Advice and Opinion

A quick tidy up, or should you renovate before you sell?

“Quantifying the Rand value renovations might add to your home is not an exact science, however homes in which are in poor condition, and/or very dated, inevitably lead buyers to feel renovations are unavoidable, and in this case there is a high probablilty potential buyers will subtract from the asking price,” says Mike Greeff, CEO of Greeff Christies International Real Estate.

He says many homes are sold on the strength of their kitchens and bathrooms. “These are by far the most important rooms in a house on which to focus if would-be sellers are considering renovations prior to listing a property,” says Greeff.

“When it comes to bathrooms, a clean, retiled space with attractive sanitary ware will go a long way, but those planning a complete overhaul should take advantage of the situation, and put some thought into going with the latest trends. Many of these are evident in the new developments we sell off plan,” adds Greeff.

He says a popular trend in bathrooms sees them as more integrated into the master bedroom living space, while toilets are kept separate. “Flooring is all-important too, and gaining popularity are quartz carpets – these can be used anywhere in the house due to their hard- wearing nature and low maintenance, but they’re particular popular in bathrooms,” adds Greeff. He says that pebble mosaic is also a good option as it looks attractive and feels comfortable underfoot as does vinyl, while ceramic tile remains a popular and cost effective option. Neutral colours are most appealing. Bring in colour accents with towels if desired.

“When it comes to finishing touches, most sellers can take a tip from spas, which offer a luxurious ambience and invite one to linger in the space,” says Greeff. Tips for creating a spa-like feel in your bathroom are:

– Display clean fluffy towels in neatly folded piles or roll them up and stack in a basket.
– Opt for attractive soap dispensers, and consider dispensing shampoos and bath gels into stylish containers.
– Avoid clutter on bathroom surfaces – pack away cosmetics and lotions.
– Scrupulous cleanliness is non negotiable. Surfaces should gleam and the room should smell fresh. Try an invigorating fragrance like lemongrass, mint or green tea.
– There are a number of plants which do well in the humid atmosphere of a bathroom. Orchids, bamboo and peace lilies are just a few. Surround your plants with an array of pebbles.

“If considering a kitchen renovation, bear in mind that the open-plan kitchen remains the most appealing, but a separate scullery and walk-in pantry are both very sought after,” says Greeff. “Should the kitchen be a separate room, consider enlarging the space, if possible, to include a breakfast nook or a farmstyle table for family dinners or relaxed entertaining,” adds Greeff. He says a fire place in the kitchen will score a lot of points, as there is a move back to wholesome cosy heart-of- the-home kitchens. “Once again, keep colours neutral. Clear counter tops of appliances and ensure that your kitchen is clinically clean. Do remove fridge magnets and notes. These make your kitchen look very untidy,” explains Greeff.

“A good idea is a little kitchen herb garden on a window sill to suggest potential to would-be buyers and add freshness to your kitchen atmosphere,” suggests Greeff. He says green or energy saving features, most of which are perceived value adders, due to obvious long-term savings, are clearly a good bet. Sound investments include solar panels, gas hobs, effective insulation, boreholes, well-points, rain tanks and roof lanterns for natural air flow and cooling.

“A lack of security features such as burglar bars and an alarm system will also detract from perceived value, so when evaluating a property, an experienced estate agent with a thorough knowledge of your suburb is likely factor in all of these elements to come to a realistic selling price,” says Greeff.

“The services of a qualified estate agent can be helpful in assisting would-be sellers to acquire information possibly crucial to your decision to either renovate or simply spruce up a property for resale,” says Greeff. “Request a listing of recent sales in the area. This will give you exact prices per square metre of homes comparable to yours. If your renovation plans are going to place your home in a price bracket way beyond the going rate, you’re likely to be overcapitalizing,” says Greeff.

He adds that whatever you decide to do, your home must be in a state of good repair; “Even a dated property will sell if it’s neat, but it helps to be a step ahead of the buyer, and this means presenting your home in the best light”. The absolute basics before any home is listed include the following:

– Keep gutters clear of leaves, particularly during autumn, and ensure that down pipes are unblocked and draining properly. Sagging gutters must be repaired.
– Damp marks on ceilings are indications of roof leaks and bubbling and blistering paint is a sign of damp.
– External walls, doors and windows must be regularly maintained – cracks must be mended and wood treated and varnished to avoid rot which leads to contraction and inevitably to leaks.
– Loose or creaky timber floors can be an indication of a faulty or dropped sub-floor structure.

Apart from achieving your asking price you also want the sale to happen as soon as possible, since having a property on the market for extended periods of time is likely to result in a drop in value as sellers get increasingly desperate and buyers more opportunistic. Swift sales are largely attributed to a winning combination of correct pricing and appeal – the latter speaks to the emotional aspect of real estate investment, with responses such as, “I just fell in love with the place” often sealing the deal. There are a number of ways to tap into this phenomenon.

– A new coat of paint is essential. Opt for neutral tones to maximize universal appeal.
– Remove dated and soiled fixtures like awnings and bin old, rusty or broken garden furniture.
– Replace old light fittings and never leave naked bulbs on display – they create a depressing aura of neglect.
– A functioning fireplace adds tremendous emotional appeal, so lay fresh firewood or pine cones in the grate to prompt potential buyers to visualise a cosy scene. Alternatively, you can retro-fit a gas fireplace.
– A clean spacious area makes it easier for buyers to imagine their own furniture in the room. Clear away clutter, and if possible, remove a piece or two of furniture from cramped rooms – this can create the illusion of space.
– Hire a home stager – someone who will style or stage your home with rented furniture and objets d’art, with the specific purpose of increasing its appeal to potential buyers.
– Convert any extra rooms to bedrooms – this adds perceived value.

“An attractive garden almost always gets a potential buyer through the front door,” says Greeff. “Don’t let your garden be an afterthought. Budget for it and allow some time or you’ll find yourself spending a fortune at the nursery in the rush up to a show day,” says Greeff.