings, but that’s another story for another post one day…

Why would they go through the aggravation and stress of doing all that work just for someone else to enjoy?

Anyway, I was trying to explain to them that with small kids and the amount of work they’re considering, it would be impossible to live through.

HGTV makes everything look so easy but is completely unrealistic.

That was a few months ago. Fast forward to the present and they decided to list the house and move.

Great! They took my advice.

But they didn’t. Instead, they have begun renovating the kitchen, and bathrooms and replacing all the floors because they want to capitalize and get the most amount of money possible from the sale.

I bit my tongue. There was no point in telling them what I think of their plan. I nearly bit my tongue when they told me they decided to do all of this work on the advice of their agent (not the agent I referred them to).

No doubt, doing all of these renovations will make the house easier to sell. However, it won’t give them the best return on their investment.

And that is why a lot of agents won’t tell their clients not to renovate because a renovated house is much easier to sell, but when you factor in the 2 to 4 months of all of this work and the money, to me, it just doesn’t make sense.

They would have been better off just doing a simple remodel of the house. New granite countertop in the kitchen, along with a modern faucet and repainting the cabinets.

Install new, inexpensive vanities and taps in the washrooms.

A fresh coat of paint throughout the house.

Inexpensive but modern light fixtures throughout. And, finally, basic white window coverings on all the windows.

Way less expensive, way less labour intensive, and much less stressful to complete.

And you know what?

The house will be way easier to sell too.


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