4 property experts reveal how to add value to your home when renovating for resale

Four property experts spill on how to increase the value of your house for resale soon or in the future

What do people most commonly pay a premium for when buying a home?

Greer Tulp, sales manager at Premium Realty Milford: A full site. Land goes up in value, whereas a house only goes down and needs renovating. With councils revising plans and looking at the subdivision rules, the more land you have, the better.

Paul McCorry, area manager at QV: Purchasers will pay an absolute premium for views and for a sunny north-facing aspect. They’ll also pay a premium for a home they feel an emotional connection to, whether it’s an incredible kitchen they can’t wait to cook in
or a sun-soaked deck they see themselves relaxing and entertaining guests on.

Armin Morrison, renovation expert and founder of Property Bootcamp and My Properties: The most costly things to do in a house: kitchens and bathrooms. Location also plays a big part of the buying decision – people will pay more for an area they really want to be a part of. Good outdoor living spaces are a big hit with all buyers. You can transform a small home into something that appears big with good flow and outdoor living if you get the scale and balance right.

Which rooms should you spruce up to add value?

GT: Kitchens and living areas are the heart of your home and where you entertain and spend the majority of your time. They’re also the rooms in an open home that the buyer spends the majority of their time so I’d spend money here.

PM: Kitchens are a great way to add emotional value and therefore true value to a home’s sale price. In terms of bang for buck, there’s nothing quite like a fresh coat of paint for freshening up a home. It can breathe new life into an old home and make dark rooms feel light. Other simple things include cleaning your windows to let natural light flow in, and decluttering your cupboards and garage to give the illusion of space. Don’t underestimate the value buyers place on cleanliness. For example, I was at an open home in a new development where two houses had recently sold for $1.2m. This was the third house for sale in a short space of time. However, to say the house was grubby would be an understatement. It had no offers at tender and didn’t sell.

What are people wanting from a house these days that they’re willing to pay extra for?

PM: Almost all new homes have ensuites and walk-in wardrobes – these are beginning to become an expectation. Buyers are also much more astute than ever with regards to the thermal efficiency of a home. Double glazing, central heating systems and good insulation are becoming staples on buyers’ must-have lists these days. Yes, the character bungalow with sash windows is nice, but there is no point looking good if you can’t feel your toes.

AM: We deal in the first-home buyer space and they’re looking for good solid houses: warm, dry, good foundations, heat pump, everything consented and in good order. They also like fully renovated homes because they don’t have the time, money, know-how and often the sheer energy needed to renovate. So, turn-key is perfect. They also want: open spaces that flow well and are connected; butler’s pantries; fully tiled bathrooms; super-clean stylish kitchens with modern appliances; and outdoor living spaces. Adding any of these to your focus list will help you sell your house for more.

Do you get your money back if you put in a pool?

GT: People either love or hate having a pool, it’s so buyer specific. No surprises but it’s also an age and stage thing. If you have kids at school, chances are you will use the pool way more. So don’t put one in to add value but do put one in if you’re going to get great use out of it for years before you sell.

When making changes to a home you’re going to sell, which jobs can you do yourself and what should you leave for the professionals?

GT: Any job that needs council consent should be left to the professionals – and get it signed off. If you make any improvements or changes that you don’t get council consent for, it majorly affects the selling price as buyers always overestimate how much it will cost to get things fixed/sorted.

What changes will you never get your money back from?

GT: Colours are very personal – the wrong colour choice can make or break a space. The rule of thumb: don’t go too out there with colour. Use accessories for colour as these go with you.

PM: Ideally you want to concentrate your efforts on adding value that you can see. Think about the ‘wow factor’ and what’s going to really resonate with a buyer when they enter your home for the first time. Outside, swimming pools and extensive gardens are great, but they can be major turn-offs for some prospective buyers who may see them only as unwelcome responsibilities. If you are thinking of making an alteration before you sell and are concerned that you’re overcapitalising, you probably have your answer already. Leave those nice-to-haves for your forever home.

AM: Know your market before you start any work and be realistic because we all think our own home is the best until we don’t live there any more. Find out what houses in the area are selling for, who your buyer is likely to be and how much money they’ll have to spend. It’s easy to blow the budget and overcapitalise. You don’t get much bang for buck from window dressings, appliances, tapware, carpets, fancy light fittings, too much landscaping, or garaging. You’d be surprised how many people have no idea what light fittings are in a home, so we’ll usually do a feature piece and go fairly plain but stylish everywhere else. Your job is to create a space where people can create a home. Give them a really nice framework and base but leave the personal touches to them.

