Should You Update Your Home Before You Sell?

Usually the answer is a resounding no, but it’s a little more complicated than that. When selling your home it’s natural to want to squeeze every last dollar you can from the buyer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re spending a lot of money trying to update your home before you sell, you’re more than likely going to wind up losing money in the process or making less profit than you would if you made no updates at all.

There are little updates you can make that won’t set you back and might make your home sell faster, and there are big updates you can make that will set you back and help your home sell for more. What it all comes down to is whether you really need to distinguish your house from the competition or if your house is in such bad shape that you’re having trouble getting it sold.

Before making any final decision, you should consult with your real estate agent. Provided you’ve done your homework and chosen well, your agent will have an intimate knowledge of the local market. They’ll know what people are looking for, what’s turning the average buyer off, and what’s adding an extra five or ten thousand dollars to the value of your home. Updating your home is just one of the many extra costs of selling your home, but it can be a cost that will put more money in your pocket at the end of the day if you do it right.

With all that said, let’s get into what you can do to update your home and, more importantly, why you should or shouldn’t do it.

Big Updates

One thing that all big updates have in common is that you should consult with your agent before making any of them. Big changes will require you to move some serious money around in your bank account and require you to bring contractors into your home for weeks at a time. Most of the time, home sellers focus a lot of their time and effort on renovating their kitchens. For some reason or another, kitchens go out of fashion faster than the latest memes, and to certain homebuyers, an out-dated kitchen is a moral affront to society. If you’re anxious about your kitchen looking too old, it might be a good idea to modernize it.

Another big change you can make is renovating your bathrooms. Though slightly less expensive on average than a kitchen renovation, a newly renovated bathroom can be just as attractive to prospective homebuyers. Usually, you can recoup about ⅔ of the cost of a bathroom renovation, so if that’s a good enough ROI for you, and your agent gives you the go-ahead, go for it.

One big change you can make to your house is by adding another bedroom or bathroom. Usually, the easiest way to do this is to finish your basement if you have one. Adding an extra bedroom and bathroom can make the value of your home absolutely soar, especially if you’re shifting your home from a two bedroom to a three. In some markets, that can make tens of thousands of dollars in difference. That being said, these are major renovations that will set you back not just in money but also in time.

Small Updates

Small updates are attractive for a lot of different reasons: they’re easier, cheaper, and usually take less time. Home sellers should focus on small changes if they don’t have a lot of time/liquidity for bigger changes. Though small changes won’t add as much value to your house, they’ll make your home easier to sell and make that selling phase go by much faster and smoother.

One of the first small updates people consider before selling their homes is repainting their house. If, over the course of your homeownership, some of your rooms have picked up some unconventional colours, it might be a good idea to throw a few new coats of paint over the bright greens and deep purples. A new coat of paint can make your house look newer, bigger, and brighter, and help homebuyers make those split-second gut decisions to buy your house or not.

You can also update your home’s curb appeal in a variety of ways. You can power wash the sides of your house, removing dust and weather stains as well as refreshing the exterior of your home. You can make sure that while you’re showing your house the grass is well groomed, and it might not be a bad idea to plant a flower bed and put some ferns on your front porch. When it comes to selling a home, first impressions matter. Make sure when your buyers arrive, the first thing they see is a home as near-to-perfect as you can make it.

How Do You Choose Between a Big Update and a Small Update?

The first thing you and your agent should discuss when considering updating your home before you sell is whether your home needs an update at all. The goal of an update is either to make your home sell faster or sell for more. If you’re in a highly competitive market like Toronto real estate where the advantage is firmly in the seller’s favour, then you don’t need to bother making any updates.

However, if you’re in a less competitive market where homes take a while to sell and there is plenty of home supply, you might want to consider doing anything to really make your house stand out from the rest. Ultimately, the answer lies in how much you’re willing to spend, both in time and money, and how much you think you’ll make back for all your trouble. If, after consulting with your agent, it looks like the rewards will outweigh the costs, the path forward is crystal clear.

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