Ah, spring, when “For Sale” signs pop up on lawns across the metro area alongside the azaleas. It’s prime time for sellers, but even with the prospect of a quick sale, homeowners who want to get top dollar may be considering remodeling to up the magnetism of their homes.
But it doesn’t take knocking down walls or raising roofs to get a house into prime selling condition. In fact, some dramatic projects, such as a complete kitchen renovation, might not suit the style of a new owner. Rather than opting for an extreme makeover, a simpler approach may result in a better return on investment. Where to start?
“Curb appeal,” said Atlanta Design & Build’s Dale Contant, board chair and past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). “It’s the first impression. It’s much better to have a nice-looking front door, nice shutters, a covered entryway – midrange projects that won’t break the bank.”
Sprucing up the front façade, including the entry, shutters, garage doors and porticos, is considered a replacement, not renovation, project. The same goes for landscaping, said Kara O’Brien of Kara O’Brien Renovations in East Atlanta.
“Curb appeal creates an emotional connection with buyers before they ever set foot inside,” she said. “But a lot of time the landscape design isn’t great; it’s too overgrown, it needs a pop of color. Put in some small gardens and potted plants to make it inviting.”
Once in the door, most buyers head right to the heart of the house – the kitchen. “There are two ways to go about improving this,” said Contant. “If you’re trying to sell and give it new life, you really don’t want to do a high-end project that tears out the entire thing. You might spend $60,000 on French provincial when the buyer likes contemporary, and that will be a detriment.”
Instead, Contant recommends opting for smaller projects. “Paint the cabinets, add new counter tops, put in a new sink, faucet and tile backsplash. Upgrade the floors or have them refinished. That doesn’t involve removing everything, and you’ll spend less to make the changes.”
O’Brien recently redid a kitchen by painting cabinets a pewter gray, adding new hardware and putting in a salvaged sink. “You really can spruce up a kitchen on a shoestring budget. Paint goes a long way, especially if you have dated cabinets. New counter tops or backsplash aren’t super expensive, either, and the effect of a stone backsplash on granite with newly-painted cabinets goes a long, long way.”
The next room buyers want to be wowed by is the master bath, the one space that might warrant a complete overhaul.
“If you have a bath with 1950s tile, you’re almost better off to do a full-scale renovation,” said Contant. “We’re also now removing the tub and going with a shower, particularly in smaller homes. The good news is that a mid-range bath remodel in the Atlanta market can recoup 62.9 percent of the cost.”
Other projects that bring a similarly high return on investment are decks and finished basements, said Contant. “Decks have an almost 70 percent recoup. Putting in a backyard patio with a cooking area and an arbor might be around $50,000, which might not be worth it if you’re selling. But upgrading a deck with Brazilian wood will almost always will be. As for basements, they can be expensive – the average in the Atlanta market is $70,500 for a good-sized space – but if you could spruce it up with an inexpensive floor, some dry wall and spray-painted ceilings, you can get a 65 percent recoup rate.”
One of the best remodeling projects that pays off is a relatively simple one. “Blow in insulation in the attic,” said Contant. “Not only can you recoup about 80 percent, you’ll also have lower energy bills while you’re still living there.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.