If someone has a big renovation in mind, where is their money best spent?

GT: With Covid right now, people are now realising they can work from home a lot more so they are looking at an ‘outside the house’ space for this. Also, with house prices rising, kids are living at home a little bit longer so a granny flat provides independence, and then extra income when they leave.

PM: In a smaller home, adding floor area will always be the best way to add value. Going from two bedrooms to three can open you up to a completely new set of buyers, although going from four to five bedrooms won’t have the same effect. Also, space for a home office or a second lounge for the teenagers is really valuable. If that’s not possible, focus your efforts on areas where people spend a lot of their time – namely the kitchen, lounge and dining, or outdoor living space.

Quick value-adds if you’re ready to sell?

GT: Get your house, windows, gutters and pathways cleaned. There may be a build-up of mildew, which is totally normal but if buyers see it they can think the worst and see it as a moisture problem. If it’s on a pathway they can slip over or think that area of the house doesn’t get much sun. Also, take down family photos and put up artwork. The buyer needs to see themselves living there and not picture it as the seller’s home. Ensure everything is in working order, from things like the oven, all lights, doors and windows opening and closing properly. You know those odd jobs we say we are going to get to one day? Do them.

AM: We highly recommend staging – it’s a great way to showcase how people can use the spaces and give them ideas about what their home could look like. An empty home makes it tricky for people to visualise how it might look with furniture in it and whether the dining table will fit and where they going to put everything. Staging fixes that and is a really cost-effective way to showcase the home in its best light.

What’s a handy checklist of what to look for in your next place that will help with resale?

GT: Worst house in the best street is still great advice, however the best advice is to buy where you can afford. Once you’ve got a couple of weekends of open homes under your belt you’ll realise you may only be able to get six of the 10 things on your list in a specific suburb but if you change your geographical area, you may get nine of the 10 things. Drive around suburbs and see if it feels like you’re driving home. If you like the area, parks and what the neighbourhood has to offer then buy the best that you can, even if it doesn’t tick all your boxes. The house prices will go up and you can always sell in a few years and move somewhere you really want to be. But for value increase, my checklist would include a full site, indoor/outdoor flow, a few living spaces and handy to transport.

PM: Location, location, location. Homes in so-called ‘good areas’, inside desirable school zones, and close to local amenities will almost always be more valuable than similar homes that are not.

AM: Never buy on the low side of the street. Warm, dry houses are important so dampness and even bigger problems caused by run-off and soakage issues from other properties can be an expensive problem. Look for a house with three or more bedrooms (or a two-bedroom you can add a room to). The biggest group of buyers in the market are families and they need more than two bedrooms. Find a property you can add a minor dwelling to. It could be a studio, a work-from-home option, somewhere for the teenage child or aged parent to live, or just a place you can rent out for added income. Finally, check there’s not an over-supply in the area. Research the basics for the area you are investing in: what is the population and projected growth?

What are some quick landscaping ideas to add value if you’re ready to sell?

Emma Johnston, landscape architect at Goom Landscape: People’s first impression of a home starts from the road, so make sure your garden at the front of the property looks neat – weed, mulch, trim the trees and hedges so they don’t look overgrown. Keep it simple and tidy. Create a sense of arrival at the entrance and up to the front door. This can be achieved with clever planting that’s low maintenance but gives people a wow factor as they walk up to your front door. A garden that looks like it will be time-consuming to maintain may put off some potential purchasers. Lineal plantings that are not overcomplicated create a sharp clean impression. Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’, buxus balls and buxus topiary in a row with tidy underplanting is a safe look for both contemporary and classic styles of home. When it comes to your fencing and gates, make sure what you have looks neat and tidy – give it a coat of paint, waterblast, make sure the hinges work, and add a new handle if the old one looks past its best. Ensure any lawn is in top condition – a well maintained lawn creates a lush feel and sense of space and buyers love seeing a good-looking patch of green.

What landscaping investments add value to a home?

EJ: Outdoor rooms. They are so popular these days and add value for many buyers who will consider it as an additional living area. The scope of your outdoor room will depend on the value of the house – you don’t want to sink thousands on a completely enclosed space if your house is a starter home. But if your home is at the upper end of the market, an outdoor room is almost expected and certainly a value-add. Your investment should really match the value of the home.

Interview by: Debbie Harrison.

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