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What renovations are worth doing before selling?

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  • What renovations are worth doing before selling?

    Would love the NYC real estate community's thoughts on this. There are many fluff articles out there about this topic, many of which are simply advertorials for home renovation companies and general contractors. No surprise, but most of the blog posts you'll see about this topic will unequivocally advocate renovating your home before trying to sell it, to get some completely unquantifiable percent return on investment.

    I find this to be completely ridiculous, because experience tells me that renovations always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think it will, especially in an expensive city like New York City. As a result, I really can't find any justification for telling home owners that they should take on some arbitrary gut renovation project right before they need to sell their home. That's just completely irresponsible. What if they need to move desperately? You're going to stick them with a costly renovation that will likely run over budget (especially for regular people with little renovation experience) and over deadline?

    My answer to what renovations are worth doing before selling? Nothing. Literally nothing. It's always better to lower the price to account for any potential renovation or repair work a future buyer might wish to do.

    Furthermore, if you make random cosmetic changes, how on earth will you know if the new buyer will even appreciate your sense of style? What if the buyer hates your design and rips it out the instant they own it? In that case, you've wasted money on renovations for nothing, and likely got less money because the buyer had to account for removing your updates and doing their own renovations! Plus, what a waste for the environment, and a waste of money in general. The only person who wins? The contractor.

    So please, don't waste money on renovations before selling. It's never worth it! Money is much more fungible, so simply lower the price!

    P.S. While I don't think major renovations are ever a good idea, simple obvious touch-ups that are easily done by you or your building superintendent can be worthwhile. These include simply things like replacing a broken doorknob, a broken mirror, re-painting the walls especially if there is peeling paint, and perhaps re-sanding the floors if there are major scratches. Simple stuff like this that doesn't cost a lot, and which can be easily done by yourself. These can often be worthwhile enhancements before you start showing your property, but that's it!

  • #2
    Here's what we would recommend:

    1. Repaint any aggressively painted walls to white or any shade of off-white
    2. Repair any visible cracks or stains on walls or ceilings, as some buyers will (wrongly) assume these are structural problems or water leaks
    3. Replace the bathroom vanity and possibly the medicine cabinet if your bathroom isn't renovated, as it will give a huge boost to the appeal/aesthetic of your unit