Many homeowners have a running wish list of changes they would like to make around the house, either to improve function or make their surroundings more beautiful. But how do you know when is the right time to tackle a project? According to Hans Wydler of Washington, D.C.-based Wydler Brothers Real Estate, the answer can come down to timing. “Before undertaking renovations to your home, the first order of business is to determine if you’re going to put your house on the market soon, or if you’re going to be there for several years,” he says. Here, Wydler outlines the dos and don’ts for what to tackle when—whether you’re planning on putting your house on the market soon or staying put for the foreseeable future.
DO give your home a cosmetic touch-up. According to Wydler, a little light sprucing is always a good idea, as a few minor improvements can make your home feel like new. He recommends investing in the following updates, which can pay dividends if you’re getting your home ready to show and sell:
- Paint: A fresh coat of neutral paint on everything is almost always a must (Wydler suggests Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter).
- Carpet: Replacing old, worn, or buckling carpet is a relatively easy way to increase your home’s value, Wydler says, noting that you don’t have to install a top-of-the line product to enjoy the benefits of the change-up.
- Landscape: Laying down fresh mulch, sod (if necessary), tidying up all foundation plants, and adding beautiful potted plants to your front porch will immediately improve your home’s curb appeal, says Wydler.
- Cabinets: If your kitchen and bathrooms are looking tired, Wydler says a fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets—plus updated hardware— can be transformative.
- Countertops: Unless you’re going to stick around and enjoy it, Wydler recommends resisting the urge to renovate the kitchen. Instead, simply replace dated countertops to give your kitchen an instant face lift.
DON’T leave the basement unfinished. If you have an unfinished basement that’s long been on your dream list to make useful, go ahead and tackle the project. “Finishing a space almost always has a high-impact to a home’s value,” Wydler says. “It may cost $20,000 to finish the space, but it could add $50,000 to your home in the long run.”
DO keep versatility in mind when renovating. While you shouldn’t necessarily base all of your decisions off of what the next buyer might want, it can be useful to keep future uses for your space in mind when renovating. “You might have your kids out of the house and always dreamed of a big media room with built-in shelving,” Wydler says. “But future homeowners might want a live-in au pair or an in-law suite. It’s essential to make the space adaptable for ultimate resale value.”
DO add a full bathroom. “If you’re renovating and adding an additional room to be used as an office or workout room, carve out space for a full bathroom,” Wydler recommends. “If you spend a couple thousand more dollars and make a full bathroom, that space will have multiple purposes,” he says, as future owners can use it as an additional bedroom or guest area. It’s also a good idea to turn a half-bath into a full-bath if possible, he notes.
DON’T overlook the attic. If your attic has some livable space, Wydler suggests that you consider finishing it. “Often the only thing you have to do is add insulation and drywall to this space, and it adds incredible value,” Wydler says, adding that when finished, an attic can serve as an exercise room, second office, or upstairs family room.
DO take a classic approach to the kitchen and master suite if you decide to renovate. If your wish list includes a new kitchen or master suite, by all means move forward with the project—particularly if you embrace a timeless style. If done well, this will lead to a return on your investment, Wydler says. “These spaces are the drivers for families that will elicit the wow-factor,” he reports.
DON’T expect to add value through custom storage. While you may personally get a lot of use out of a custom-configured closet, or any type of customized storage solution, they often don’t move the needle on value, Wydler explains. If adding this will positively impact the way you enjoy your home, do it. But if the motivation is for resale value, take a pass on this type of improvement.
DO consider staging. We all want to believe that our homes are Instagram-ready, but Wydler reports that only about 10% of us truly live that way. Therefore, when it’s time to put your house on the market, be open to the idea of letting someone else choose the décor. “This is a delicate conversation to have with a client, as everyone loves their home, but the market doesn’t always respond to the way we live,” Wydler says. He advises moving out and letting your realtor come in behind you and stage the home, which has been shown to have a profound impact on the ultimate net result.
TSG Tip 307 from Hans Wydler of Wydler Brothers Real Estate in Washington, D.C. Featured listing from Wydler Brothers Real Estate. Wydler Brothers Real Estate is featured in The Scout Guide Washington, D.C.