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Sep 12

Home Advice from a Realtor

Posted by C. Mason Hearn in value, resale value, kitchens, bathrooms

Everyone is familiar with those shows on cable television, following the processes wherein homes are bought and sold.  Designed to Sell, House Hunters, Curb Appeal, and others have become Home & Garden TV phenomena.

While so much of home improvement television is deeply rooted in fantasy, these shows have some real-world applications.  Richmond's own Nancy Frazier of Long & Foster Real Estate is likely one of the most experienced and successful agents in our area.  Over the course of hundreds of listings, sales and buyer representation, Nancy has learned exactly what attracts buyers, and makes the sale.

I have the distinct pleasure of knowing and working professionally with this fine lady and consummate professional for many years.  Nancy and I sat down a while back to discuss what it takes to successfully sell a home, particularly in regards to its features and condition.

What should you consider, particularly in the present tough market, to prepare your home for a successful sale?

1) Most people want their new home to be "already done". Ready to move-in and enjoy without having to go through the hassle of remodeling. Well-done, up-to-date and beautiful kitchens and baths are at the top of the list of things desired by prospective buyers.

2) It is not a good thing to do renovation work "cheaply", because prospective buyers recognize shoddy, low-quality work when they see it.

3) On the other hand, Nancy notes that it probably won't pay-off dollar-for-dollar to perform an extensive high-end kitchen or bath renovation just for resale. It is therefore wise for homeowners to keep these rooms in good condition and up-to-date with the market-expected materials and finishes, and get the value out of enjoyment of these rooms before a sale is necessary. Then, when selling is called for, your property will be well-positioned.

4) So many people are concerned about having whirlpool tubs - most don't want one for themselves, but rather have some idea that they're a necessity for resale. Nancy rebukes this notion. She notes that there should be at least one tub in the house, and that a deep soaking tub is a nicety, but it does not have to be in the master bath. In fact, if there is only one tub in the house, it should preferably be in a secondary bathroom, as it would likely be for children's use. Nancy has sold many homes without a tub in the master bath, and as long as the bathroom is up-to-date and accommodating in other ways (such as having a very nice shower), she claims that the lack of that tub is "not even an impediment".

5) A fresh paint job is a must. Especially on the exterior. It's all about curb appeal, and a good paint job is one of the least expensive investments you can make in that regard.

6) Maintain your exterior siding, wood trim, and railings. If this is not readily apparent upon the prospective buyer's first visit, that rot and decay will surely show-up on an inspection list, whereby the buyer will usually demand that the necessary repairs are performed, or a commensurate reduction in price.

7) Relatedly, other things that turn-up during professional home inspections include wet crawl spaces, leaking plumbing and/or shower pans, as well as compromised fireplaces, chimneys and flues. Often, these are things that homeowners may not even be aware of; however, regular inspection and maintenance can avoid the problems inherent during a future sale.

Nancy notes that homes tend to be least maintained and updated by folks that have resided in a home for an extended period of time.  Perhaps there is a comfort level or complacency in "the way things have always been".  The idea that "this was a new kitchen in 1980 and it works perfectly well for us" does not fly with prospective homebuyers that have other, better choices in the market.

Summarily, what I heard from Richmond's most trusted and highly-regarded Realtor was:  maintain and update your home regularly... especially if you are NOT looking to sell it any time soon.  Forget about the attitude of that other HGTV favorite, Flip This House.  You will derive the value and enjoyment of these investments while you live in your home!  When the time does come to sell, expect that yours will move quickly, and for the best price.

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Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Nina Patel, October 08, 2008
As a writer with Remodeling magazine, I can say that Nancy's comments exactly reflect the research I've been doing for an article to accompany our magazine's yearly Cost vs. Value report. We work with the National Association of Realtors on this report. All the realtors and remodelers I've spoken with say kitchens and bath upgrades sell a house. And today's rough housing market means it's a buyer's market--there is a lot of inventory to choose from and homeowners want houses that are done and do not require renovation.
written by mh, September 16, 2008
My favorite answer to such inquiries is "I am not a real estate professional"! However, since I do get SO many such inquiries, that's why I thought posting Nancy Frazier's advice here would be of some use to our readers. And obviously, based solely on her direction, the removal of your only tub in the house may be detrimental in terms of RESALE value.
I encourage you, however, to read my "way back when" posting entitled "What is the Value?" Therein, I describe that there is another sort of value inherent in various remodeling projects - that of your personal use and enjoyment while you live in this particular house. It is significant, I think, that you describe this as your "retirement house". Should we assume then that the value to your estate is the only concern? That is indeed liberating, in terms of your possibilities. Nice not to be strapped with such fiscal concerns, and to be able to invest in what you will enjoy.
If you do the math, in this case I would assume that this prospective expenditure creates no market-valued asset. Whether or not there's a liability depends on your perspective (do you ever expect to sell?). So, let's say that you expect to be there 15 years, and the cost is $5,000. Will your enjoyment of this conversion exceed 91 cents a day?
To comparatively illustrate an easier scenario, if you were to do a minor bath remodel in such a way that would be accepted by the broader market, Hanley-Wood's Cost Versus Value study says you should get a 78.8% return on investment. Therefore, your cost not to be returned at resale would be $1,060, or 19 cents per day.

written by E.P., Bon Air, VA, September 12, 2008
This posting was of great interest to me as I just purchased a home. The main bath presently has a fiberglass tub/shower which I detest. I HAD planned to tear it out and create a walk-in shower with ceramic tile. This is our retirement home and that seems to better serve our purposes. (I haven't taken a "bath" in years! (:-) The other bath is a half bath. After readin this post, would you recommend that I rethink my current decision??

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